Chapter 3 – What do you need to know to tackle hate?

What is hate speech/hateful language? [i]

Hate speech covers all forms of expression that spread, incite, promote or attempt to justify any form of hatred, stereotyping or discrimination based on intolerance toward persons with marginalised and/or minority backgrounds. In this Manual we focus on hate speech targeted at persons based on their ethnic and cultural backgrounds (including Irish Travellers, Roma, Sinti, Manush and Kale), religious belief (including those with none), different abilities, health (including mental health), sexual orientation, gender (including transgender and non-binary people) or gender expression.[ii]

Hate speech also includes sexism, misogyny, racism, aggressive nationalism, classism, and all forms of threatening and/or abusive language, such as name calling, inappropriate jokes, negative judgements, openly denying people services etc, based on a person’s (presumed) identity group and where its consequences create inequalities in society, and/or puts a person or group in an inferior position (for example: delegitimises, takes away power etc.)

What is hateful behaviour?

Hateful behaviour is any action, up to and including physical violence, that is based on intolerance, prejudice or bias towards a person’s (presumed) identity group membership. It includes body language, facial expressions, inappropriate gestures, intentional avoidance, excluding a person, and aggressive acts.

[i] There is no universal or legal definition of hate speech. This description is informed by the Council of Europe in the context of its coordination of the No Hate Speech Movement.


Pyramid of hateUnderstanding hate speech and hateful behaviour means looking at it in the context of its trajectory and how it escalates. Hate escalates through a series of layers, with each layer feeding the layer above.

Layer 1 – Acts of Bias

The largest instances of hate are where they have become insidious and endemic and are can be described as Acts of Bias. Acts of bias include stereotyping which is a generalised judgement of a group/community/minority; it is a belief that all members of a given group share the same fixed personality traits or characteristics. It is a limited view of a person or group that has the impact of limiting the person or group. [For example, a judgement that lesbians look masculine].

At this level it is

  • Not criminal.
  • Seldom gets reported.
  • Is often not challenged.
  • In not being challenged, it becomes normalised in society.

Layer 2 – Acts of prejudice

Where acts of bias toward certain groups become normalised those that seek to assume power and privilege can use this bias with impunity, believing that they too will not be challenged and that they may in fact find commonality with the wider community. In this way the hate moves into Acts of Prejudice.

Prejudice is a preconceived opinion about a person belonging to a group/community/ or minority that is not based on reason or actual experience but rather on a stereotype. It is an emotional evaluation that one person may feel about another, usually based on a stereotypical judgement. [For example: an automatic suspicion that a Muslim has terrorist sympathies].

Layer 3 – Acts of Discrimination

If at this level the hate is not challenged it is very easy for Acts of Discrimination to be perpetrated. We often see this at a civil level where structurally embedded discrimination against minority and marginalised individuals and groups is manifest. We also see people experiencing harassment and social exclusion by individuals toward another.

Discrimination is treating someone differently, compared to other people, because of the person’s belonging to a group/community/minority, whether real or perceived.

Acts of discrimination are covered under Equality and Discrimination laws but they can be hard to prove or difficult cases for individuals to take. Despite legislation, Acts of Discrimination are shown to be endemic in society, for example where people with foreign sounding names aren’t called for job interviews, or where teachers have reduced expectations for children of particular ethnic groups and hold back on the efforts they provide to these pupils. What may be seen as individual acts are evidenced as systemic and structurally embedded when we see that black people are significantly more likely to be unemployed for example, or where some groups are less likely to complete second-level education or access university.

Layer 4 – Acts of Violence

When discrimination of particular groups is normalised, it is perceived as giving ‘permission’ to others to commit Acts of Violence toward them. This is when the acts become Hate Crimes.

Hate crimes are defined as criminal acts motivated by bias or prejudice towards particular groups of people. To be considered a hate crime, the offence must meet two criteria: first, the act must constitute an offence under criminal law; second, the act must have been motivated by bias.[i]

At its worst, where hate crimes go unpunished, genocide can take place; often these acts are legalised and carried out by governments. We have seen this Pyramid of Violence leading to genocide in a number of instances across history, such as; the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sudan, and the Balkans, to name a few.

