Category / the conversation
The article “Why suicide rate among pregnant women in Nepal is rising” written by BU academics was published in The Conversation last year. At the time this attracted Indian newspaper attention. Clearly it is still a relevant issue as it attracted national coverage in a Nepali newspaper this week.
Dr. Bibha Simkhada & Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Museums are often perceived as dusty cabinets full off dead and ancient things, especially those institutions you’ve never heard off. You know the ones, the neglected pride of county towns that could play a vital cultural and social role but struggle for funding.
For some, technology is the answer, virtually recreating museums and their contents online, or launching fancy augmented reality smartphone apps that overlay videos of the real world with interactive computer-generated content. We certainly see the potential for such apps to make museums more exciting, especially to young people, and have recently been using them to bring dinosaurs to life.
But sadly our experience suggests visitors just aren’t keen on downloading these apps. So is there another way technology can help revitalise musuems and similar attractions?
We are working on a project called PalaeoGo! that explores how museums and parks can be enhanced by augmented reality, 3D digitisation and new search engines. Our first foray with augmented reality was at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, US, using a smartphone app called Zappar to support research undertaken there.
Using the phone’s camera to scan a code on a notice board or flyer brings forward a 2D computer-generated image superimposed on the phone’s live camera feed. Users can see a troop of mammoths walk over the horizon with the real landscape behind, or have their selfies taken with a mammoth. We’ve since created our own free app that recreates augmented reality dinosaurs and other extinct reptiles and mammals in 3D, without the need to scan a code.
We deployed the mammoth and a T. rex at various events in 2017 and 2018, allowing visitors to pose for selfies. The tech was embraced enthusiastically, not just by children but by older generations as well. We found the sense of technological wonder coupled with a chance to strike a silly pose with an extinct animal really appealed to the visitors.
But when we first deployed the app at a museum, in summer 2018 at the Etches Collection on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, it challenged our thinking. In fact, it stopped us dead. When we had staff on site to show people what was possible with our own tablets and phones, the technology had an impact and people were excited to see it in action (although they did not always download the app). But no one engaged when we relied on posters and banners to encourage visitors to download and use the app.
We failed at the first step, not due to a lack of interest in the technology or in the 3D dinosaurs deployed, but due to the fundamental reluctance of visitors to download museum apps. We have since found this experience to be shared by others, such as Skybox Museum, who also struggle to get visitors to download their app deployed at their site in Manchester. In fact, the feedback we’ve received so far suggests that simply getting people to download a museum app, rather than a problem with the underlying technology, is the biggest obstacle to its success.
What makes people download apps?
To find out why, we immersed ourselves in a growing body of consumer-based research on smartphone apps. It turns out that the characteristics of an app are less important when it comes to getting people to download it than whether they trust the makers, and that brand loyalty and familiarity help build this trust. We also know that the potential for social interaction and pure enjoyment are more important than the usefulness or educational value of an app. People want to be entertained, engage with others and are wary of potential risks to their phones and personal data.
So when you’re asked to download an app at the doors of a museum, the default position is to decline. It’s a hard sell, especially if you have children in tow. Promoting the app in advance helps but, even if you overcome this reluctance, people still want a guarantee of fun.
What’s the answer? Games are an obvious possibility. Which regular museum visitor hasn’t seen a horde of children with clipboards on some form of quest or hunt? Promising a fun game is perhaps the key to getting children to try the augmented reality we know can change a museum experience.
The alternative is to make such resources available without an app, and we are exploring this. One solution might be to enable visitors to access it through their phone’s internet browser or via a standard QR code. Another idea we are trialling is to preload the technology onto a tablet hired like an audio guide at a museum’s entrance. As the software doesn’t need downloading it can be more complex, for example using locational technology such as GPS that can prompt the user to activate the device at a given spot and offer content tailored to their visit. But this would make social interaction and downloading those fun-filled selfies harder.
