Learning to have Challenging Conversations about race

Taking place over the last 6 months, Voluntary Action Leeds’, Challenging Conversations project investigated the drivers that may lead young people to commit hate crime

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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 we worked with 51 young people, with many Challenging Conversations projects bringing young people from different backgrounds together, using the power of shared interests (like DJing or sharing a meal) to create new friendships. The projects created opportunities for adult facilitators to start conversations about the young people’s experiences and feelings about race.  

Although some of the experiences and views that young people reported were quite negative (and in some cases included upsetting examples of being victims of Hate Crime), Challenging Conversations was a brilliant project to be involved in. As well as telling us a lot about ‘what works’ it opened up lots of new questions. Some of the key points from Challenging Conversations are:  

  • Bringing young people from different backgrounds together really helps them to build new friendships
  • Successful engagement needs extended commitment from practitioners to build trust
  • Some organisations need to build their capacity to feel confident in having a ‘challenging conversation’.
  • Young people need support to tackle unexplored tensions around living in multi-linguistic communities
  • Many young people don’t understand what a hate crime is and don’t make reports when they are victims.
To share the project learning the team have produced two documents:
  • The Challenging Conversations Toolkit is a simple ‘how to’ guide. It gathers together ‘dos and don’ts’ about developing race hate crime community projects under seven key themes.
  • The Challenging Conversations Report is an in depth exploration of how the project was delivered, and what it learnt.
We have also produced a short report from the event at which we shared the Challenging Conversations findings. In particular this work pulls together ideas from table discussions about what needs to happen next.   For VAL, and its partners, Challenging Conversations was just the starting point for a wider debate across the city about ways to deal with hate crime, and the third sector’s role in supporting young people to develop more positive behaviours. Discussions are currently ongoing about the options for bidding to the second round of Hate Crime Community Project funding and we’ll continue updates and opportunities as they become available. You can find all of the documents related to Challenging Conversations here. For more information contact Rich Warrington, Development Worker at richard.warrington@val.org.uk