A youth led report into the August 2011 riots

It was on my 35th birthday that I took the train home through Hackney, and found that London was, literally, burning. The August 2011 riots were an extraordinary moment – shocking and frightening to those caught up in them, inevitable and justified to those who felt let down and alienated, and a chance to loot and cause chaos to the anarchic and opportunistic. As another summer finally starts to heat up, those events of last August seem closer than they did when passions were muted by constant rain, or temporarily buried under a foot of snow – little has fundamentally changed since then

The SHM Foundation – an organisation passionate about social change – have recently published a report into the riots. Alongside hundreds of thousands of words out there on the subject, this may seem unremarkable, but this report does have the distinction of coming after a considered period of time, and, even more importantly is largely the work of a group of diverse young people, who generated the ideas, carried out interviews with their peers and produced the final report. The document states that 20-25% of the young people whose views are included were involved in the riots.

The main conclusions of the report are that many of the young people involved did not feel empowered to express themselves in other ways, and that young people need to be seen as part of the solution, and not just as the problem to be dealt with – we need to find ways to increase the political and civil engagement of these disenfranchised people, and ensure that they are involved in meaningful dialogue about the decisions that will affect their lives. And who knows – they may have better answers than those currently deciding their futures……

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