We believe that technology has much to offer the museums of the future. In fact, we would argue it’s essential to their survival. In particular, mixed reality, a form of enhanced augmented reality where real people and objects are displayed in virtual worlds, has some exciting potential to create immersive, engaging and educational content. But for once, the smartphone may not hold the key.
Over 35m people worldwide now use e-cigarettes, according to one estimate. In the US, this includes 4.5% of the adult population. But the rise in vaping has led to a trade in fake e-liquids – the mix of water, glycerol, propylene glycol, flavours and (usually) nicotine used to create the vapour of e-cigarettes.
Fake e-liquids are those that contain ingredients or incorrect concentrations of them that do not match those on the label. In particular, fakes often contain less or more nicotine than their labels claim, or impurities such as other drugs. The problem is that there is no current way to be sure exactly what is in an e-liquid, and no official certification scheme to guarantee that a label claim is accurate.
However, my colleagues and I are working on a way to use handheld scanning technology to spot fake e-liquids. This system could help to catch fraudsters because it does not just prove an e-liquid does not match its labelling but also provides a chemical “fingerprint” that can be linked back to its creators.
The internet has made it much easier for fraudsters to sell fake goods, and e-liquids are no exception. The problem is still new enough that we do not have good data on how common it is, but anecdotal evidence suggests many vapers are aware of the issue.
Nicotine e-liquids typically contain concentrations of between 0.1% and 2% of the drug, depending on the strength the vaper prefers. Current EU law means higher concentrations of nicotine than this are illegal. And manufacturers are required to declare any ingredient that accounts for more than 0.1% of its content.
Buying a fake e-liquid is not just annoying, it is potentially dangerous. It is rare for someone to consume so much nicotine that it becomes toxic, but it can happen. High doses of nicotine can result in unwanted stimulant effects such as hypertension (high blood pressure), tachycardia (unusually high heart rate), tremors and even seizures. Impurities in nicotine can also affect the body but this is difficult to predict and depends on what the impurity is and its concentration.
Having a portable technology that can authenticate products would help law enforcement officers identify fake e-liquids, catch the criminals supplying them and so prevent the health problems they cause. So we have tailored portable scanning technology already used to detect other counterfeit products including medicine and food, by creating a library of chemical signatures for e-liquids and the software to compare them to the scan results.
The technology works by firing near-infrared light at a sample. Different ingredients will reflect or absorb the light by different amounts. So measuring this reflection gives a spectrum that acts like a fingerprint, which we can use to identify the liquid’s physical and chemical properties. Our algorithms can then interpret this fingerprint and compare it to our library of other spectra to assess how likely it is that the liquid contains what the label says it does.
Using this kind of portable spectroscopic technology saves on the cost, labour and time of taking a sample into the laboratory, preparing and measuring it and then processing the data. Instead, our system can scan a sample and tell users how close a match it is to entries from the library – and so how much nicotine and other ingredients it contains – without the need for them to have specialist training. Collecting a signature takes a few seconds and the results are ready within a couple of minutes. The equipment is also stable in hot and cold climates and can be used in the field for long periods of time.
As portable versions of these instruments are already available for detecting fake drugs and tobacco, it would be easy to adapt them for law enforcement agents. All you need to do is develop the right library of chemical signatures to detect a variety of fake e-liquids, as we have started doing. Then the police can start cracking down on this potentially dangerous trade.
The new European Union Copyright Directive, passed recently by the European parliament after a vociferous campaign both for and against, has been described by its advocates as Europe striking a blow against US tech giants in the battle for control of copyrighted content online. This is painted as a battle about who pays for creative works, culture, and the role and workings of a free press in a world where these “commodities” are exchanged freely on social media and other platforms controlled by giants such as Google and Facebook.
The sense of this battle is found in two articles from the text of the new directive. Article 11 introduces the “press publishers’ right”, also called the “link tax”. This permits publishing groups such as newspapers and other media to charge online content sharing service providers and platforms – most obviously, Google, Facebook and Twitter – a fee for a licence to link to their content. Article 13 makes online content sharing service providers responsible for the copyright content uploaded by users. Large platforms must implement filters to monitor copyright infringements and obtain licences from music, film and television rights-holders for the use of copyright content where it appears on their services – YouTube and Instagram, for example. This has led to claims that the directive would effectively ban memes, because automated checking of uploads would identify them only as copyright material, rather than allowable “fair use” or “parody”.
