Where is the good news?

“Youth is disintegrating. The youngsters of the land have a disrespect for their elders and a contempt for authority in every form. Vandalism is rife, and crime of all kinds is rampant among our young people. The nation is in peril.”  

Quote from an Egyptian Priest, circa 2000 BC

It is all too easy to find out negative stats about young people in the UK – from unemployment to crime to teenage pregnancies. But why is it so hard to find positive stats that highlight how amazing, wonderful and talented our young people are?

Some recent research has shown that over 75% of media stories about young people are negative, and there is all sorts of evidence that public perception of young people is very negative and that this has a significant impact on young people themselves and on adults’ experience of young people (eg. if you see a group of young people and assume they are a “gang” rather than a group of friends, it is predictable that you might feel anxious and fearful).

Kaizen are mid process on a consultation with young people and youth professionals on behalf of a large national company who are wanting to make an impact with youth. We have conducted one on one interviews with over 400 young people and 93 professionals have also been a part of the research. The data (both quantitative and qualitative) is depressing – especially in answer to the question “how are young people seen and treated in your community”.

A few days ago I started looking for some positive stats about young people in the country, and pretty quickly it became clear that while they may be there, they are not at all easily found. I believe this is a significant issue and one that can actually easily be addressed (in contrast to all the other significant issues in the youth sector that can’t be solved so easily).

So what would be the benefits of having clear positive stats and data? There would be many including:

  • It will help us to redress the balance of negative information and mis-information about young people
  • We can use positive reinforcement to encourage wanted behaviour, attitudes and attributes
  • We can actually be more representative of the true nature of young people
  • We can celebrate the difference they (and we) make

Just to be clear I am talking about the following types of things (these are just examples):

  • How many young people are employed (we know there are 1m unemployed, but how many are in employment or training)?
  • How many young people volunteer, how many hours of volunteering does it represent, and what do they do?
  • How many young people are carers?
  • How many young people set up businesses and how much income/impact do they generate?
  • How many young people are part of shaping local or national strategy, from school youth council members, to youth trustees of charities?
  • What % of young people are law abiding (rather than what % commit crimes)?
  • What is the gap between what adults think about young people (on all sorts of metrics) and what is actually the case?

One possible route would be to take every easily available negative stat and find the positive reflection of it. But I think it would require a deeper dive to really pull together a comprehensive set of positive stats that could potentially help to reshape how we think about the youth of the country, and how they think of themselves.

We should be very proud of our young people – they are wonderful and talented – and I would love to be able to back this belief up with stats….

I am sure that there must be a funder out there who would commission such a piece of research……any thoughts on moving this idea forward, anyone???

This entry was posted in Jonny Zander and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Where is the good news?

  1. Andrew says:

    You might might like to team up with positive news. This organisation specialises in reporting all the good things which are going on. They may well have the kind of information you are looking for already, or at least know exactly how to find it. Plus when you get this information about how well our youth are doing they are likely to be interested in publishing it.
    “Positive News is the world’s first solution-focused newspaper, reporting on people and initiatives that are creating a just, sustainable and fulfilling world.”

  2. Unfortunately, as your initial quote shows, it was ever thus. The events which the media cover (and certainly those which stick in the public consciousness) are those where young people are seen to be causing a problem rather than doing good things. Obviously, still the classic text on this is Cohen’s Folk Devils and Moral Panic and I actually don’t think that much has changed since the early 70s in terms of either the ‘labelling’ of certain groups of young people and negative representation in the media.

    None of this is to say that we can’t and shouldn’t do anything about it. As you suggest, I think it would be really interesting to think beyond the immediate countering of the negative statistics/views/stories about young people with wider positive towards wider, more engaging stories which capture people’s imagination. Engaging with the media in order to generate more positive coverage in the mainstream media is obviously a big part of this so maybe a national paper (along the lines of the Evening Standard’s support for Apprenticeships) would be worth thinking about?

    The Media Trust report linked from the UK Youth research you referenced also got me thinking – maybe they would be an interesting partner/potential funder to talk to?

    It’d be interesting to stay in touch with where you go with this, and potentially to be involved with any research etc going forward.

  3. Jonny Zander says:

    Following from the blog, I have had discussion with UK Youth and London Youth and we have decided to collaborate to put together a proposal to do the research mentioned in the blog, and to have the research itself be youth led. If you are a funder reading this and would be interested in contributing to the project please get in touch with me – jzander@kzpartnership.com We will update on this stream with news of our progress

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