Learning from Boston and Glasgow 

Stephen Koepplinger from ASAP (After School Activities Programme), a voluntary organisation based in Maryhill Glasgow, makes some connections between his own work and Glasgow’s violence reduction initiatives. He calls for likeminded community projects and others to get in touch with a view to collaboration. 

Glasgow has received some deserved positive attention in recent months for its approach to preventing violent crime. Glasgow’s approach has also learned from other cities, such as Boston, USA. (See related BBC News story). Both cities have experienced reductions in violent crime but this doesn’t mean the issue has gone away, and efforts need to continue.

The approach used in both cities has been to make violent crime a public health issue. Focusing on prevention partly through diversionary activity for young people. In the Gorbals area of Glasgow, an initiative called Operation Modulus brought together various agencies from different sectors to work with young people who had been involved in gangs. A four-week programme was a co-produced, which was shown to reduce crime and led to other community benefits. Read more here.

Community projects are an important part of this picture. This includes projects co-produced by communities and agencies and also more locally-led community organisations. Such a project brings together different agencies (3-5 groups), for a finite period of time (5-12 weeks), with about a dozen events (with 3 or more bringing the different agencies together).

Over the past decade, my charity ASAP has successfully produced over 100 community projects across 20 different community groups (high schools, youth clubs, kebab shops, etc) in 6 different local authorities across the west coast of Scotland. In 2009, at the height of the recession, we won a lottery grant, and struggled to find a strategic fit for a community project. We persevered, getting the young adults from Erskin travelling to and hosting peers from Maryhill for a dodgeball tournament. 

The young men from Maryhill swore and acted tough to impress those from Erskin. One of Erskin’s student calmly replied, “Does every other word that comes out of your month have to be a swearie word, I mean, there are ladies present.” And with that those teenagers were taught the value of interacting with others from different backgrounds. 

Unfortunately, as the tournament ran on a Saturday by community volunteers, the director of education stopped the project citing that it didn’t comply with the council’s corporate strategy.. Eventually, a portion of the grant was returned to the lottery.

Nevertheless, efforts continue on both sides of the Atlantic. This winter, in Dorchester, Boston, USA we will be bringing together three community groups to work on an activity following on from previous piloting work in Boston.

There is also potential to carry out more of this work in Scotland. This will require more shifting of power to communities with lived experience such as described in Operation Modulus, as well as an acceptance of taking reasonable risks that benefit communities. Resources are there to work in this manner but community projects and other likeminded individuals need to work together in order to tap into these. That’s why I’m keen to at least start a conversation about the next steps to taking forward approaches rooted in partnership, participation and prevention.

If you are interested in speaking to Stephen about taking forward the approaches he describes please contact him.

Tel: 07766708363 Email: contact@asapscotland.org