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Rise Up: Youth Workers Joining Forces to Support Young Londoners Affected by Violence

June 3, 2024

For 136 years, London Youth has been supporting youth organisations and young people across London. Together with our incredible network of 600 member organisations, we share one vision: one where all young Londoners grow up healthy, able to express themselves, navigate a fulfilling career and make a positive contribution to their communities. 

In 2023, as part of our work to build youth practitioners’ skills, confidence and experience to better support vulnerable young Londoners, we worked with partners to deliver the third year of the Rise Up leadership programme. We equipped 114 youth professionals who work directly with those affected by violence with tools to manage conflict, provided access to networks, and helped them develop confidence in their leadership abilities. I asked two of these professionals, Lisa Pearson and Jade Newton-Gardener, to reflect on their experience with Rise Up, and how their relationship to themselves, their community, and their approach to reducing violence changed. Here’s what they said: 

Jade:1 “I heard about London Youth’s Rise Up programme a few years ago when I was working at the Amy Winehouse Foundation2. It kept coming up, but I didn’t have the confidence to apply. Eventually in 2022, while working at Fully Focused Productions3, I applied and was successful. I guess I finally decided I was worth it. 

I’ve worked in play and youth work for over 24 years, always on the frontline working directly with young people. I’ve worked for statutory organisations, local authorities and charities, but my preference is always with grassroots organisations.

Fully Focused Productions , where I work now as youth development and wellbeing coordinator, is a youth-led media production company. 

Throughout my career I’ve always had a passion for play theory. Play is vital not just for children but for all young people’s development, wellbeing and growth. Professionals who work with young people often aren’t aware of just how important play is in supporting them holistically. I was worried when I joined Rise Up that the people I’d meet would hold this misunderstanding about what I do. In fact, Rise Up was a really affirming, inspiring experience. 

Through the incredible facilitation, I quickly felt comfortable sharing my thoughts, ideas and opinions with the group. My play-focused lens was affirmed and acknowledged as a new and valid approach. I am one of those people who often thinks about others and not myself, and the Leap Confronting Conflict4 sessions really allowed me to reverse this. They cemented the importance of my own personal development.

Thinking back on the cohort of people I met during Rise Up, I think we were destined to share a space. We’re still in touch on WhatsApp and continue to share information and grow together. I was a bit of a lone soldier in this profession and now I have a community. Rise Up empowered me to stand in my truth. It fed my fire the oxygen it needed and gave me the drive to relaunch my organisation IMAP (I aM a Person). 

Through Rise Up I also joined the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) Youth Practitioner Advisory Board5, which has broadened my understanding of what the VRU is and how youth worker voices can impact its work. Through London Youth I also gave evidence to the Police and Crime Committee. It was nerve wracking in the lead-up, but I felt comfortable sitting with my peers and sharing our truth and was pleased when MPs approached me personally to continue the conversation. Opportunities like this are a giant step towards youth workers’ voices being heard.

If more youth workers could share their experiences, it could rehumanise decision makers’ perspectives on young people who turn to violence. We could take away the fear, allowing them to see them first as young people who have experienced trauma and who need the extra support. Youth workers who do the heartwork (that’s what I call it!) with these young people should be given the acknowledgment, pay, resources, and the respect they deserve.

I’ll never forget what one of my youth work lecturers once said: “It’s our job as youth workers to make ourselves redundant.” This is what “greater than ourselves” means to me. It means that no one person can bring about the change that’s needed for our young people to thrive. It means that we as a collective need to continue to push boundaries to create waves of change for all young people. They are our future, and they are worth it.”

Lisa: “I personally know lots of parents who have lost their children to knife crime. It’s heartbreaking. As a mum, a nan, and an active member of my community, I see clearly that there are no community safety measures in place and young people are up against it. They need help now. A public health approach to the issue of violence is great in 10 years if it has worked, but what about today? I’m interested in immediate solutions, that’s what motivates me. That’s why I set up Let The Youth Live CIC. I was also proud to become the London bleed kit ambassador for the Daniel Baird Foundation. In 2020 I installed London’s first publicly accessible bleed control cabinet in London. I’ve since rolled out hundreds more. These kits are a lifesaving piece of equipment designed to prevent catastrophic blood loss following trauma or violence. They should be on every street by law.

As a full-time carer, director, activist, and DJ, when I first came across London Youth’s Rise Up programme, I saw it as a way to get professional training and to meet likeminded people working at street level with young people. The fact the commitment was one day a week immediately made me think, “OK, that’s something I can work with.”

Reflecting on it now, I got all this and so much more. The network I gained is invaluable, and they’re people I now call friends. I received leadership training and workshops on confronting conflict, mental health first aid, and using data to influence what I’m doing. Rise Up really boosted my confidence: having to speak in front of a larger group when I’m so used to being one-on-one was initially hard because I suffer with anxiety, but everyone was so supportive of my work. The trainers made sure I concentrated on my wellbeing too, which I hadn’t been doing. Since Rise Up I’ve actually started back on Tae Kwon Do, after many years.

One of the highlights during the programme was meeting Craig Pinkney (Chief Executive of SOLVE: The Centre for Youth Violence and Conflict), who ran a session. I’ve been supporting his work for years and to meet him in the flesh, and be in the same room, was incredible.

While I was on Rise Up, I was forever thinking about distributing kits to all the other practitioners. I think I was manifesting because there was an opportunity to apply to some funding while on the programme, so I applied, and I got £2,000. With the money I organised a training for young leaders and purchased 20 bleed control kits. I distributed them to 20 other Rise Up participants and they took them to their youth organisations. It worked out that overall, they went out to nine different boroughs. 

London is lagging behind in terms of bleed kits because there are so many boroughs to cover, so I was proud of this collaboration. Joining Rise Up also led to further collaboration with London Youth; they consulted me when they were collating evidence for the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, and I’ve now joined their Policy Advisory Group. When I think of the future, I feel determined and positive we will make change. Time is ticking, young people are losing their lives, parents are living in fear. We need intervention now, and that’s what drives me.”

Find out more about the Rise Up programme at

Louise McNestrie
Senior Programme Manager, Rise Up, London Youth

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