Young People, Radicalisation and Alienation

Submitting Institution

University of Winchester

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

Alan Grattan's research has had a number of impacts informing policy and practice around the inter-connected theme of `young people, radicalisation, and alienation'. His conference contributions and publications have led directly to his working with government agencies and NGOs particularly in Northern Ireland. His work has informed and continues to inform the approach of these agencies in working with young people in the community who may be at risk of entering into radicalised and violent activities.

Underpinning research

Grattan has produced a large body of work relating to working with young people in (post) conflict environments, in particular exploring the issues faced by young people and those professional and community practitioners who work with young people in such situations. Grattan has attempted to identify the potential causes that lead young people to take more extreme actions within their community and society as a response to feelings of alienation, challenges to culture and identity, as well as a means of attaining `standing' and status within community and amongst peers.

Grattan's research has been an inter-related combination of empirical based research and theoretical construction. His theoretical work emanates from previous experiences of working with and advising professional practitioners who engage with disenfranchised and alienated young people in the community.

The lines between research and impact are blurred in this case study, as much of Grattan's work has been done in conjunction with and informed by policy makers and professional practitioners. The three year project `Youth Work in Contested Spaces', for example explored the experiences, practices and issues of both young people and practitioners living and working in (post) conflict environments. An article published in the International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, for example, explored ways in which those who work with young people might be influential at various levels of society in challenging conflict and advancing the processes of peace-building.

Much of Grattan's research is therefore the result of collaborations between universities and community NGO's working with young people in national and international contexts. Research such as that published by Youth Action Northern Ireland (YANI) is an example of the impact Grattan's work has had on the understanding and knowledge base of those who engage with young people in addressing issues of hate, alienation and radicalisation at community level.

Grattan has also published further theoretical discussions about the possible causes for the `alienation' and `radicalisation' of young people in contemporary society and looked to highlight various aspects of alienation with both socio-economic and religio-political explanations, published in journals such as Youth and Policy.

References to the research

Five articles/chapters and the presentations at national and international conferences led to further consultations and invitations;

  • Grattan, A., McMullan, M. and Zunich, M. (2009) `Until yesterday we lived together — Do juce smo zivjeli zajedno'. Youth and Community Development in Post Conflict Environments: Lessons from Northern Ireland and Bosnia. In Howson, C. and Sallah, M (Eds) Europe's Established and Emerging Immigrant Communities: Assimilation, Multiculturalism or Integration (Staffs.,Trentham Books, ISBN 978-1-85856-466-1). (Book Chapter)
  • Grattan, A. (2009) `Segregated Britain: a society in conflict with its "radicalised" youth?' Youth and Policy. Vol.102. pp. 35-52 (National Journal Article)
  • Grattan, A. and Morgan, S. (2008) `Confronting segregation: lessons from developmental community youth work practice in conflict societies.' International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, No 7. pp. 1-10 (International Journal Article)
  • Grattan, A. (2008) `The alienation and "radicalisation" of youth: a new "moral panic"?' International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities & Nations, Volume 8, Number 3. pp. 255-264 (International Journal Article)
  • Grattan, A. and Morgan, S. (2008) `"Organic intellectuals" as catalysts of change: working with young people in conflict and post conflict environments', International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2 Issue 6. pp. 185-192 (International Journal Article)

Details of the impact

Grattan's work is evidence of an on-going dynamic of research and its impact. Grattan's earlier work led to collaborations with the University of Ulster as well as with a leading policy, research and training voluntary sector organisation, Youth Action Northern Ireland (YANI). These collaborations opened up further research possibilities as well as impacting on policy and practice.

YANI are in the forefront of working with young people in contested and conflict communities as well as training future youth workers and designing policies and processes to influence future work in such situations. Close collaboration with both the University of Ulster and YANI enabled the further development of ideas relating to this area of work that would make a contribution to policy and practice. Through YANI, Grattan's work reached a much wider circle of academics, policy makers and professional practitioners working in the area of radicalisation, alienation and conflict relating to young people. The Deputy Director of YANI has argued in written testimony:

"From 2003/2004 Dr Alan Grattan (Senior Lecturer at University of Ulster; later University of Southampton and later again University of Winchester) has aided the practice and research base at Youth Action Northern Ireland. The contribution Alan has made has been varied and incorporated a range of thematic ideologies and interventions".

Two direct results of this work and cooperation with the voluntary and community sector were forthcoming. First, Grattan was invited to the Ditchley Foundation, Oxford (February 2010) to address the issue of `Countering Radicalisation in Local Communities'. As mentioned in the Ditchley Conference website; "the Ditchley Foundation was established to advance international learning and to bring transatlantic and other experts together to discuss international issues...Since then Ditchley conferences have broadened to include the concerns and participation of nations all over the globe."