Genocide and violence are not present without the endemic acts of bias, and the resulting prejudice and discrimination also being in place. So this is where we need to ‘nip it in the bud’ in our youth settings where all too often it remains un-tackled. Each layer in the pyramid supports those above it. Deconstructing the lower layer through transformation practices enables the deconstruction of the entire pyramid.

By dramatically reducing acts of hate at the bottom – non-criminal but endemic – layer we can disrupt its escalation to prejudice, discrimination and violence.

[i] Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)


There are many different systems of oppression and types of hate present in our society and not all are included in this Manual. We focused on examples here that are most relevant to our experience and expertise.


Gender based hate refers to actions or attitudes that discriminate against persons based solely on their gender. Discriminatory actions or attitudes are often based on false beliefs, or overgeneralisations, toward people based on their gender. This relates to concepts of cultural and societal roles around gender and also an insistence on a binary definition of gender. For example, when people aggressively defend the notion that gender relates only to a binary division linked to male and female, such as refusing to accept that someone may not identify with the gender they have been assigned at birth.

Gender refers to the characteristics that are socially determined, or learned in society, which include the cultural, psychological, and behavioural characteristics associated with a person’s perceived sex. There are many ways in which gender is formed. This includes gender identity, gender expression and gender assigned at birth. Gender identity is how a person sees themselves and the gender they are.

Gender based hate is a form of systemic and structural oppression and discrimination that manifests as sexism, misogyny, transmisogyny, violence against women, transgender, non-binary and intersex people, and discriminating attitudes or actions that limit people to demarcated gender based roles and prescribe expected behaviours. Sexism is linked to power in that those with more power (cisgender* men typically have more power) are treated with favour and those with less power experience more discrimination. The history of gender based oppression has been of women, intersex, non-binary and transgender persons being discriminated against and women in particular being bound by defined roles such as reproductive labour (child minding, domestic chores etc.) and experiencing pay disparity.

*cisgender is when ones gender identity is the same as that assigned at birth.

PATRIARCHY is the belief that male power should be the higher or predominant power among families, communities and society. It is a socio-political and cultural system that values masculinity over femininity and where males hold predominant roles of political, economic, social and property leadership and control a much larger share of power in society than women. This is not to say that every individual man controls every individual woman but that the majority of power in society is controlled by some men and the system supports this power balance[i]. A patriarchal society consists of a male-dominated power structure throughout organised society and in individual relationships. Patriarchy perpetuates oppressive and limiting gender roles, the gender binary, transphobia and cissexism, the political and economic subordination of women, and much more.

While patriarchy undoubtedly primarily negatively affects women, it controls and affects men as well. As the focus of this Manual is working with those young people that spread hate – which in the case of gender based violence are primarily male – it is important to look at the way patriarchy affects them as well. Patriarchy sets out how boys and young men should behave and many can struggle with these expectations which are strict, unhealthy and often unrealistic. In men it can manifest as toxic masculinity where the male gender role is viewed as having to be strong, powerful and in control. It can include a rigid standard of physical, emotional and psychological expectations that men and boys are compelled to conform to. Through the use of gender based hate young men make it difficult for their male peers to express emotions and vulnerability as they can fear being viewed as weak.

Not all men equally benefit from patriarchy and not all women equally suffer from it. For example, patriarchy can intersect with a racialised system of white supremacy, a heteronormative system of sexual orientation, or the class system of privilege and oppression. In this way patriarchy alone does not go far enough in explaining the intersections of different types of oppression and domination that exist.

[i] Definition of patriarchy:


The LGBTIQ+ community includes all who do not identify as heterosexual and/or cisgender. All members of the LGBTIQ+ community regardless whether they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, non-binary, another sexuality/identity or as simply “not straight” are affected by heterosexism and cissexism.

Heterosexism and cissexism are societal and institutional structures that afford a range of economic, social and legal advantages to people who are heterosexual, and/or cisgender, at the expense of others. This can affect everyone and happens on a variety of levels from: subtle to overt; interpersonal and institutional; intentional to unintentional.

Speech and actions based on heterosexist and/or cissexist prejudice manifest as homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia.


Manifestations of religiously based hate and discrimination are usually specific to the group being targeted, and shaped by stereotypes, myths and perceptions about certain faith and belief groups. For example, pig’s heads and other pork products have been used to target Muslims and Jews; Muslims are often automatically associated with terrorism; and Muslim women are frequently targeted for wearing a veil. Those who target hate toward religious groups often use references designed to deepen people’s pain, for example, references to Nazis and the Holocaust are commonly associated with attacks on Jews.

