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  • 25th Jul 2022

Introducing the Ending Youth Violence Lab

Lab Director Tom McBride sets out our early thinking on the priorities for the Lab

Involvement in crime and violence has a devastating effect on the lives of children, their communities and wider society. The Ending Youth Violence Lab (the Lab) wants to be part of the solution, by ensuring children have the strengths, skills and opportunities to make good life choices, meet their potential and lead happy and fulfilling lives. 

In the year ending March 2021, there were 38,500 proven offences committed by children in England and Wales, including 3,500 knife and offensive weapon offences. Beyond the immediate impact, children caught up in violence have poor life prospects. On average they will gain fewer qualifications, earn less and  experience poorer mental and physical health  than their peers. 

Vulnerable children are at risk of becoming involved in crime and violence should be supported by high-quality and effective services which can help them to develop the strengths and attributes which will support them to make more positive choices. However, the UK evidence base on the most effective approaches to supporting children is limited. The Lab will work with partners to address gaps in the evidence and ensure services to vulnerable children that have a track record or working. 

In 2019 the Home Office committed £200m to tackling youth violence in England and Wales through establishing in the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF), a What Works Centre dedicated to rigorously evaluating interventions which aim to prevent children getting caught up in violence, and ensuring that knowledge is applied in practice. YEF has funded the delivery and evaluation of around 45 interventions, from high-intensity therapeutic services, to mentoring programmes and restorative justice approaches. 

The Lab is an exciting collaboration between YEF and Stuart Roden, which  will build on YEF’s work. We will focus on the development and early stage testing of interventions, building a pipeline of high-quality, UK services which are ready for – and committed to – rigorous impact evaluation by YEF or other funders. We are privileged to be based in the Behavioural Insights Team, meaning we can draw upon their deep expertise in developing and evaluating social policy interventions.

Our approach will be grounded in the Early Intervention Foundation’s 10 Steps for Evaluation Success, which emphasises that before undergoing a large-scale impact evaluation such as a Randomised Control Trial, there are stages which an intervention should pass through. These include having a theory of change which is well grounded in the evidence, a well specified delivery model, and evidence that the intervention can recruit and retain the children it is designed to help. We will work with promising interventions, supporting them to build their evidence on these factors, and making them credible candidates for further evaluation. 

Initially the Lab will have three ways of working.

  1. Supporting the importation, adaptation, and early-stage testing of well evidenced approaches from overseas – Identifying approaches with strong evidence on improving youth violence outcomes or related upstream factors in other countries, and funding the work to adapt them to the UK context, initial delivery and early-stage feasibility testing.
  2. Working with UK organisations  to develop strong ideas into evaluable interventions – working with the sector to find interventions that have strong theoretical underpinning and are commitment to evaluation and funding the development and early-stage feasibility testing needed to get them trial ready
  3. Working with Developers, Researchers, Practitioners, and Service Users to co-design new and innovative approaches – Building partnerships and funding the development of novel approaches to tackling youth violence with a focus on areas where there are few effective approaches, for example underserved populations or  new and emerging threats

Tackling youth violence is an urgent challenge, and we will work at pace to develop a portfolio of interventions which can help solve this. This will include interventions that are close to being trial ready  and earlier stage ideas, and range from support for children in the criminal justice system, to preventative approaches which address upstream factors strongly associated with violence, such as, bullying, behavioural problems and substance misuse. We will occupy a unique position in the funding landscape, as  the development and early stage testing work we will specialise in are areas where underinvestment stifles progress.

Our funding model means we can prioritise  innovation, and have a higher tolerance of risk than some funders, although we will only work with interventions which are well grounded in the existing evidence, are ambitious about developing their evidence and delivering at scale, and which are prepared to work collaboratively with the communities they will serve.

As a small organisation we will only achieve impact through collaborating with those with expertise in, and experience of youth violence. Over the coming weeks we will say more about how we will be engaging with the sector and opportunities for working with us, and you can follow us via the website and on Twitter. But if you have views on where the Lab should focus, have an intervention which you would like to build the evidence for, or have an idea for an intervention which you would like to develop, then please do get in contact.  I look forward to working with you to put an end to youth violence.