Government recognises South Wales anti-extremism project

Think Project boasts a 90-95% success rate in changing racist views in young people

An innovative project that aims to prevent young white people becoming involved in far right extremism has been recognised at the House of Commons.

The Think Project, launched by the Swansea-based Ethnic Youth Support Team (EYST), aims to tackle racist and other negative views held by some of the most disengaged and disadvantaged young white people in South Wales. Such views, often fuelled by media coverage of asylum and immigration, have been linked to a number of racial attacks.

Representatives from the group travelled to the House of Commons in London last month to unveil a report into their work by two academics, which described the initiative as “brave and necessary.”

Funded by the Big Lottery Innovation Fund, the Think Project is run over a period of three days by two workers – one British Indian Muslim and one white Welshman with a background in policing – who initiate what they describe as “dangerous conversations” with groups of young people about race, immigration and extremism.

Rocio Cifuentes, director of EYST, told Positive News that the three-year project has so far worked with 200 young people across South Wales, who are referred by other agencies. Many of the younger teenagers have been excluded from school and the older teenagers are not in education, employment or training.

External evaluation of the project, launched in April 2012, found it has a 90-95% success rate in changing the views of participants. “The vast majority of the young people say they think there is a need for this to help prevent racist views and teach young people that not everything they read is true,” said Cifuentes. “They feel quite strongly about it as something they never had the opportunity to think about and to work out what is really going on.”

Members of EYST will disseminate their approach to specialists at a conference at the University of Huddersfield in June.