How can we understand and tackle Extremism and Radicalisation?


Sarah Robinson Galloway, YouthLink Scotland on the roots of extremism in young people and sharing good practice.

Big Topic!

What are your immediate thoughts upon hearing the words extremism and radicalisation? Are you thinking of Islamic extremism and terrorism? What about far-right extremist parties and organisations? Neo-Nazis, fascism, ISIS? They all seem such big complicated topics to consider in isolation, let alone as a whole. For many of us they are far from our everyday lives.

sarah-robinson-gallowayI recently attended an Erasmus+ course in Sofia, Bulgaria on understanding and tackling extremism and radicalisation. I was one of 22 participants from countries across Europe including the UK, Austria, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, France, Spain, Portugal, Poland and Bulgaria. The main aims of the course were to support participants to identify and understand the causes of extremism; improve their knowledge of the processes of radicalisation; equip participants with the ability to identify those most at risk and the tools to respond; and to provide opportunities to share good practice initiatives to challenge youth extremism.

It achieved all of these aims and, for me, much more. My eyes have been opened to the different forms extremism can unfortunately take in our world today. From the extremist acts that seem to fill our news feeds, to the extreme views and acts that are expressed following the reports of the former. They seem to be a never-ending cycle and are difficult to get away from. But what can we do about it? How do we support young people at risk to take a positive path? Continue reading


Are you #iwilling?


George Thomson of Volunteer Scotland talks empathy, young people and untapped potential.

#iwill is a great volunteer pledge full of possibilities. It’s inspiring and challenging. Before making it, you might first say ‘I’m willing’.

It’s a tribute to young people in Scotland that they ARE willing to volunteer. I’ve witnessed this time and time again. There’s a universal willingness to help others. Scotland’s pledge  in recognition of this should be: “#iwill enable, empower and support young people to volunteer.”

Put ourselves in the shoes of young folk. Listen to their heartbeat of empathy for others. A heartbeat which is not self-centred on personal advantage but one which is moved by need. Continue reading

Giving back the control

respect-me-anti-bullyingWhen we talk about bullying, we are talking about behaviour and impact. It’s behaviours that can make people feel hurt, frightened, scared, left out or worried – and the impact of this behaviour leaves them feeling less in control of themselves.

Bullying takes something away from people; that is one of the things that makes it different from other behaviours. It takes away their ability to feel in control and to take effective action.

When a child or young person tells you they are being bullied, your reaction is vitally important. They will usually have gone through a lot of upset before they come forward and actually tell someone – and the fact that they’ve chosen to tell you suggests that they trust you to help them. Telling someone is an important step, and it isn’t always an easy one to take. It’s not just about the environment, your policy or the measures you have in place to deal with bullying. A child’s experience will be directly affected by the response they get from the adult.  We need to listen and get it right. It’s about the personal touch, and we should always be mindful of this.

That’s why we have to involve young people in what they want to happen, what they would like to happen, and what they are worried about happening. And sometimes we need to take a lead from them as to what pace we go at. If we can do that, we can help restore that feeling of being in control.

So, what advice should you give? Continue reading

Beyond the classroom

web003John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, talks about the key role youth work has in helping to close the attainment gap.

It is vital that all of Scotland’s children and young people have a fair chance to flourish. Youth work makes a significant contribution to this: put simply, it helps to change lives. I am always humbled by stories from young people and practitioners which demonstrate the real life impact of youth work.

Youth work and community learning and development takes place across all our communities, helping young people to make positive choices as they emerge into adulthood by building their confidence, skills and capacity for further learning and employability.

The phenomenal growth in the completion of youth awards is a real sign of youth work’s success.  Since the Awards Network was established in 2008, participation and completion of awards has grown by 273% with over 73,000 awards completed in 2014-15 alone. That success is down to the talents and skills of thousands of youth workers, many of them volunteers, some of them young people, investing their time to help our young people be all they can be.

Government plays its part too. Scotland’s youth work strategy – ‘Our ambitions for improving the life chances of young people in Scotland’ – connects  with other key policy areas, especially in education.  That contribution was recognised by the OECD in its recent review of Scottish  education – connecting schools with learning in the community, and out-of-school life in general; promoting healthy lifestyles and helping to tackle health inequalities; and engaging families and communities in our education system.

Youth work also has a role to play in transferring good practice in informal and community learning approaches into schools to help close the attainment gap between children from the most and least deprived communities.  And as a partner in Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, youth work can help to increase the range of pathways available to young people to further learning, training and skills development.

No sector plays a more significant role in helping young people to realise their rights and engage in our democracy. One of youth work’s great strengths is the opportunities it gives young people to get involved in social action, volunteering and decision-making in their communities.

We all have a responsibility to make young people’s rights a reality. I am proud of the role that an SNP Government has played, ensuring 16 and 17 year olds now have a say in our democratic process  and helping young people’s voices be heard on matters which affect them.

Young people are leading the design, shape and focus of the Year of Young People in 2018. Their views and experience  are also helping to inform the best approaches to design, create and lead a fairer Scotland. And all this engagement reinforces what some of us already know – we can learn much from listening to Scotland’s young people.

Indeed, I want Scotland to be a country that loves to learn and where learning is lifelong and life wide: youth work has a key role to play in helping us all, but especially our young people, achieve this.

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