Celestin Okoroji reports on ‘A Generation Without Hate’

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Celestin Okoroji, 2017 – 2019 Cumberland Lodge Scholar

The recent Cumberland Lodge conference ‘A generation without hate’, part of the Freedom series, brought together practitioners, policy makers and educators working around the country to tackle hate crime. Hate crime has been defined as a criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice. This is clearly a complex issue in terms of how it manifests itself, but delegates were provided a very comprehensive briefing note written by Deborah Grayson, a research associate with the Lodge, (the briefing note can still be viewed here) prior to coming which really helped to distil some of the key antecedents and approaches.

The conference was addressed by senior figures from Government (Lord Bourne), academia (Prof. Dominic Abrams), Criminal Justice (Baljit Ubhey) as well as an array of NGOs, schools and young people. This spectrum allowed us to both drill down into issues around specific groups, as well as think more broadly about social and political matters which enable or inhibit hate crime and hateful attitudes.

To give an example, I got into a very interesting discussion with a group of teachers about how they use restorative justice approaches that put perpetrators and victims in the same room to discuss the impact of the perpetrator’s actions. Not more than two hours later I was talking with colleagues about the rise in hate crime following Brexit and what it means for the future of work in this area.

What I learned over the two days is that we do know quite a lot about the causes of hate crime. Even better, we also know several good ways to reduce it, especially at the school level. We saw great examples of work from StopHate UK, Sophie Lancaster Foundation and the Anne Frank Trust. However, modernity throws up several new and evolving issues.Most notably the role of social media both as a space where hate speech can be prevalent and as a space where solidarity and support for marginalised groups can manifest. What exactly we do to reduce the former and promote the latter is an ongoing debate.

Another tricky issue that was highlighted is how organisations can prove the worth of their initiatives especially at early intervention stage. It would be impossible to show that someone who received an early intervention did not commit a hate crime because of the intervention. Collectively, we tried to think radically about the way impact could be measured in ways that both meet the needs of funders but are also meaningful for participants and the public. Some of these ideas are captured in an upcoming outcomes report by Deborah Grayson, so look out for that on the Cumberland Lodge website.

My key take away from the conference was to have hope. Many organisations, and very conscientious people within them, are working on reducing hate crime and building dialogue between communities every day. This work is at the forefront of delivering the basic elements of a society I think we all want to see: one where people don’t need to live in fear of violence because they’re different.

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Liisa Tuhkanen reports on the ‘Eliminating Slavery: Enhancing the Police Response’ October seminar

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Liisa Tuhkanen, 2016-2018 Cumberland Lodge Scholar

What comes to your mind when you hear the word slavery? For many, it evokes images of chains, plantations, the atrocities of the colonial era. Yet, slavery is also very much a contemporary problem, affecting an estimated 13 000 people in Britain and over 40 million worldwide.

Instead of locks and chains, the victims of modern slavery are often trapped by threats and a lack of trust towards those who could help them, and more public awareness is urgently needed to help change the situation. This was one of the main issues raised at the seminar on enhancing the police response to modern slavery, held at the House of Commons on Monday 30 October. The event was chaired by Chief Constable Sara Thornton, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Thornton was joined in conversation by MP Sarah Newton, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability; Will Kerr, Director of Vulnerabilities at the National Crime Agency; Major Anne Read, Director of Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery at the Salvation Army; and Rt Rev Alastair Redfern, Independent Chair of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel.

Building upon previous discussions

The seminar built on the important discussions started earlier in the year at the Cumberland Lodge Police Conference (the full conference report can be downloaded here). Since then, policing operations on slavery have increased by 157 percent (see the conference blog here). Recognition and understanding of the problem both among the police and the wider public are also on the rise. These are encouraging steps, but challenges remain. There are regional discrepancies in police responses, and despite the overall rise in operations, prosecution rates remain low. Moreover, it is important to find new ways of prosecuting the crime while minimising the pressure put on the victims, some of whom do not self-identify as such. In fact, victim recognition is another area in need of immediate improvement.

Visibility problem

Overall, modern slavery still has a clear visibility problem: it is often happening right under our noses without being recognised for what it is. Consequently, one of the most effective ways of fighting this crime is raising awareness about it, particularly among healthcare professionals – who may encounter victims and survivors of slavery in their practice – and the general public, who as consumers can play a significant role in recognising and reporting possible cases.