Attendance at the Ditchley Conference is by invitation only and was attended by senior national government and opposition politicians, national and international representatives of police, security services and intelligent agencies, national and international academics, policy-makers and professional practitioners.

Following two days of discussion a final report was written by the director of the Ditchley Foundation and delivered to government and the participants. The report testified to the direct impact that discussion of research into alienation had on practical and policy initiatives and is provided in the evidence section below.

The second outcome (or `impact') from this body of work was an invitation to work with YANI on the project `The Role of Youth Work in Supporting Inter-culturalism' funded and promoted by the Northern Ireland Assembly through the `Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister' (OFMDFM) in November 2010.

Following the signing of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and the instigation of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, the province for the first time had experienced a growth in a migrant work population and families. This however brought increased tensions in relation to Hate Crime, community relations, discrimination and violence against a growing diverse population. Recognising the problems associated with a fast changing Northern Ireland, YANI, supported by the OFMDFM, instigated a research project aimed to inform government policy and thinking on working with young people in their respective communities on the issue of `inter-culturalism'. Based on the body of work previously mentioned Grattan was invited by YANI to oversee and consult on this initiative; this culminated in presenting the findings at a conference/workshop and a co- authored report aimed at professional practitioners, organisations and policy-makers.

The impact of this report is the on-going `Intercultural youth work initiative' which was part of the YANI Area Based Strategy which seeks to engage young people to support their understanding of a shared future, mutual understanding, and to explore their attitudes towards differences and to work with the wider community and with other key (agency, statutory or community/voluntary) stakeholders to increase dialogue, action and strategic plans.

Taken together this work (and previous work leading to publications and conference presentations) demonstrates `impact' relating to young people, radicalisation, alienation, conflict and identity. The national and international publications, conference and workshop reports and presentations combine academic and practitioner focused work thereby reinforcing the essential relationship between academia and the wider community.

Furthermore, aspects of these publications have led directly and indirectly to working with influential government departments, individuals and agencies, as well as statutory, voluntary and community organisations charged with addressing difficult and complex issues within the community. In this respect the listed work has made an on-going contribution in attempting to address some of the current social issues and problems faced by contemporary society.

Sources to corroborate the impact

1) The Ditchley Foundation; 2010 `Countering Radicalisation in Local Communities'; Ditchley Foundation, Oxford.

A Note by the Director (Ditchley 2010/02)
"This conference, the latest in our series on security issues, picked up from the outcome of our counter-terrorism conference in December 2006, but with participants realising that the world had moved on quite a bit in barely more than three years. To cover both the domestic and the international aspects of extreme radicalisation was an ambitious undertaking for a two-day debate, but we managed to cover a great deal of ground. We were helped by the broad variety of backgrounds and professional experience at the table, although snow storms on the East Coast deprived us of part of our US input. We had an extensive discussion of the possible causes of the radicalisation of an individual or small group to the point of violence, in which we had to recognise a wide variety of rationales at the global, regional, local and individual levels.

When we came to look at the catchment area for radicalisation, we were reminded of a significant statistic that, almost without exception, individuals or small groups prepared to go all the way to violence came from the age group between 18 and 29. It seemed that this was the age where deep discontent, a willingness to fight and a capacity to be influenced came together in the strongest forms. Malign influences within society and disaffection amongst young people manifested themselves in different types of criminal or violent activity and could be harnessed in support of a cause. This conference may have been ambitious in connecting the micro and the macro within such a complex subject. It is a tribute to the frankness and perceptiveness of our participants that so much momentum was achieved in the discussion, with even the most experienced practitioners recognising that there were things to be learnt. We owed a great deal to our Chairman for the care and discipline with which she kept the debate focussed. Ditchley hopes that there will be a considerable amount for everyone to take back to their specific desks as they come to grips with the next stages of the struggle.

Chairman: Director General, Security Service (2002-07)

The names of other participants are not being listed on this occasion."

2) Youth Action Northern Ireland,

In relation to work mentioned above relating to collaboration, research, presentations and publications, the Deputy Director of YANI may be contacted to corroborate specific claims made in the case study. The written testimony from YANI, which is quoted in this case study, is also available in the evidence archive.

3) Grattan, A. and McMullan, M. (2010) `The role of youth work in supporting inter- culturalism', Belfast: Youth Work Northern Ireland / Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (Occasional Youth Work Practice Paper).