‘A Generation without Hate’, held on 2 – 3 November, was a two-day conference bringing together practitioners, educators, advocacy groups grantmakers and NGOs to discuss educational interventions for preventing hate crime and other forms of discriminatory behaviour.
The topic was approached from a wide variety of angles through group discussion and contributions from different speakers. We heard about the government’s hate crime prevention strategy from the Minister for Faith (and Wales), Lord Bourne; the latest evidence within the field of social psychology about group-based prejudice from Professor Dominic Abrams; a legal perspective from the Director of Prosecution Policy and Inclusion at the Crown Prosecution Service ,Baljit Ubhey; and heard from those involved with educational NGOs such as the Sophie Lancaster foundation and Anne Frank Trust, as well as from Stop Hate UK. Those with personal experiences of hate crime and identity-based prejudice, such as Claire Birkenshaw from TransUmbrella, and two students from Mulberry school for girls, highlighted the personal toll that this kind of marginalisation can take, as well as the importance of people who have had these experiences being enabled to tell their own stories.
Conversations amongst participants were wide ranging, but there were some recurring themes. One was the role of mainstream and digital/social media, both in spreading hatred and prejudice, but also linking people up to share their experiences of discrimination. While there were particular concerns about what young people are encountering online, the continuing power of mainstream media to shape debates – often in negative ways – was also emphasised. The same Daily Mail columnist was mentioned three times as having produced extremely prejudiced articles relating to different minority identities, two about participants in the room. While the link with media reform initiatives was not explicitly made during the conference, this indicates an overlap that could be explored in future (see for example http://www.mediareform.org.uk/).
Challenges for educators
A second theme was the current context for schools, including significant pressures around timetabling, a relentless focus on academic attainment and preparing for OFSTED. These were seen to cause problems, for example senior leaders not having the time to work out which kinds of interventions might be most appropriate or effective in their context, or being so concerned about the school’s external reputation that they did not want to take steps to record or address bullying internally. However, the rapidly changing context for education was also seen as providing some positive opportunities: given that all schools now have to overhaul their curriculum, this might be a moment when a broader equalities approach could be embedded into classroom teaching in a more meaningful way.
Thirdly, there was a lot of discussion about the evidence base for this kind of work, the disconnection between academic research and practitioners, and debates about what should be evaluated and how. In some cases, resources have been produced and interventions developed without a theory of change, monitoring of uptake or evaluation of the outcomes; in many others, evaluation has focused on satisfaction of participants rather than whether they have resulted in behaviour change. On the other hand, even where high-quality evidence has been gathered it has not necessarily been acted upon – as one person commented, the severe levels of deprivation and marginalisation experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities were already well-documented in the 1985 Swann report on education, but have not improved in thirty years. Evidence, then, is not enough by itself, but needs to be matched by resources from the state as well as from grant-makers.
One ambiguity that emerged over the course of the conference related to the idea of being a 'sector'. At times the conference was referred to as 'cross-sectoral', since it brought together NGOs, teachers, funders and so on, while at other points people referred to those in the room as a single sector. Participant contributions seemed to indicate that most had not thought of themselves as being in a sector with others in the room before, but could see advantages for better coordination and collaboration between them – that they might not be a sector but would like to become one.
In the Cumberland Lodge outcomes report, we will consider some of the questions this raises. For a start, what would such a sector be called? Whether it became known as (for example) 'the hate crime prevention sector', 'the discrimination reduction sector' or 'the equalities education sector' would significantly shape who was involved and the organisations that would be seen as most central. The name would also carry connotations about which theories of change might come to dominate – as the brief discussed, there are several different approaches for understanding hate crime which have quite different implications for educational interventions.
One suggestion was that a sector-wide theory of change should be developed, with initiatives then being able to explain where their point of intervention was and how it related to others. However, it is probable that there are multiple theories at work and that sector-wide agreement about how change takes place is unrealistic. This is not to say that identifying and mapping these theories would not be valuable, just that they should not assume a consensus from the outset. Having a clearer understanding of the differences between organisations and approaches is likely to help people work together better, rather than presuming that aims and objectives are shared and that collaboration will be straightforward.
Involving potential victims
A further question the report will address is how to promote the involvement of people who are most vulnerable to prejudice, discrimination and hate crime, including in these conversations about the nature of the sector itself. As was noted at the conference, there was an underrepresentation of deaf and disabled groups, and the structure was not one that people with learning disabilities could have participated in. We did hear of good practice in reaching out to these groups, such as resources produced by Stop Hate UK (e.g. a words into pictures leaflet, BSL services and information in Braille) which significantly increased the number of disabled people receiving support via their hate crime helpline. The further challenge is to enable such groups to fully participate in designing the services which are most appropriate for their needs and educational interventions which can address the forms of discrimination which most acutely affect them.
While the breadth of the topic did make it difficult at times for the discussion to gain much depth, many participants did seem to gain a new perspective on their work from seeing it in relation to the wide variety of others present at the conference. As a starting point for a new conversation it was a valuable exercise, and we hope that the outcomes report can enable these conversations to continue productively over the coming months.