From criminalisation to innovation

This case study will focus on the ‘innovative potential’ of a group of up to 30 young people (aged 14-29) who are (or have been) in conflict with authority through criminal, anti-social or transgressive behaviour. They are constructed as problematic and labelled (by authorities) as offenders, ex-offenders or ‘at risk’ of offending. The increasing and varied interventions they are subjected to are largely shaped by the political rhetoric of punitiveness resulting in a climate of regulation, criminalisation, stigma and reduced life chances.

Paradoxically, other forms of authority (including elements of statutory ‘youth services’ and numerous third sector organisations) seek, through positive engagement, to provide young people with opportunities to change, both on an individual level, and more widely. Within this case study we will engage with young people accessing (or having previously accessed) the support of a third sector organisation. The fieldwork will explore elements of innovation (in whatever forms these take, and as identified by the young people) and the drivers and facilitators behind that innovation.

The role of ‘authority’ within the spectrum of young people’s experiences of a third sector organisation will be explored through young people’s engagement with these initiatives, the impact and the role of these organisations in both providing opportunities for change and (perhaps inadvertently) posing barriers to social engagement. Does the organisation encourage, support and facilitate innovation, operating as a site for change, innovation and resistance, or (as critics argue) does it further stigmatise and control young people, colluding to produce a justice ‘net widening’ effect and posing barriers to social engagement?