Expert View: Collaboration - London 2012: mixed messages

Recent news coverage of knife crime has been both chilling and frustrating.

If you believe television coverage, we have bred a whole underclass of feral youth who will systematically destroy society. At the same time, other reports say small, hands-on community youth charities - which could help solve problems at grass-roots level - are struggling and closing because of a lack of funds. Surely this is wrong.

London 2012 is approaching rapidly, and as far as I can tell there has been silence from organisers on the knife crime issue. The Olympics are about getting the next generation into sport, but even with the seemingly limitless budget there appears to have been no open public support for existing knife crime and youth projects.

My problem isn't with the Olympics themselves; it's with the inconsistency of the messages from government and charities. While some talk about punishment, others talk about improving support. It's clear that better collaboration is essential if a consensus is to be reached and funding improved on all sides.

Of course, some charities can only dream of the day the Government joins forces with them. But it must be feasible for third sector organisations to join together (including the London 2012 governing bodies) to agree on an overarching strategy to tackle such issues, and share resources in doing so.

I know the politics of cooperation is a minefield. But similar group efforts in the corporate world offer a good example. Recent business books such as Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff have shown how to use the internet to tap into the potential of large groups of people to effect change. In doing so, businesses have improved their bottom lines, activated positive change and gained the support of the masses.

In one example, PC company Dell created a site called IdeaStorm, specifically designed to allow the public to give it ideas on improving its business, products and support. The site has received almost 10,000 ideas since appearing 18 months ago and its launch was linked to an increase in Dell's share price. This was focused purely on improving a commercial business's product line - imagine what a similar site could do for generating ideas to solve this particular social issue.

Everyone working in youth support could do the same by joining forces; whether it be support groups for victims, youth clubs, Olympics decision-makers or lobbyists. Real change could happen if there was an ongoing joint public debate, and the internet is the perfect platform for it.

 - Dean Russell is a digital marketing consultant at Precedent Communications

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