Unsurprisingly, publishers and copyright industries across Europe have saluted the new law as a great victory of European culture and free press against the greedy American titans. But it is not this simple.
When companies like Google and Facebook started their ascent as global players in the mid-2000s, they benefited from a generally favourable legislative framework, made of legislative vacuum and liberal legislation. Thanks to the flexible contours of the “safe harbour” provisions for internet hosting services – which essentially immunises them from any liability for content uploaded by their users – YouTube rapidly became the main channel of distribution of music. Similarly, Facebook and Google News became major distributors of news (whether good, bad or “fake”).
The ascent of these companies was not without hurdles and challenges, including a chequered history of lawsuits from music, film and television companies against content-sharing platforms, and by press publishers against news aggregators, which eventually changed the legal contours of the hosting providers’ safe harbour in the European Union. As a result of these legal disputes, the tech firms have progressively adapted their business models from head-on challenge of copyright norms to adopting a more accommodating attitude towards copyright holders and press publishers.
Google, for example, has entered into various commercial agreements with news agencies and publishers to display content in Google News and Google Books. YouTube, a Google subsidiary, has entered into revenue-sharing agreements with copyright holders based on a technology called Content ID that detects, identifies and manages copyright-protected music and video uploaded by users. Facebook has struck similar deals with major music labels and has a partnership programme with news publishers. A large amount of the content we consume today through these platforms is authorised by the copyright owners and generates some revenue for them.
A hammer to crack a nut
So in this respect, what the new EU Copyright Directive now obliges the tech giants to do is largely what they do already. To be sure, it is an open question whether they pay enough for the privilege of making use of (and profiting from) all that content created by others. Admittedly, by obliging tech giants to pay press publishers and to obtain licences with copyright holders, the new directive may reduce their bargaining power with respect to the arrangements they must make with content creators, and therefore lead the copyright holders to increase their revenue share. This small (and largely uncertain) effect has some important consequences.
Take the directive’s article 13, which redefines the safe harbour for content-sharing providers. In effect, platforms like YouTube will be directly responsible for copyright content uploaded by their users (although they will continue to be shielded from direct liability for other wrongs committed by their users, such as defamation or hate speech). If this norm was in place ten or 15 years ago it would have prevented YouTube from becoming what it is today.
But now it is only good news for YouTube. The new directive will have little effect on its current business model (perhaps paying only a little more for contracts with copyright owners), but it will prevent others from challenging established firms’ dominant positions. Costs that for platforms like YouTube or Instagram today represent a small and ultimately insignificant portion of their profits are huge and potentially insurmountable barriers for new companies attempting to enter the market.
Only micro or small enterprises and non-commercial platforms – which are excluded from the effects of article 13 – will benefit from the same favourable legislative conditions that Facebook and Google experienced at the beginning of their career. But even these, as soon as they become more than start-ups, will have to operate in the same playing field as established giants – leaving them with no serious prospect of winning a substantial market share, challenging their dominance, or providing an outlet for innovation.
Quite the opposite from what was the intention, the Copyright Directive may ensure the current crop of tech giants retain their dominant position for a long time, possibly forever. Which one could say is not exactly bad news for them, and not exactly a victory for European creativity either.
Glimpses of hope are visible on the Korean Peninsula for the first time in years. North Korea and the US have held some of their most important denuclearisation talks to date, and the Pyongyang leadership has embarked on what looks like a serious peace process with Seoul. The sight of a smiling Kim Jong-un holding hands with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump showed a different side to the North Korean supreme leader, suggesting he does in fact want to see progress towards a happier, more open era.
