In August 2011, rioting broke out in Tottenham, North London, and spread to other parts of the capital and then to several other cities. There has been much debate about the causes and consequences of the riots in the media, in the political arena, and across social networks.
A key problem with much of the commentary was that young people have not been treated equally in the debate. Young people were made the subjects of the debate, rather than playing a role in interpreting the riots and determining the right response. The portrayal of the riots as an outpouring of criminality among young people has compounded the sense of alienation and frustration among many members of the young generation.
The SHM Foundation wanted to bring a new perspective to bear on the debate by working in partnership with young people in London to examine the motivations behind the riots and their implications. Through the Political Academy, were able to draw on a unique experience of working in partnership with young people to think about the nature of contemporary politics, political engagement and civic responsibility. We worked with 12 young people from the Political Academy in London, to conduct in-depth interviews with young people in a range of London boroughs that were affected by the riots. These young people were equipped with research skills to solicit information from their peers and to translate young people’s interpretations of the riots.
Through the efforts of these young researchers, our research engaged 40 young people across London and has produced an important new narrative about the riots, which has been co-created with young people from communities affected.