In 2011, we interviewed young people who had been involved in the August riots of that summer - and others who had not. We identified a set of 'push' and 'tug' factors that had either drawn them in or encouraged them to keep out of things. Of course, peers are a huge influence on teenagers but their relationships with their parents continues to be a potential source of support and protection. For many years, there has been a major focus on young people and risk - risk assessments and risk reduction feature large in interventions with teenagers in trouble - resilience is the other side of the coin and boosting young people’s resilience seems a much more positive approach.
Youth work has a long history of focussing on resilience (although it hasn't always gone under that label) by giving vulnerable young people opportunities for new experiences and supportive relationships with adults outside their families. Sadly, youth service cuts have decimated youth work across the country but there are still shining examples of projects doing this really well.
In St Ann's, Nottingham (an area known for its crime and gang culture) the Full Effect project has been developing a resilience -boosting approach to working with children from primary school into young adulthood. It's a truly community based project staffed by local workers who provide role models and the continuity of relationships some young people sorely lack. It's also based on the best evidence of what promotes resilience - including access to activities that offer fun and excitement; spaces where they feel safe and can be themselves; a chance to find things they are good at and that make them feel proud, and support that recognises their whole lives: at home, at school and in the community. One of the partners in the project – a Community Recording Studio has been doing all of this, on a shoe-string, for the last 25 years. Over the past three years funding from The Royal Foundation has enabled this small outfit to do some amazing things and we have had the privilege of helping them try to measure the impact on individual young people's lives. Part of us thinks they shouldn't have to - the value of their work is so obvious to anyone who attends one of their events or meets the young people involved. But counting things counts when it comes to projects surviving so we've been piloting a well-being and resilience tool that fits with their ethos and aims.