But while the world’s media focuses on the bravado over denuclearisation, the dire human rights situation inside the regime is being overlooked. Even during the talks, both Moon and Trump avoided directly raising such issues with Kim, eager as they were to achieve their own key objectives. It was galling to hear so little about the lives of ordinary North Koreans – and in particular women.
Many of North Korea’s women suffer daily abuse and injustice, and behind the international politics, there’s no sign that the situation is improving. In my own interviews with both male and female defectors, I heard about the day-to-day inequality, and also the violations of basic rights that women inside North Korea face as a matter of routine.
Trouble at home
North Koreans live in a paradoxical, confused system of gender relations. While Marxist Communism has been the fundamental organising principle of life in the north, Confucian patriarchy has shaped society, too, forming the backbone of North Korean society. Much as happened in post-revolutionary China, the superficial promulgation of equality belies the marked gender segregation of everyday life.
Some interviewees talked about their ordeals in the face of domestic violence. One participant expressed the anger and frustration she felt, as well as her relief when her husband died after more than 20 years abusing her. According to her, there is no redress for North Korean women who are subject to ongoing violence within the household, which is often seen as legitimate treatment.
When the famine began in the early 1990s, it was the women who took responsibility for family survival, going out to sell products and exchange goods. Another participant described how North Korean women often call men in the household “guard dogs” – tough figureheads who stay at home making no particular contribution.
Feeding starving families is largely left to women outside the formal workforce, who are subjected to less government control. These women are left to slip through the official system and get involved in black market trade or informal markets known as “Jangmadang”. Worse, some husbands take the goods their wives buy to exchange them for alcohol, or demand that their exhausted wives bring them alcohol even if their family has nothing to eat. If they do not, they are punished with abuse.
Isolated and shamed
Sexual violence is also a common problem inside the army. Being able to join the Worker’s Party of Korea is an essential pathway to a secure, successful life in North Korea, and a major reason for women to join the army is to become a member of the party. Senior male officials frequently exploit this as a means to manipulate and harass young women, threatening to block their chances of joining the party if they refuse or attempt to report the abuse. Out of fear, most women suffer in silence.
Female hygiene also remains a serious issue. Female soldiers are not given the chance to wash or change during training outside; my interviewees talked about women in the army being given wound dressings to use instead of sanitary towels. Things are even worse for ordinary female citizens, who have to make do with any materials available, such as off-cuts from men’s used vests or socks.
If they get pregnant unintentionally, women get the blame. Thus, many pregnant women use a range of dangerous methods to abort: tightening their stomach with an army belt to hide their growing pregnancy, taking anthelmintic medicine (antiparasitic drugs designed to remove parasitic worms from the body), or jumping off and rolling down the high mountain hills. Unsurprisingly, it’s common to find foetuses in army facilities’ toilets.
The gender divide in North Korea is so deeply ingrained – this is a society that has no term for sexual harassment – that women often blame each other rather than men for not behaving appropriately in these situations.
These stories all paint a distressing picture. It seems North Korea’s women are still trapped not only in systemic poverty, but in a deep-seated structure of gender inequality. Hence, we should not forget about the suffering of ordinary women inside the DPRK, hidden behind the glaring headlines of sweet smiles and big hugs between leaders. Denuclearisation is a step forward, but progress on human rights is the leap that’s needed most.
Harassed on fieldtrips. Excluded from projects. On the receiving end of micro-aggressions. A lack of female role models.
These are some of our collective experiences as women working in science and engineering.
Such experiences erode research opportunities and career progression, leading to the loss of many brilliant women from our disciplinary field – along similar lines as we’ve recently seen exposed in Australian federal parliament.
Today we published a global snapshot of the status of women in coastal science and engineering. The results show that gender inequity is still a major problem in the daily work lives of women globally.
And since gender inequalities in science won’t self-correct, we’ve developed some solutions based on our findings.
Working at the water’s edge
We work in coastal geoscience and engineering, a broad discipline focused on physical processes at the interface of land and sea. Here’s one of our experiences:
For twenty years people had been telling me how lucky I was to be in our field of research because “things” were changing for young women.