RELIGION AND BELIEF: Religion describes “the relationship of human beings to what they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual or divine”. Religions often have communities of believers associated with them and institutions and practices that help guide those communities.

Belief is a broader term: it refers to a state of mind when we consider something true even though we are not 100% sure or able to prove it. Beliefs may be religious, philosophical or ideological. Religions and other belief systems in our environment have an influence on our identity, regardless of whether we consider ourselves religious or spiritual or not[i]. It is important to remember that beliefs differ WITHIN religions as well as between them. For instance, not all Christians believe the exact same things about God and some people may belong to a religion as an identity but not have any belief in God at all.

Some of the forms of faith and religious based hate include:

  • ISLAMOPHOBIA, also known as Anti-Muslim racism, refers to discrimination against Islam, Muslims or people who are perceived to be Muslim. Islamophobia is fuelled by negative stereotyping and leads to exclusion and dehumanisation of Muslims, and all those perceived as such. It often associates Muslims with terrorism and Muslims are frequently portrayed as a monolithic group of people whose culture is backward and incompatible with human rights and democracy.
  • ANTISEMITISM: refers to discrimination and harassment that is directed at people because they are or are perceived to be Jewish or from a Jewish background. The Holocaust, when over 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their allies, is an example of state sponsored antisemitism, and denying or belittling it is a common contemporary form of antisemitism. Jews are often associated with underhand manipulation of power structures (e.g. capitalism) and with financial greed.
  • ANTI-CHRISTIAN: hatred or discrimination towards Christians, most commonly found in contexts where they are a minority community. Christian hate speech can include humiliating and making fun of Christians as well as acts of violence towards Christians, Christian clergy and Christian buildings.
  • SECTARIANISM: describes the negative attitude of one ‘sect’ (from which the word sectarianism is derived), denomination or branch of a religion towards a different sect, denomination or branch of the same Examples include; Catholic and Protestant Christianity; Sunni and Shi’a Islam and Orthodox and Reform Judaism.

Sectarianism can manifest itself at different levels within society, through negative and violent behaviour, attitude and language towards those perceived to be in the ‘other group’; through institutional discrimination; and at a cultural level for example where music, football and marches are used to incite hatred of the perceived ‘other’. On a fundamental level sectarian discrimination can be the refusal to accept that a sect within a faith can even claim to be part of the same religion i.e. ‘Catholics aren’t really Christian’ or only Orthodox Jews are ‘proper’ Jews.

  • ANTI-ATHEIST DISCRIMINATION: can take the form of distrust and suspicion or the exclusion from educational, social and employment opportunities. Anti-atheist hate can manifest in places where religion is connected to the State, or has a recent history of connection to the State. It is also prevalent within organisations or social settings that are connected to religious institutions such as schools, some youth organisations, places of employment etc. or where people from religious groups are in the majority. When faith based values are considered the norm, discrimination can occur when a person reveals that their values don’t come from the same assumptions particularly on issues such as reproductive rights, LGBTIQ+ and others.

[i] From Compass: Manual for Human Rights Education with Young people, Religion and Belief:


Racism is based on an ideological construct which produces individual and systemic acts of discrimination towards people based on their ethnic origin or background. This construct varies according to historical time and geographical space as a result of evolving ideologies of supremacy; it tends to assign ‘race’ on the basis of physical, cultural and, at times, religious attributes; and it positions some ‘races’ as deserving of advantage, domination and control over others. It manifests in any action, discourse or incident which has the effect (whether intentional or not) of privileging dominant groups while discriminating against or disadvantaging persons, based on their actual or perceived ethnic origin or background, where that background is that of a minority, marginalised, racialised or historically subordinated group.[i]  

In other words, racism is when an individual, structure or institution intentionally or unintentionally abuses their power to the detriment of people, because of their actual or perceived “racialised” background. Therefore, racism is more than just prejudice but rather the combination of power and prejudice.

Racism can also be understood as a practice: the practice of discrimination – from personal abuse to colonial oppression. As with all practices, racist practice becomes rationalised by theory. Racism is a form of practice which has been in European society for several hundred years, and important in that it is an essential part of the way the European capitalist system maintains itself. Racist practice has historically been supported by different theories each relevant to the environment of the era. That’s why one practice can be underpinned by various theories. For example, in the early 19th century it was biblical – grounded in religion, then biological – grounded in ‘science’ and now, it’s historical/cultural.

