NEPI Team Up with Global Communities to implement an evidence based, innovative approach to reducing violence and crime among some of the highest at-risk youth in Liberia through the Sustainable Transformation for Youth in Liberia (STYL) Project.
Problem Statement: At-risk youth pose risks of broader social instability through participation in organized crime, violent protest, communal violence, and armed conflict. Liberia’s 14-year civil war not only destroyed the country’s economy, infrastructure, and human resource capacity, but also left tens of thousands of youth unemployed, at-risk, and easily mobilized into crime and violence. Leaving this problem unaddressed threatens the economic and political stability of Liberia as well as those of her neighbors as these youth are often recruited as mercenaries to fight in regional conflicts. Policing and job creation aim to reduce crime and violence by either changing the economic incentives open to these young men or incarcerating them. Yet neither of these policy prescriptions address the root cause nor have they been proven to be effective.
Solution: Sustainable Transformation for Youth in Liberia (STYL), is based upon the theory of change that hard-core street youth, many of whom have been members of armed groups, know what constitutes acceptable behavior in Liberian society but because they view themselves as outside of mainstream society, do not feel accountable to those norms and values. Global Communities and the Network for Empowerment and Progressive Initiatives (NEPI), a Liberian NGO committed to working with former child combatants, will provide these young men with the tools they need to economically and socially reintegrate into society. STYL is an eight-week group therapy that shifts these youth away from reactionary to more future-oriented goals and behavior. The program consists of:
i. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) curriculum: which includes modules on anger management, impulse control, and future orientation, planning skills, confidence, leadership, critical thinking and self-esteem.
ii. Cash Transfer/Income Generation Activity: which will occur roughly one week after the completion of each of the cycle in the behavior change therapy. It is purposefully done after the behavior change intervention to test whether spending decision is affected by the therapy.
iii. Financial Literacy Training: to address the particular issues facing STYL participants such as opening bank accounts and avoiding theft and corruption.
STYL is unique in that it is an evidenced-based intervention. It has been tested and proven effective through a randomized control trial. Researchers found out that just the offer of therapy had huge impacts. Issues of crime — carrying a weapon, fights with each other and police, arrests, and even things as simple as losing your temper —dropped by 20 to 50 percent within a few weeks of finishing STYL. After a year, these effects started to dissipate with therapy alone, but if the participants received the unconditional cash transfer after the therapy, the effects stayed steady or grew (Blattman, Jamison & Sheridan, 2014). Global Communities and NEPI can first scale-up this successful intervention in Liberia and then work with interesting NGOs in other countries to expand STYL.
Measuring outcomes: We will measure the percentage of the beneficiaries who are socially and economically integrated into mainstream society. We propose to survey each participant five times: (1) at baseline prior to the intervention; (2 and 3) at “short-run” endline surveys 2 and 5 weeks after the cast transfer; and (4 and 5) at two endline surveys 12 and 13 months after cash transfer. We will conduct interviews and focus groups with the participants as well as interview facilitators/trainers for their impressions of the intervention and beneficiaries. We will measure
- Opportunity cost: Cash spurs investment and incomes when paired with therapy, raising cost of crime/violence
- Peer change: STYL leads men to shed risky peers
- Drug abuse: STYL reduces addiction (direct driver of crime/violence)
- Self-control skills: STYL increases skills to control anger and criminal temptation
- Value change: STYL helps men internalize anti-violent and anti-criminal norms
- Time preferences: STYL leads to more forward-looking and risk-averse behavior, with change enabled or reinforced