This didn’t resonate with my experiences. Twenty years later “things” had not changed and I was no longer a young woman. I started talking to other women and found that they had faced similar challenges, and wanted to see change. – Ana Vila-Concejo
To catalyse change, we founded the Women in Coastal Geoscience and Engineering (WICGE) network in 2016. Our first project was a study to understand the main issues faced by women who work in our field.
We surveyed 314 members of the coastal science and engineering community and analysed the gender representation in 9 societies, 25 journals, and 10 conferences.
We found that while women represent 30% of the international coastal science community, they are consistently underrepresented in leadership positions (such as being on journal editorial boards and as conference organisers). This situation was clearly acknowledged by the coastal sciences community, with 82% of females and 79% of males believing that there are not enough female role models.
Female representation in prestige roles was the highest (reaching the expected 30%) only when there was a clear entry pathway that gave women an opportunity to volunteer for a role.
Female representation was the lowest for the traditional “invite-only” prestige roles.
A significantly larger proportion of females felt held back in their careers due to gender than their male counterparts (46% of females in comparison to 9% of males).
Reasons for this include:
- a “glass ceiling” of informal workplace cultures and customs that reduce womens’ chances of promotion
- gender stereotyping of women not being competent in STEM disciplines
- a “boys’ club” tendency to favour men in recruitment and collaboration, and
- widely held assumptions that a woman’s job performance will be impacted by her having children (the “maternal wall”).
Fieldwork emerged as a key area of inequity, with female respondents being excluded or outright banned from research ships. For those respondents who made it to the field, many of them reported experiencing gender stereotyping and/or sexual harassment.
We used our survey to ask some forthright, open-ended questions about peoples’ experiences and observations of gender equality.
As a study author, the day I went over the responses was one that I will never forget. Stories of bullying, abortion and sexual harassment had me in tears at my desk. Inequality was consistent, pervasive and, in many cases, traumatic. – Sarah Hamylton.
So, what can be done?
Seven steps toward improving gender equity
Gender imbalances in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are not a self-correcting phenomenon – so here are some ways to make science more inclusive for women.
Advocate for more women in prestige roles: Ensure fair representation of women as keynote speakers at conferences, on society boards and journal editorial boards. Have clear pathways to prestige roles giving women an opportunity to apply if they wish to do so.
Promote high-achieving females: Recognise the achievements of females, and select them for roles that increase their visibility as role models.
Be aware of gender bias: Consciously reflect on personal biases when hiring, promoting and mentoring staff.
Speak up, call it out: Point out to conference organisers all-male panels and keynote programs and, where they are underrepresented, write to chief editors suggesting women for editorial boards.
Provide better support for returning to work after maternity leave: Higher levels of support and more flexible conditions for women returning from maternity leave encourage women to stay in their employment after having children, thereby increasing their prospects of reaching more senior posts.
Redefine success: Recognise the diverse range of definitions of what it means to be a successful researcher.
Encourage women to enter the discipline at a young age: Many school-age girls are put off the idea of entering STEM disciplines as they are socially and culturally deemed to be “male” pursuits. This needs to be addressed.
The Women in Coastal Geoscience and Engineering network is already successfully implementing some of these steps.
By choosing to ignore inequity for women, you become accountable for allowing it to continue. Speak up, promote the work of your female colleagues and give them voice and visibility.
This problem transcends STEM disciplines. It is crucial that the wider community becomes aware of the extent of inequity so that, where necessary, everyone can take action to improve the governance and culture of their work place.
Sarah Hamylton, Senior Lecturer, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong; Ana Vila Concejo, Associate professor, University of Sydney; Luciana Esteves, Associate professor, Bournemouth University, and Shari L. Gallop, Lecturer, Macquarie University
The Rohingya people of Myanmar are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. The Myanmar government doesn’t consider them as citizens and deprives them of basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
The latest and largest mass exodus to Bangladesh took place in late August 2017. Within a month, around half a million Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh. This influx gradually slowed down, but did not stop there. A year later, the total number of Rohingya in Bangladesh is estimated to be 918,000, with around 700,000 new arrivals since August 2017.
