Raymond Douglas went in to youth work straight from school, having grown up in a community with high levels of crime, drugs and prostitution. He always felt the need to make a difference, rather than becoming a statistic. His philosophy is that – even though some young people are born in deprived areas and society has labelled them – given the opportunity, the majority of young people wouldn’t act out this self-fulfilling prophecy of a life of crime.
In his early twenties, he went on to qualify as an adult education teacher in order to gain a better understanding of the theory of learning and behavioural change. At this time, there was a very obvious rise in gangs and serious youth violence across the UK.
Raymond felt that traditional youth work was no longer fit for purpose to engage this social pandemic, which led him to launch Anti Youth Violence. This intervention aims to reduce the number of young people at risk of life-threatening behaviour relating to gun, gang and knife crime.
Anti Youth Violence has been successfully delivered to young people throughout the UK within schools, Pupil Referral Units, prisons and Youth Offending Services. It became clear that there was a need to build practitioners’ CPD in how to engage young people at risk, giving rise to a new training programme called Gangology.
Why training and how did you start?
The desperate need for training of youth practitioners became more apparent, especially with the rise of gangs and the resulting fatalities. Practitioners who had studied youth work clearly had not been given the tools to manage this problem and were in urgent need of training to bring them up to date with issues such as trauma, music and violence, father deficit, ‘postcodism’ and viewing gang violence as a public health issue.
Anti Youth Violence initially began in Birmingham, which gained a lot of national exposure for a series of gang-related incidents. I started by studying a wide range of subjects – from the history of violence, public speaking and message mastery to internet marketing. This led me to develop cutting-edge content, including a short film called On Road which won the Best Short Film Award at the Harlem Film Festival.
Public speaking is something that’s always come naturally to me. My passionate interest in human behaviour and an ability to translate critical issues helps me to be well received, both by young people and practitioners.
Who or what inspires you?
People who bring new thinking, whether it be on history, marketing, high performance or social media. People like Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Brendon Burchard and Gary Vaynerchuk. Individuals like Malcolm X, who went from persistent offending to debating at Oxford University, right through to Travis Kalanick the co-founder of Uber. I also get massive inspiration from young people who achieve their ambitions, regardless of their circumstances.
What's been your lowest moment, and what your noblest hour?
Working with a 13-year-old who was on a 15-year sentence for murder. He will become an adult within the prison system. This boy, like many others, threw away his boyhood and sacrificed the usual things boys his age would be thinking about. Instead he will be in a room thinking about the life he took and all the things he will not get to do.
On a personal level, losing my father has to be my lowest point. He was a single, Jamaican, economic migrant, striving to raise a mixed-race child at the time of Margaret Thatcher when race riots were rife and there was no such thing as Sure Start!
My noblest hour has to be delivering public speaking training to 40 inmates, armed with nothing more than a flip chart and a marker pen! It ended with them quoting Aristotle and be able to use the Pathos-Ethos-Logos framework.
What and when was your career turning point?
My career turning point was when I was invited to attend UNESCO conflict resolution training in Northern Ireland. At that point, I realised that reducing gangs and serious youth violence could not come about by traditional, diversionary youth work activities, but rather by creating safe spaces for transformative change. I was so inspired, I brought back the trainer’s flip chart notes!
Describe your best learning and development experience?
Flying out to Silicon Valley and training under Brendon Burchard, one of the world’s leading thought leaders around high performance, leadership, coaching and message mastery. To see a trainer hold an audience of about 500 delegates for nine hours a day over three days was amazing.
He encompassed all the skills that a modern trainer should have – great public speaking, competent in online and offline marketing, content creation and coaching.
What's next in your career?
There’s a saying: “Don’t die with a book in you”. Well, there are about three in me right now! My aim is to see these published. They all contain a message that I need to share with the world.
I really want to see gangs and serious youth violence responded to as a public health issue, just like any other illness, so I’m hoping to start working on some projects to tackle this nationwide, working alongside therapists, clinical psychologists and most importantly the communities that are being destroyed. I want to address violence with a more systemic approach from as early as Key Stage 1 to adulthood, identifying the symptoms early in order to work towards a cure.