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Voluntary Action Leeds’, Challenging Conversations project aimed to understand the drivers that may lead young people to commit hate crime.


The project, funded by the Home Office, tested six different approaches to having a ‘Challenging Conversation’ with children and young people about their feelings about complex issues of race, identity and belonging. These short-term interventions were designed and led by community based organisations, with VAL acting as an umbrella organisation to capture learning about what effects young people’s attitudes to race, and what works in supporting them to develop more positive behaviours. VAL was assisted in this work by an innovative partnership with Leeds City Council which seconded seven Project Support Workers from its Graduate Programme to deliver the research.

In total the project worked with 51 young people, supporting young people to make friends across ethnicities, breaking down barriers and cultural myths, and bringing young people to a point where they were in the right ‘head space’ to engage in challenging conversations.

Challenging Conversations gathered an incredible amount of evidence that will be useful for new community based projects, and for experienced practitioners alike. To help pull this evidence together the project produced two different documents:

The Challenging Conversations Toolkit is a simple ‘how to’ guide. It gathers together ‘dos and don’ts’ about tackling these issues under seven key themes.
The Challenging Conversations Report (available to download at the bottom of this page) is an in depth exploration of how the project was delivered, and what it learnt.

For VAL and its partners, Challenging Conversations was just the starting point for a wider debate across the city about ways to deal with race hate crime, and the third sector’s role in supporting young people to develop more positive behaviours. Further information on next steps as a result of the project will be shared here.

For more information contact Rich Warrington, Development Worker at

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