One of the seminar’s most interesting questions was raised as the event drew to a close: what is the connection between modern slavery and official immigration policies? While the UK is often presented as one of the world leaders in addressing modern slavery, the country has received criticism for its treatment of undocumented migrants, a group that encompasses many victims and survivors. It is well known that some of those affected by slavery are too scared to seek help for fear of getting deported.

Furthermore, The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group has expressed concerns that leaving the European Union may jeopardise the UK’s fight against slavery, as much of the progress made so far has relied on EU legislation and cooperation (click here for the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group’s July 2017 report, Brexit & the UK’s fight against modern slavery). It is clear that, despite the recent advances in tackling modern slavery, there is still a lot of work left to do.

For more information on our London Seminars, please click here.

Iman Azzi reports on ‘Education and Social Cohesion’, an evening Seminar

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Iman Azzi, 2016 – 2018 Cumberland Lodge Scholar

As a Cumberland Lodge Scholar, I am used to arriving at the Lodge for events on a wide range of subjects, from health to combatting violent extremism, or the role of faith in modern society. One of the most exciting elements of being associated with the foundation is the exposure to topics with which I’m less familiar.

However, this event was close to my own field of studies at the Institute of Education, University College London. In fact, I currently teach an undergraduate course that explores the relationship between education and social class. Many of the questions we discussed in this seminar with Lord Adonis found their way into the questions I asked of my students the following week.

This seminar at Cumberland Lodge brought together a small number of educationalists, academics, policy makers, and researchers, all knee-deep and actively working to increase access to opportunities for students across the UK. It focused on how we can increase access to equitable education and opportunities for children and young people in the UK. We looked at schools as sites of potential change and at how some educational approaches serve to reproduce existing power dynamics and risk institutional stagnation.

The seminar highlighted four key challenges facing the country’s leading educationalists: the disproportionate number of jobs in the top professions going to alumni of independent schools and Oxbridge; the unique challenges facing different regions of the country; the question of funding –who will pay for improved access to education and where would the money be best spent; and how to encourage parents to get involved.

We were challenged to think creatively and to propose big ideas. We had been given the four topics to mull over ahead of the event but, as I read them at home I knew these they were probably best left for discussions on the night; these were questions too complex to tackle independently.

My seminar group was tasked with thinking about how education could support the development of a society based on merit. Our jumping-off point was a quote from Prime Minister Theresa May: If we are to give our children and grandchildren a fair chance to succeed in an ever more competitive world, we have to build a future where every child can access a good school place. That means decisively shifting Britain’s education system and building a great meritocracy so that children from ordinary working families are given the chances their richer contemporaries take for granted’ (2017).

We were asked to think about what this quote means for the ways in which schools should be structured and funded, but even the wording of the question proved troubling. Before we started talking about possible answers, a member of my group questioned the very meaning of ‘meritocracy’. What would it actually look like, they asked? Another group member chimed in: ‘A meritocracy on whose terms?’.

Ultimately, we rephrased the question to focus on projects that could help provide equal access to opportunities for all students. We focused our discussion on the cities and councils we knew best, recognising that step-changes in education can benefit a country as a whole, but much of the change needs to happen locally. We talked about increasing access to apprenticeships and working with industries and universities to better align education to the life students face, post-graduation. Then we reversed course and challenged ourselves: should education be seen only as a preparatory tool for the next phase of life, or is there more to it than that?

We challenged the nature of assessments. We talked about students as citizens and what they might need, or desire, in order to feel some ownership of their communities. We respectfully disagreed with and challenged one other, and we enjoyed the rigorous debate.

But, I have to admit: we ended the night with more questions than answers. We knew the chances of that upon arrival. Education is a difficult topic to debate, precisely because it impacts so much of the way that society functions.

We all believe that education is part of a solution to the challenges that society faces, but there are so many problems to confront and so many questions to ask that it is sometimes hard to see the end goal. Gathering people of different backgrounds and perspectives together in a room, to respectfully debate and creatively converse, is part of the journey. Not every workshop can achieve breakthrough, but every breakthrough is debated and challenged before it is solved, and I know that this seminar has inspired me to keep having these conversations, to keep asking the difficult questions, and to keep working together to tackle these pressing issues of the day.