The Youth Empowerment and Innovation Project (YEIP) was a 3-year Erasmus+ funded programme that aimed to design a youth-led, positive policy prevention framework for tackling and preventing the marginalisation and violent radicalisation among young people in Europe. The project started in March 2017 and finished in February 2020.

Led by young people and coordinated by Dr. Theo Gavrielides YEIP was delivered in partnership with 18 organisations from seven EU countries. It aimed at piloting Gavrielides’ RJiNEAR resilience model by constructing and testing an innovative, policy intervention models founded on the principles of restorative justice, positive criminology, positive psychology and the Good Lives Model (GLM).

YEIP was implemented through the construction and field validation of tools (YEIP PREVENT model/ interventions, toolkit, training) in 4 environments (schools, universities, prisons, online) in the 7 participating EU member states.

YEIP laid the foundations for systemic change at the national level and EU levels. The ultimate objective was for the project to help implement the EU Youth Strategy’s objective of preventing the factors that can lead to young people’s social exclusion and radicalisation. The success of this youth-led project demonstrated to European citizens the leadership and determination of EC institutions in rooting out the reasons that lead to young peoples’ marginalisation and radicalisation, firming up in this way trust and confidence.

“YEIP positively applies Resolution 2250 stated by the United Nations, when creating a transnational project that is youth-led, thereby involving young people in policy-oriented research designed to counter and prevent violent extremism.” David Ruah, Network Member of the Radicalisation Awareness Network (Communication and Narratives Group), ex-Young Ambassador

The partnership included:

YEIP was led and co-ordinated by Professor Dr. Theo Gavrielides. At the time, Professor Gavrielides was the Director of the international institute that he founded “Independent Academic Research Studies” (IARS). IARS acted as the overall coordinating body for the project.

Public Authorities: UK: The Home Office, Greece: Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change | Koinofelis Epicheirisi Ipiresion Neapolis Sykeon (Common Benefit Enterprise for Services of Neapolis Sykies), Cyprus: Municipality of Engomi, Italy: Regione Ligura, Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Oliveira de Azeméis, Sweden: Lansstyrelsen I Kalmar Ian, Romania: National Council for Combating Discrimination, Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sports – Institutul de stinte ale educatiei.

Target groups: UK: Khulisa, Buckinghamshire New University

Researchers: Greece: Kentro Merimnas Oikogenieas Paidiou, Cyprus: Centre for Advancement of Research and Development in Education, Italy: Anziani e non solo, Portugal: Inovamais, Sweden: Linne Universitetet, Romania: Fundatia Schottener Servicii Sociale.

YEIP methodology

The impact and scalability of the YEIP GLM-based policy measure was assessed through a semi-experimental methodology that sought to identify and evaluate the causality link between our measure and the change it aimed to make for young people at risk of radicalisation and marginalisation.

Following a thorough literature review (WP1) and the collection of stakeholders’ views through youth-led research (WP2), we constructed the tools that implemented our policy measure (i.e. the YEIP Prevent model/ intervention and a toolkit). These tools will be used to capacity build professionals working in our selected environments. Subsequently, field trials (WP3) were conducted in the eight participating countries. These piloted and evaluated the tools implementing our policy measure and were observed through a mixture of qualitative methodologies. Impact measurement were achieved through a before-after comparison. To triangulate the findings, a pan-European quantitative survey was carried out (WP4). The research design and approach was youth-led, following the principles of participatory, youth-led action research.

Our methodology drew from the field of participatory action research, which is experimental research that focuses on the effects of the researcher’s direct actions of practice within a participatory community with the goal of improving the performance quality of the community or an area of concern (Dick 2002). Within this realm, youth-led research was identified. Admittedly, the extant literature on youth-led research is scant and thus the risks considerable (Gavrielides, 2014; Gough, 2006).

