Bucks lecturers contribute to ‘groundbreaking research’ on youth radicalisation across Europe

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Date: 24th Jan 2020

Researchers in what is claimed to be 'the largest scientific survey on violent youth radicalisation in Europe', supported by Buckinghamshire New University, say authorities need a rethink on how to tackle the issue.

Senior Lecturer Daisy D’Silva Toscano and Associate Professor Thomas Toscano (pictured with Professor Theo Gavrielides) conducted interviews and focus groups with students to understand their views about violent radicalisation, and issues of identity and wellbeing.YEAP Project

The three-year European Commission-funded Youth Empowerment and Innovation Project (YEIP) looked at violent youth radicalisation in Europe, focusing on the UK, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and Romania.

The research involved interviews with 3,540 16-78-year-olds, including students at Bucks New University. The project now aims to design a youth-led, positive policy prevention framework for tackling and preventing the marginalisation and violent radicalisation of young people in Europe.

The findings were launched on Wednesday 29 January at the University of East London (UEL), with keynote speakers including Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark, and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, as well as prominent academics and figures from the European Commission and public authorities from the countries who took part in the research.

Professor Theo Gavrielides, YEIP Scientific Coordinator and a Visiting Professor at Bucks New University, said: “We believe these are ground-breaking findings which aim to change not only policies at national and EU levels, but also the way we view violent youth radicalisation and young people more generally.

“We believe there is a link between marginalisation and underlying pull and push factors that lead to extreme ideologies. The project argues that if this thread is addressed at an EU policy level then Europe stands a better chance in addressing any rising nationalism and extremism.

“This thread is very much attached to how young people at risk of violent radicalisation are ‘managed’ by the existing justice system as ‘risks’. This creates further alienation and division, while recidivism rates continue to spiral.

“Repeating what has proved to be a failed philosophy and practice is madness. YEIP provides a solid scientific basis to restructure our strategies for a more equal and safer Europe.”

Daisy and Thomas’s work involved:

* Conducting interviews and focus groups with students to understand their views about violent radicalisation, issues of identity and wellbeing.

* Developing training modules to be delivered to professionals working with young people in schools, universities, young offenders units to help them understand and use the Good Lives Model of Offender Rehabilitation, a strengths-based rehabilitation theory which guides therapeutic work with offenders, and positive psychology as effective tools in countering violent radicalisation among young people.

* The training model was used to train groups of academics within Bucks New University.

* Surveyed academics and students to ascertain the effectiveness of the training modules developed.

Thomas said: “We were proud to be involved in this innovative project that was very relevant to the UK given the current unprecedented concern about violent youth radicalisation and the ensuing PREVENT agenda.

“This project proposes a real alternative to combatting violent youth radicalisation by focusing on wellbeing and positive identity among young people using positive psychology and the Good Lives Model rather than using strategies that might further deepen feelings of suspicion and victimisation.”

Over three years, the Erasmus+ funded project coordinated by the IARS International Institute under the leadership of Prof Theo Gavrielides trained local teams of young people who conducted original fieldwork in schools, youth prisons, universities, migrant centres and online. The findings are published as part of a book, which can be downloaded at https://yeip.org/download/1819/.

The project investigated the attitudes and knowledge of young Europeans, youth workers and other practitioners, while testing innovative tools for addressing the phenomenon through positive psychology and the application of the Good Lives Model of Offender Rehabilitation.

Led by young people and coordinated by Dr. Theo Gavrielides and the IARS International Institute, YEIP is delivered in partnership with 18 partners from seven EU countries to construct and test innovative, policy intervention models found on the principles of restorative justice, positive psychology and the Good Lives Model.

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