It's time to take real action to reduce youth violence

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In the last few weeks Bristol has been under the national spotlight with the recent deaths of young people in the city.

At Empire Fighting Chance we would like to express our sincere and deep condolences to all the family and close friends of the deceased that have been affected by these tragedies.

We know too well how this can affect an entire community and the impact it can have on young people feeling safe generally.

The team at Empire Fighting Chance are 'stepping up our fight' against youth violence

This has led to lots of local and national media coverage, in which we have ourselves been involved.

At Empire, we have lost 4 young people in the last 18 months, and feel compelled to act on their behalf. Yet we recognise this is a collective challenge, and the answers will be found together.

CEO of Empire Fighting Chance Martin Bisp, pens his thoughts on recent events , the challenges and potential solutions to youth violence ;

Bristol is blessed with some great community-based organisations ranging from smaller CIC’s through to bigger organisations with teams of staff.

In east central and the inner city alone I see creative and innovative organisations, doing great work and engaging with young people at risk.  Many of these we have worked with, and among others, these include Creative Power Town, Freestyle CIC, ACE CIC, BXcellence (including Leanne Reynolds), Growing Futures , Mwanzo Project and Each One Teach One.

Every day they show up for the most vulnerable, and have insight into the current landscape young people find themselves.

And at Empire we are driven to understand how we could be better and more intentional in our violence prevention work. So where we recognise local excellence, we also recognise that there may be answers and strategies further afield that we can learn from and bring back to the city.

Driven by the death of Dontae, we sought to understand this, and explored how we could be better and more intentional in our violence prevention work.

We have been meeting with global experts on how to reduce youth violence. Here COO Jamie Sanigar and CEO Martin Bisp meet Santiago Uribe Rocha from Colombia, who is the second ever appointed Violence Chief Resilience officer in the world

Urban violence is complex and therefore the solutions to it are equally complex.  

I was invited to take part in a United Nations and Brookings Institute working group based on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 16), Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. It specifically concentrated on it’s target 16.1, ‘Reducing Violence Everywhere.’

The working group allowed me to create partnerships with different cities and violence reduction experts across the world, including those that worked with, Presidents Barak Obama and Nelson Mandela.

These partnerships lead to knowledge exchanges, which then lead to funded reciprocal visits to different cities and an invitation to join Peace in our Cities, a global network of violence reduction experts.

These relationships have allowed us to get a nuanced and detailed view of violence from those who have transformed the lives of cities and communities across the globe.  A view we have brought back to Bristol.

Some of these lessons include: the importance of being authentic and legitimate; being community and citizen led; yet working with the police, city government and public health; being collaborative and understanding that no single agency have all the answers; and most importantly not seeing violence reduction purely through a justice lens, as we know disadvantage drives violence. 

So where do we go from here? At Empire Fighting Chance we know we don’t have all the solutions, but we know that Bristol can explore them together.

The anti-knife crime campaign Together For Change is being led by a consortium of local media and community organisations

This is why we signed the open letter and anti-knife crime campaign led by the editor of Bristol Live alongside media partners and community organisations. We hope this can be a catalyst for change.

The campaign includes things such setting up a task force and raising awareness of knife crime, will this provide the framework to work together?

If we, with others, start to make changes, we can make Bristol a safer city, if not then we will continue to visit young people in prison, hospital or sit at their graveside.

This cannot be acceptable.  

To find out more about the anti-knife crime campaign Together For Change click here.

And if you want to get in contact with us about working together drop us an email on [email protected]