However, Gavrielides has been a pioneer in this area having introduced some of the first youth led fieldwork in Europe and tested them for policy reform. Professor Gavrielides,  YEIP’s PM, is the Editor of the Youth Voice Journal, the only peer review journal that is exclusively dedicated to youth-led research. In a paper published in this Journal, a young researcher, Cass, describes the underlying principles of youth-led research and policy as “(1) addressing power imbalances; (2) valuing lived experiences; (3) respecting choice in participation; and (4) empowerment”. The youth-led approach dictates that young people must be left to instigate potential solutions to a problem, one that they have indeed identified themselves, and take responsibility for developing and implementing a solution. Consequently, the youth-led method repositions young people as important stakeholders who can make unique decisions which impact on the quality of their lives, rather than simply accepting the position as passive subjects whose lives are guided by decisions made by adult ‘others’.

To this end, we took the following steps when conducting youth-led research for YEIP:

• Step 1: Relinquish power and “remove hats”
• Step 2: Reach out widely and recruit diverse groups in partnership with others
• Step 3: Empower through ad hoc and tailored accredited training that is flexible and adjustable to young people’s needs as these are defined by their diverse lives
• Step 4: Facilitate discussions on current topics that need change
• Step 5: Coordinate their action research and support to write evidence based solutions through peer reviewed processes
• Step 6: Support the evaluation, monitoring, project management and control of all previous steps through youth-led tools and a standing Youth Advisory Board
• Step 7: Reward and accredit.

Background

YEIP was created in response to a current social need to have more effective youth policies that can enhance young people’s social inclusion and minimize the risk of radicalization with greater ‘buy in’ from youth themselves.

To this end, YEIP will construct and test an innovative policy intervention that will generate a set of actions that will help address this need at the local, national and European levels. This measure is founded upon restorative justice and the Good Lives Model (GLM), which assumes that we are goal-influenced and all seek certain ‘goods’ in our lives, not ‘material’, but qualitative, all likely to increase or improve our psychological well-being (Ward, Mann and Gannon 2007).

Through the use of multi-disciplinary tools, we will construct tools that will test and implement this measure at the local, national and EU wide level. The ultimate objective is for the project to help address the KA3 PT7 aligned with the EU Youth Strategy’s objective of preventing the factors that can lead to young people’s social exclusion and radicalisation. Existing approaches are constructed within the Risk Need Responsivity (RNR) model for prevention. Developed in the 1980s by Andrews, Bonta and Hope (1990), RNR’s focus is on reducing and managing risk as well as on studying the process of relapse. Pathology-focused research and intervention have consequently been developed as tools for RNR based approaches to rehabilitation.

According to Maruna (2006) and Gavrielides and Piers (2013; 2015), RNR is now challenged at practical, policy and financial levels. They argued that concentrating on criminogenic needs to reduce risk factors are not a sufficient condition when it comes to young people. McAdams (1994; 2006) argues that integration and relatedness for young people are crucial in encouraging desistance from violence and radicalisation. Politicians and the public also seem to agree with the extant literature. For instance, the UK Justice Secretary said that prison often turns out to be “a costly and ineffectual approach that fails to turn criminals into law-abiding citizens” (Travis 2010).

YEIP will turn the RNR approach on its head. Instead of “managing” young people as “risks”, our policy measure will focus on promoting the talents and strengths of vulnerable young people and through this approach help develop positive identities. The extant literature has defined these as being “the internal organisation of a coherent sense of self” (Dean 2014). The GLM operates in both a holistic and constructive manner in considering how young people t risk might identify and work towards a way of living that is likely to involve the goods we seek in life, as well as a positive way of living that does not involve or need crime (Scottish Prison Service 2011). In this process, the argument is that the model works towards a positive, growth-oriented change in life where an offender works on the development of the values, skills and resources towards life based on human goods that is a necessary counter-balance of managing risk alone (Ward, Mann and Gannon 2007: 92), i.e. risk is managed as well as seeking to develop positive life alternatives.

This approach is aligned with the underlying philosophy of 2014 EC report on youth workers, which asks for a more coordinated effort in supporting young people with fewer opportunities by tapping into their talents and not by further marginalising them.

YEIP researchers