Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tweeting about the riots @NCVO

Riot police charge past burning buildings on a residential street in Croydon: Guardian

Yesterday I went to a summit at SEL member, Rich Mix in Bethnal Green organised by NCVO to analyse the riots. It was the kind of edgy, gritty  debate I hadn't participated in for some time, and you didn't know which way the room was going to go. NCVO had invited over 100 people, which meant that those working at grass roots level were there to talk about what they understood to be happening in communities. Restricted access to the mike usually means the big guns don't turn up, but in the audience and participating at the roundtable discussion panels we had Stephen Bubb, CEO at ACEVO, the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, and members of the cross-party Riots Panel. I sat next to Stephen, which is always interesting as his views, like those of Stuart Etherington who opened and closed the event, are those commonly heard in Whitehall.

On my table I really enjoyed talking to @AndreHackett a graduate of the School for Social Entrepreneurs who had founded We Make a Change, an interesting organisation that connects communities with people who need to hear from them. I asked Andre the question that was bothering me: were the rioters in fact different groups operating as a mass? When the riots occurred it seemed to me that rioters fell into two groups, those who were angry, with a statement to make, and those who were just there to nick stuff. Given some saw themselves very clearly in one group and not the other and others had begun in one group but shape shifted in the electricity to the other, it was hard to analyse the motivation of the rioters as a single entity. I asked Andre about this as he had been working directly with those who rioted before and after the event, and he agreed. This idea that community is in fact a diverse group of opposing interests even in the manifestation of their rioting was echoed in Stephen's recent blog.

Both men argued, as I did, that young people need the hope of jobs in the communities in which they live. The lack of jobs for young people is a national crisis and one that will end, regardless of punitive action, with people out on the streets again and more worryingly slipping between society's cracks, disappearing without trace. A critical point made by one contributor was that young people are a resource, not a problem, this for me is the point of the exercise. There was a collective call for a young people's employment programme to sit alongside the work programme, which sounded a lot like the Future Jobs Fund. I know I bang on about the Future Jobs Fund, but it did work, the 500 young people we helped to get into work could have been 2,000 if we had been allowed to carry on, and we were just one provider, this is important and worth serious consideration. Yesterday it was announced that a further 77,000 young people had signed on since July. Getting them into jobs is the place to start to avoid future riots and further economic decline. But that takes enterprise - social enterprise if you ask me as the businesses that will be offering jobs to kids with limited qualifications and zero experience, in the places they live, will be social enterprises like Livity in Brixton that worked with over 1,000 kids last year.

This is clearly a hot topic as the twitter stream from the event,  has continued at least in my tweet world. We don't have quick answers but I do think we are getting there in the spirit of community, by working together.

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