IARS Youth Empowerment programmes

Independent Academic Research Studies (IARS) is a youth-led social policy think-tank set up in 2001 to empower young people to influence policy and practices and to democratically engage in society as equal citizens.

Read about Independent Academic Research Studies (IARS).

IARS works principally with young people 16-25 years old, particularly with those who are marginalised because of their race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, faith or background. Many young people, irrespective of their background find it difficult to engage with ‘the law’. They are disempowered because they don’t have the knowledge or capability to challenge processes and decisions.

Watch IARS film about young people’s legal capability. The video explores how young people see and deal with law related problems and how the IARS programmes help address the challenges they face.

The focus of IARS work reflects the passions, concerns and interests of young people. Empowerment begins with identifying need. For example, it could be a local authority omitting to include the youth voice in a housing development, or a bullying policy that fails to protect one group of young people. For the young people to make a difference and try to influence change requires developing skills through training, and includes becoming aware of the legal structures that govern various aspects of the country. It is at this point that PLE plays its most important part in IARS’ youth led projects, by improving young people’s legal competency and capability.

Read research on Measuring young peoples’ legal capability  (1.1 MB)

Innovative approach to PLE

IARS’ approach to PLE is to present it as a tool for young people to help solve the issues they have identified. Being an organisation that focuses on the needs of equality groups and human rights, it has developed its own human rights training programme. This is a flexible course just for young people that equip them with the ‘language’ and principles of human rights, with a focus on how the Human Rights Act 1998 works. This is then put in context by looking at case studies that are relevant to their interest, whether this is how a policeman has conducted a stop and search exercise or treatment by their local GP. The course is not approached in an academic way, but rather focuses on the day to day issues that young people face. The result is that they are engaged, interested and inspired by the possibilities of their new knowledge and skills.


Young Justice Champions Project

IARS three-year project,’Young Justice Champions Project’ began in 2009 and is funded by ‘A Glimmer of Hope Foundation’. The project provides the opportunity to 250 young Londoners to gain skills to become young champions in their neighbourhoods, and influence policy and practices affecting them. Through research, campaigning and events the project will enable young people to work with 500 organisations that provide services to young Londoners relating to community cohesion and hate crime.

The project aims to develop models of best practice for improving the legal capability of young people. The programme is influenced by a recent research project that IARS has completed in partnership with Plenet, ‘Measuring young peoples’ legal capability’. The programme builds on the research and will test the effectiveness of its conclusions and recommendations.

In September 2010, IARS published young people’s legal capability on YouTube with funding from this project:

IARS will be developing and delivering a training and skills development programme focusing on legal skills for young people. The youth led programme will be delivered with a number of partners (Plenet, Law Works, Law Centres Federation). Young people from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds will receive this training and skills development programme throughout 2010 and 2011.

More about Young Justice Champions Project

IARS has several other youth-led projects. Currently they have a ‘Youth Empowerment Project’, a ‘London Youth Volunteering Project’, and ‘Restorative Justice and ‘Youth Violence Post-Sentence’ Project.

PLE in action

An example of how IARS’ approach to PLE works is the youth led Homophobic Bullying and Human Rights Project. A group of young people came together because they felt that using a human rights approach to tackling this form of bullying in schools would be successful. The training they received allowed them to explore the legal landscape around bullying, with an emphasis on relevant human rights law. From the training they were given the confidence to conduct their own further research on other related legal issues. With that knowledge they were then able to think about how they could form anti-bullying policies that would be feasible and make sense within the current system. This approach allowed them to engage with their issue and most importantly apply their new knowledge and legal capability to their problem. The result was that the project’s young people all developed a very strong sense of how human rights work.

Shared Values for a Shared Future Executive Summary Homophobic Bullying and Human Rights (1.8 MB)

A copy of the full report ‘Human Rights, Equality, Respect, Active Citizenship: Empowering young people to tackle homophobic bullying’ by Lewis Parle with research assistants: Rochelle Sampy and the Youth Empowerment Project team can be found on the IARS website.

Published: 24 September 2010

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