The Rohingya refugees are confined within several camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, which are managed jointly by the government and a coordinating body of international organisations called the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG). The largest of these, which I visited in August 2018, is known as the Kutupalong camp and hosts more than a half a million people. The camp seems neverending, with shelters, shops and narrow paths leading to every corner.
The Kutupalong site covers about 6,000 acres and is densely populated with eight square metres per person. The sites are highly vulnerable to rain, floods, cyclones, fire and landslides. Access to basic services is still insufficient, and there are poor quality shelters, latrines and delivery clinics. According to the ISCG’s 2018 joint response plan, 12,200 metric tonnes of food per month and 16m litres of safe water per day are needed to sustain the refugee population.
From what I saw, the environmental impact of the crisis is clearly devastating. A local forest officer told me that, in the past, the site upon which the Kutupalong camp now stands was a protected forest. Now, not a single large tree can be seen.
Many local Bangladeshis around the camps previously depended on nearby forests – to collect honey, and use dead branches and leaves as firewood. These forests are now disappearing.
Near the camp, I saw many large holes, evidence of the complete uprooting of trees to meet the demands for firewood. Bangladesh’s forest department is relentlessly trying to protect the nearby forests, but doesn’t have enough manpower to maintain the vigil 24 hours a day.
There is no clear boundary to the camp, and nearby I saw some Bangladeshi settlements. The demarcation is obvious: if a group of houses is surrounded by large trees then it is a Bangladeshi settlement, if not, it’s a Rohingya settlement.
The area used to be a habitat for many forest animals including about 40 elephants. The animals are now all gone and the elephants are trapped in another small patch of forest nearby, a local forest officer told me. In the early part of 2018, some elephants attacked Rohingya settlements.
Impact on local economy
The local economy of the camps seem to be thriving and the Kutupalong site is full of small shops selling many kinds of goods. The shop sellers are largely Rohingya, though there is reportedly some Bangladeshi involvement, too.
The presence of the refugees has imposed a heavy financial burden on the Bangladeshi government. One government officer told me that about 2,000 government officials are involved in the management of the camps at various levels – at an annual cost of US$15.24m to the Bangladeshi government. This is a huge sum, considering the per capita annual GDP of Bangladesh is only about US$1,700.
It was the local community in the area that provided much needed early support to Rohingya refugees in August 2017, before aid arrived. Since then, research has begun to highlight the impact of the Rohingya refugees on the local communities, including on the price of local goods and on the local job market
In June 2018, the Bangladesh government signed a memorandum of understanding with the aim of facilitating the voluntary repatriation of 700,000 Rohingya back to Myanmar, but the prospect of actual returns is in question because of the previous experience of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Meanwhile, they continue to see Bangladesh as a place of refuge, as they have for decades. To ensure voluntary repatriations happen, full assurance is required that they will not be persecuted upon their return.
Meanwhile, a longer term, sustainable solution is required for the area, one which secures the safety and livelihoods of both those Rohingya people in fear for their lives, and the hosts who have given them sanctuary.
Sascha Dov Bachmann (Associate Professor in International Law (Bournemouth University and Director of BU’S CROLS) and extraordinary Associate Professor in War Studies (Swedish Defence University, SWE) spoke on Hybrid Warfare and Lawfare in Brussels this November and Andres Munoz (NATO SHAPE, LEGAL OFFICE) submission RUSSIAN LAWFARE CAPABILITIES AS A THREAT TO THE ARCTIC has been included and cited in the House of Commons Defence Committee’s 12th Report of Session 2017-2019
Sascha Dov’s work is repeatedly referenced on the NATO legal virtual desktop, thereby demonstrating the high-impact and publicity which his research generates. His research on Hybrid Warfare and the role of Cyber and Lawfare has been identified as 3* plus impact in the last institutional stocktaking exercise at BU and is being developed further. He has been invited to join NATO SHAPE as visiting Research Fellow.
