Today, following our investigation into London’s gangs, the Evening Standard is launching a bold initiative. We are attempting something high-risk that no British newspaper, to our knowledge, has ever tried before.Oh..?
We have decided to back former gang members, such as Daniel Barnes and Karl Lokko. We are going to invest in the resilience and business nous they have shown in surviving their traumatic childhoods, albeit in completely maladaptive ways, and help them deploy these qualities positively, not just to turn the corner for themselves, but to become examples to others seeking to escape street-level gangs.
To this end, we have partnered with Kids Company (Ed: *groan*), the charity working with 18,000 of London’s most disturbed children, including gang members, and who have provided the ongoing key-worker support these young people need. We will proceed cautiously with a pilot project backing three social enterprises, which are at varying stages of start-up. If these work out, we hope to back more. As we say, it is high risk, but if it works out, it will be a game-changer.And...just who is it 'high risk' for?
The three groups of former gang members we are backing have been through a rigorous selection process, a sort of Dragon’s Den for ex-gang members. They have had to demonstrate that they have broken with their criminal past, that their social enterprise is viable and sustainable, and that they will benefit the wider community.
So what exactly are we asking our readers to do? Simply put, to hire them for jobs. If you are moving home, ask All in All Transit to quote for the job. If you are planning a wedding or a themed party, call in the capital’s coolest wedding planners NewBiggz. If you are a school, book an inspirational drama workshop run by people who have walked the walk at The FAB Arts Company. Furthermore, if you are an industry expert, you can offer to mentor them.Ah. I see. It's 'high risk' for the reputation of the 'Evening Standard', but the real risk will be taken by other people.
Our initiative was also welcomed by Commander Steve Rodhouse, head of gangs at the Metropolitan Police, who said: “We recognise that this problem cannot be solved by policing alone. Gang members are often entrepreneurial with skills in pricing, logistics and marketing, so harnessing that will be important. We know that no anti-gangs strategy has been successful anywhere in the world unless you get people into employment and make them economically viable, so the Standard’s social enterprise model is a very good place to start.”
Sonal Shah, chief executive of The London Community Foundation, the charity that looks after the Dispossessed Fund, said: “These awards provide a positive pathway to a group of young people who could not otherwise get funding. This is a risk, but a calculated one, and it is where the Dispossessed Fund comes into its own. The grants provide an opportunity for these young people to prove themselves and present strong role models to their peers.”Hmmm, and if it all goes tits up, will those charities (or the police) be liable? I bet they won't...
All of us have a responsibility to tackle London’s gang problem, not just the police or organisations like Kids Company.OK, 'Evening Standard', if so, what are you doing, besides publicising this? How many ex-gang members have you given jobs to?