[i] Adapted from ENAR Ireland definition.


Anti-Traveller hate, and hate toward Roma, Sinti, Manush and Kale persons, is a particular type of racism. The Roma or Romani people are the largest state-less minority group of Europe with a long history of state persecution, subjugation to racism, slavery, extermination in the holocaust, assimilation, and other extremely violent practices such as forced sterilisations, removal of Romani children from their families, denial of access to education etc. The Roma are the most discriminated and racialised group in most of the Balkans, Central, South-East and Eastern Europe and other countries where Roma communities live.

Irish Travellers are an indigenous ethnic minority group mostly living in Ireland but also in significant numbers in the United Kingdom. Irish Travellers, face cultural discrimination daily through denial of access to services. They face inequalities, oppression and discrimination in education, employment, acommodation and socially. They also face verbal and physical abuse. Irish Travellers are the most marginalised ethnic group in Irish society.


With roots in the notion that people experience an actual fear or hatred of the stranger or foreigner, it acknowledges the fear, for instance, that children might have when they first meet someone who looks different to themselves. However, xenophobia increasingly refers to prejudice against people from other countries and cultures, especially in Europe under Far Right politics. It bears no resemblance to fear of the stranger and now has its roots firmly established in extreme nationalism. Xenophobia most often targets migrants and migrant communities.


Different institutional frameworks use different language and terminology to refer to people with different abilities; and within our countries different organisations and communities of people with different abilities do not agree on a common language; therefore in this Manual we follow the language of self-determination of the young people involved in the Outside In project. Hence, we use the term “people with different abilities” and the term “ableism” when we refer to a system of oppression that creates a hierarchy among people based on their physical, sensory, mental and emotional abilities or neurodiversity.


[i]Disability and Disablism-Council of Europe:


Class discrimination or classism is prejudice based on a person or group’s social class. It is the result of, and maintains the continuation of, systemic oppression toward working class communities. This form of discrimination impacts on working class communities over generations resulting in long lasting inequalities. Class discrimination results from a belief in privilege, i.e. that middle and upper class people are justified in having better access to political, social, educational and economic opportunities and that working class people are less deserving.

In many countries, especially those with former socialist regimes, due to a perceived and/or propagated egalitarian society, a similar discriminatory system has developed in regards to people coming from rural and farming related backgrounds.

When classism is present at a structural level it manifests as injustices, such as young people not receiving the same access in areas such as education, healthcare, housing, employment and socially, the young people often experience reduced expectations from professionals, resulting in inequalities of outcome and repeated cycles of discrimination.

On the ground it often manifests in hate speech, attitudes and behaviours where young people are portrayed as less deserving or less intelligent. It can be a teacher telling them they will never amount to anything or a security guard following them around a shop when they hear an accent. The media compounds classism in that it often portrays characters from working classes, (or in some countries from rural backgrounds), as dirty, uneducated and disrespectful.

Class discrimination is often referred to as a silent prejudice that no one talks about; it is as if it is viewed as a fixed phenomenon, furthering evidence it as an ingrained system of oppression.



Oppression is bigger than any individual who holds power and uses it over another person in any way. Individuals are all tied into systems of oppression whereby groups in society have social power as well as power in law, policies, institutions, and customs. Through these avenues groups can exert systematic oppression. Power is defined as the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events.

Oppression, therefore includes the systematic mistreatment, exploitation, and abuse of a group (or groups) of people by another group (or groups). It occurs whenever one group holds power over another in society through the control of social institutions, along with society’s laws, customs, and norms.


The outcome of systems of social oppression is that groups in society are sorted into different positions within the social hierarchies of ‘race’, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability through which power is imposed. Those in the controlling, or dominant group, benefit from the oppression of other groups through heightened privileges relative to others, i.e. greater access to rights and resources, a better quality of life, and overall greater life chances. Those who experience the brunt of oppression have fewer rights, less access to resources, less political power, lower economic potential, worse health and higher mortality rates, and lower overall life chances.