You can’t say it’s your own fault if you’ve had to change benefits for some reason. You can say it’s our fault if we went out and blown [the money] in the bookies or in the pubs, then yeah, it would be our own fault. Most people just can’t afford to pay rent and buy food.
These are the words of one of the contributors in my film, Hunger by the Sea, a four-minute animation about people’s experiences of food banks in an English seaside town. Using voiceovers, it presents the human stories behind food bank use – which hit a record high in 2018.
The idea came about after watching Ken Loach’s film, I, Daniel Blake. I was particularly shocked by the scene in the food bank in which a mother, who had not eaten for days because she had given what little food she had to her children, opens and scoffs a can of cold food while because she is so hungry and cannot wait. The mother apologises and cries when a food bank helper comes over because she is very embarrassed. I wanted to find out if scenes like this were really happening in Britain today or whether they were only in the realm of fiction.
Figures from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank provider, show that between April 2017 and March 2018 there was a 13% increase in the number of three-day emergency food supplies given out compared to the previous year (they now count food parcels rather than people). They gave out 1,332,952 of these supply packages, and 484,026 of these went to children.
I’m a documentary filmmaker and academic at Bournemouth University, and I worked with students on this idea. My initial plan was to give people who use food banks cameras, allowing them to become first-person storytellers and speak directly to policymakers and politicians. But after my student researcher, Charlie Mott, spent several weeks volunteering in three local food banks, it became clear that people were ashamed to admit they had had to resort to food banks. They felt it was their fault; they did not want to be visible.
As one participant in the end film said: “I’m a bit ashamed as I don’t like asking for help, so it’s a big thing for me.”
The project was then recast as an animation in which people could speak openly and anonymously and so we took on another co-researcher, Xue Han, an animation student. Even with this new plan, we had to approach 14 different food banks before finding one that was prepared to let us record people’s voices. It so happened that it was situated by the sea and its location provided strong images to accompany the people struggling to keep their heads above water. Coastal communities have been particularly hit by economic inequality, with some of the highest unemployment rates and lowest pay in the country.
Food bank managers, also speaking for the film, confirmed that scenes like the one in I, Daniel Blake occur with shocking regularity. As one in the film laments: “We often have situations where perhaps the mothers haven’t eaten for days just so they can feed the children.”
Another spoke about the physical and psychological effects of hunger:
When you’re not eating you don’t get the hunger pangs, you don’t get the starving, you get a pit in your stomach, I suppose, you try and fill, you bulk yourself out with water, [but] it’s your pride that really feels it the most.“
Tragically, the people who speak in the film were not hard to find and all had their own desperate stories.
“This food bank is a lifeline for us. We haven’t had a meal for two weeks,” said one. Another couple said that “everything is going up and all our money goes on bills”. One man with a brain tumour was “devastated” that it has come to this after paying his own way all his life.
In making the film, we hope these voices will be heard far and wide and have an impact on policymakers and government officials by humanising stories that are often lost to the statistics.
We, Elvira Bolat and Parisa Gilani, are quite pleased to see the article, published by the Conversation on 7th August, quickly picked up by Mark Bridge, technology correspondent of the Times. Article titled “It’s depressing to be slightly influential on social media” was published both in online and paper versions of the major national newspaper on 9th August.
Dr Parisa Gilani was interviewed prior to the publication and addressed all questions of the correspondent. It is critical to highlight that the research itself is based on BU’s BA (Hons) Business Studies with Marketing final year student Claudia Wilkin’s research project. Although the CEL-funded co-creation project focused on understanding what makes social media influencers successful businesspeople, one of the finding was quite fascinating and contributing to literature around FOMO, cyberbullying and leader-followers relationships.
As Mark Bridge noted, there is a need for responsible behaviour and actions within online space and as most of us consume content online, we need to be much more thoughtful on how we express our reactions to various types of content.
