By Gary Lovatt
Working intensively with partners from Health, Crime and Education it’s hard to get through a meeting these days without the mention of needing to build ‘better resilience’ in young people.
Indeed it’s refreshing that after years of apparent compartmentalisation of behaviours into different areas (alcohol, smoking, sexual activity, anti-social behaviour, self-harming etc) we’re learning that attitudes and behaviours generally start with addressing the protective factors that allow young people to make better, informed choices.
So how do you achieve and measure resilience? The answer is that you need to adopt a multi-targeted strategy, starting with examining the determinants of those behaviours in more detail.
It is widely accepted that there are a number of reasons a young person may choose to experiment with one or more risk behaviours, or change their habits to more regularly take risks.
And so it follows that we need to adopt different types of Interventions to get to the heart of what is driving that behaviour in order to influence change.
For young people, most risk taking behaviours fall into either internal (personal) or external (environmental) categories.
Our Social Norms Interventions (www.rudifferent.co.uk) are largely geared towards tackling the external negative influences of young people – i.e. the need to conform, fit in or belong if they perceive there is pressure to do so. A large proportion of the population (young and older) are highly susceptible to behaving in ways that they believe others in their peer group to be behaving – hence if you can tackle misperceptions of high volume negative behaviours then actual positive behaviours invariably follow. It was fascinating to see the findings from the University of Salford proving those links between intervention and impact within this programme.
Our data also informs us that an increasing proportion of young people engage in risk behaviour in the real or perceived absence of alternative activities. Often it is the case that these activities exist, they are just poorly promoted or not appealing enough for young people to engage in.
CTZN was created (in partnership with Greater Manchester Police) to tackle this problem and as such, young people in Greater Manchester are now joining activities that directly contribute to greater levels of resilience – e.g. volunteering, mentoring and sports.
CTZN offers two crucial missing combined pieces within the current offering to young people – a) intelligent location based activity provision in the shape of a mobile app based on the needs of young individuals and b) a true ‘value exchange’ for young people in the shape of recognition and rewards.
Once again by influencing the ‘choice architecture’ for young people, we can now evidence greater participation in positive activities and the increased resilience that follows. IPSOs MORI report (Social Action 2015) specifically records the uplifts in confidence, self-esteem and feelings of worthwhileness – once again the holy-grail for many.
There are of course times when influencing the external landscape is just not enough. We recognise the need to work with young people in a more targeted, holistic way in order to help them through their problems.
Thankfully there are some fantastic services out there offering targeted approaches in this way and many of these services can now be found on CTZN (did I mention the need to join up strategies???).
For our part, we have also reinvested substantially in creating a Mindfulness and Therapeutic Life Coaching programme.
The aim is to better equip young people with the mind management tools to tackle their problems in a more rational and measured way. The results of our pilots have been astounding, with average mood scores rising from 5/10 to 7.5/10 pre and post intervention.
We are now taking things a step further to see whether the 55% reporting to be continuing the use of these techniques (on their own) experience more sustainable impacts as a result – early signs are that the correlations are clear.
You can find out more about this at www.mindful-me.co.uk.
As the title suggests, there’s more than one way to build resilience in young people.
My message is to raise the bar as high as you can. It is possible to achieve life changing impacts on smallish budgets – it’s all about knowing where to channel your resources.
So use your data to inform your strategy and approach the solution with passion, science and with young people advising you at every turn.