While some people are conscious of how social oppression operates in society, many are not. Oppression persists in large part by camouflaging life as a fair game and its winners as simply harder working, smarter, and more deserving of life’s riches than others. Not all of the people in dominant groups actively participate in sustaining oppression, and many only do so without meaning to, but they all ultimately benefit as members of dominant groups in society.

However, there are many different forms of privilege and some people will be privileged in some ways and not in others. For example, a white person may have privilege because of their skin colour but be working class and have less access to education. A black person may have a college education and wealth but be a woman and have less access to career opportunities. Privilege is often tied more to what you are born in to than what you have earned. Things that affect and dominate privilege are class, sexual orientation, gender, ability, religion, ethnicity and citizenship.

Institutionalised and Systematic Oppression

Institutionalised social oppression refers to how oppression is so normalised that oppression has become camouflaged within the various aspects of society and permeates all aspects of society. It is the result not only of people’s values, assumptions, goals, and practices but also of the values and beliefs reflected in organisations and institutions. It is systemic in that it is achieved through social interaction, ideology, representation, social institutions, and our social structure. At a macro level it includes education, media, government, and the judicial system, among others. It also operates through the social structure itself, which organises people into hierarchies of ‘race’, class, and gender etc.

Oppression is achieved through social interactions between people in everyday life, in which biases that work in favour of dominant groups and against oppressed groups shape how we see others, what we expect from them, and how we interact with them.


Oppression works through dominant ideologies, the sum total of values, beliefs, assumptions, worldviews, and goals that organise the way of life as dictated by the dominant group. The viewpoints, experiences, and values of oppressed groups are marginalised and not incorporated into how social institutions operate.

Ideologies, together with Power and Prejudice lead to systems of oppression that include:

  • Racism including anti-Roma and anti-Traveller racism.
  • Heterosexism and Cissexism[i].
  • Discrimination toward persons with different abilities.
  • Extreme nationalism and xenophobia.

Ideologies include but are not limited to:

  • Eugenics (the dominance/superiority views of white Western people based on false science leading to racism, and historically to discrimination toward groups such as Roma, Sinti, Manush and Kale, people with different abilities, and LGBTIQ+ people and peoples that were colonised. It continues today with discrimination predominantly directed toward racialised groups).
  • Patriarchy (the dominance/superiority of men leading to sexism).
  • Heteronormativity (the dominance/superiority of heterosexual people).
  • Cisnormativity (the assumption that all, or almost all, individuals are cisgender).
  • Capitalism (the dominance/superiority of the wealthy leading to classism).
  • Ableism (the belief that able-bodied people are superior to people with different abilities).

Internalised Oppression

People who experience oppression on the basis of ‘race’ or ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, faith, belief or ability often internalise the ideology that produces the oppression. They may come to believe, as society suggests, that they are inferior to and less worthy than those in dominant groups, and this, in turn, may shape their behaviour or what they expect from others and from society. Many people will be unaware of this internalised oppression.

Ultimately, oppression produces widespread social inequalities that disadvantage the vast majority for the benefit of the few.

[i] Cissexism (or cis-sexism) is the set of acts and norms that privilege cis people and/or oppress trans people.[2] More broadly, cissexism is the appeal to norms that enforce the gender binary, and gender essentialism, resulting in the oppression of gender variant, non-binary and trans identities. Anybody who does not pass and/or identify as cis faces some cissexism.



“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”  Audre Lorde[i]

The concept of intersectionality was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the US in 1989 as a way to help explain the oppression of African-American women[ii]. She describes it as “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LGBTIQ+ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to [two or more] of these things”. Crenshaw coined the phrase having experienced disadvantage compared to black men because even though they were both black in a white world she was a woman and she experienced double discrimination.

Intersectionality describes the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender (including transgender and non-binary people), ‘race’, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, different abilities, class and other forms of discrimination “intersect” to create unique dynamics and effects. For example, when a Muslim woman wearing the Hijab is being discriminated against, it would be impossible to dissociate her gender from her Muslim identity and to isolate the dimension/s causing her discrimination.

All forms of inequality are mutually reinforcing and must therefore be analysed and addressed simultaneously to prevent one form of inequality from reinforcing another. For example, tackling the gender pay gap alone, without including other dimensions such as ‘race’, socio-economic status and immigration status, will likely reinforce inequalities among women.

Intersectionality brings our understanding of systemic injustice and social inequality to the next level by attempting to untangle the lines that create the complex web of inequalities. It is also a practical tool that can be used to tackle intersectional discrimination through policies and laws.

Intersectional justice is the fair and equal distribution of wealth, opportunities, rights and political power within society. It rests on the concepts of equality, and legal and social rights. Intersectional justice focuses on the mutual workings of structural privilege and disadvantage, i.e. that someone’s disadvantage is someone else’s privilege. For this reason, actions tend to be centred on people and groups of people who face the highest structural barriers in society, premised on the idea that if we reach the people at the greatest structural disadvantage, then we can reach everybody.

Intersectional justice understands discrimination and inequality not as the outcome of individual intentions, but rather as systemic, institutional and structural. Therefore, intersectional justice can be achieved through the institutions that directly and indirectly allocate opportunities and resources, including the school system, the labour market, the health and social insurance system, taxation, the housing market, the media, and the bank and loan system.

[i]Audre Lorde in her 1982 address at Harvard University, ‘Learning from the 60s’:




  • The innermost circle represents a person’s unique circumstances.
  • The second circle from inside represents aspects of identity.
  • The third circle from the inside represents different types of discrimination/isms/ and attitudes that impact on identity.
  • The outermost circle represent the larger forces and structures that work together to reinforce exclusion.

*Note: it is impossible to name every discrimination, identity or structure. These are examples to explain intersectionality.


Image Adapted from


There is extensive research on the short and long-term effects of discrimination on children and young people who are targeted, including:

  • Internalisation and self-blame.
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Reduced resilience to face everyday trials.
  • Lower levels of well-being.
  • Increased behavioural problems.
  • Severely diminished ability to enjoy being young, have fun and live socially engaged lives.
  • Increased stress levels and negative emotions.
  • Feelings of anger, frustration and hurt.
  • Thinking that they don’t belong.
  • Mistrust in the system.
  • Self-exclusion from perceived “majority” spaces to protect themselves.

Dehumanisation and violence pyramid

It is important to look at how hate in all its forms, from acts of bias to acts of violence, is also a process of dehumanising people. By understanding this, we can understand how systems of oppression have emerged and become so powerful.[i]

[i] Discourse is the communication of thought by words, talk and conversations present in society. The more certain people or groups speak and are heard, the more their thoughts are prominent and normalised, especially where they occupy places of power, such as politics and media.


While the models on the trajectory and impact of hate above demonstrate how hate manifests and escalates in society, they also show where we can contribute to erode, and eventually dismantle an escalation of hate by tackling hate when it is at its most endemic and most ignored. At the level where acts Acts of Bias and Acts of Discrimination are endemic we have our greatest influence.

However, one further triangle model show that to ignore hate at this level places those that do so as being part of the problem. If we ignore hateful comments and behaviours, or ‘let them slide’, and allow groups to become physically separate from each other, then we are in fact, silently colluding, and thereby enabling the hate.


The next level of collusion is where we deny not only that we are part of the problem but also deny that the hate even exists. We have become, and we allow those who are being hateful to become, separated culturally from the other (i.e. unknown to the other) and the hate is now at a widespread societal and cultural level. We fail to recognise it for what it is and as a result, we fail to support young people who experience hate, and we fail to tackle it with people who reproduce hate.

Critical awareness is needed to see what is happening both outside and within ourselves. If this doesn’t take place, it is all too easy for us to directly collude with the hate, to share the insensitive jokes, spread the rumours, deny people their rights to housing, education, employment, health, access to youth work and other opportunities, and to safer spaces.


By our definition, youth work can and should be a transformative process. For real, deep and meaningful transformative youth work to happen, it is essential to acknowledge existing norms, privileges and power structures and how those influence the communication, well-being and possibilities of participation of different individuals and groups of young people in society and in our youth spaces.

Transformative Practice is built through trust, relationship building, commitment and time. It involves being able to engage in effective communication through compassionate and empathic dialogue and to shape youth work settings to become spaces of transformation.

Youth work becomes a transformative process when:

  • We work with young people to understand, recognise and pay attention to power structures, especially where they are complex and subtle.
  • We learn to listen to different perspectives.
  • Young people develop analytical skills that help them make sense of their own realities and the power structures that impact on them.
  • Young people recognise privilege, bias and power, both their own and others.
  • Young people recognise their power and ability to facilitate change in their realities.


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