Read full article online via: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/it-s-depressing-to-be-slightly-influential-on-social-media-xf75sztff
Ask a child or teenager “what do you want to be?” and you might get the response, a “YouTuber. Instagrammer”. That’s perhaps not surprising given how attractive the world of social media influencing seems to be. It looks hassle-free, with freebies, travel and endless opportunities.
Social media influencers publish videos, images and motivational stories on social media channels such as Instagram and YouTube. But their presence is different to the average user. An influencer has a solid base of fans who follow the content for entertainment or inspiration. In return, these followers indicate their enjoyment and appreciation by liking, sharing and commenting on photos, links and videos, while influencers get paid through advertising.
The number of people following and the number of likes and comments is currency in the social media world. It enables influencers to build a reputation and stand out from all of us who use social media to interact with friends. Most social media influencers have their own specialist expertise areas which they are passionate about or develop as a hobby. One of the UK’s top earning influencers Zoella – better known as Huda Beauty – started off publishing cosmetics tutorial videos but ended up documenting every minute of her life via videos and pictures.
This is a key element of the phenomenon. It sets social media stars apart from traditional celebrities. Followers value the ability to get a close look at the personal lives of influencers. They like following “real” and relatable people. Influencers are effectively collaborating with their followers, building a network that helps them to establish a reputation from recommendations and referrals. That in turn, enables them to generate income through advertising deals.
The Instagram influencer market has grown exponentially in recent years. It’s now a billion dollar industry, with a value projected to double by 2019. Social media influencers are seen as being able to drive the attitudes and behaviour of their followers by pushing content at them, from healthy budget recipes to workout routines. But the relationship also involves interacting with them by asking for their views and recommendations as well as, crucially, thanking them and publishing content they ask to be posted.
But our study of a micro-influencing group called Bournemouth Bloggers revealed that this relationship can also have repercussions for influencers. Micro-influencers are those whose follower count is below 10,000. We talked to 12 such micro-influencers who mainly post content about their lifestyles.
It’s common for micro-influencers to start with their own interests and hobbies to generate a number of likes and followers, which leads to a boost in self-confidence. Ultimately it’s this confidence that motivates micro-influencers to carry on posting. However, as with any euphoria-linked activity, such as gaming, there are also negative outcomes. We found that micro-influencers are empowered through their increased confidence but that anxiety, social media fear and insecurity are common traits too.
Some of the micro-influencers we interviewed revealed that they felt afraid their followers would perceive them as being too image conscious or that they would see them as being too focused on their brand image rather than their community of fans. They also face anxiety through constant comparison with other social media users. One influencer said:
On Instagram I started comparing myself to others and wondering why my pictures weren’t getting as many likes or why it didn’t look a certain way.
We found that mental health issues were also triggered by the followers themselves. When the influencer first sets up an account, they have their own ideas about what they want to achieve. They want to share pictures of their travels or recipes. But as they attract more followers, the topics and content posted starts to be determined by what the online audience wants to see, sometimes totally changing the creative direction. This causes conflict in an influencer’s mind. They no longer act in an authentic manner by posting videos and images they genuinely like but attempt to post images that might be more popular.
One of the influencers who took part in our study admitted:
I do feel … when I post something and it doesn’t get many likes I do think about it, get frustrated and run around to get ideas. I check other influencers’ content and then think-rethink what if my followers will not like it or think I am not funny. Some comments I get are so hurtful. It is like in relationship. There are good and bad days I have with my followers.
Pressures from followers are also combined with the issue of trolling. Take the recent story of Sophie Gradon, one of Love Island’s previous contestants. Before her death, Gradon had openly shared her experience of negative comments on social media, claiming that it contributed to her depression and anxiety.
When we talk about responsible social media use, we so often focus on fake news and cyberbullying, but as more of us take an interest in producing social media content, we need to start thinking about the anxieties and insecurities we ourselves can create by piling the pressure on ourselves or the people we admire.
Young people are attracted to the world of social media influencing because it can make you rich and famous. But they soon find themselves dependent on the number of likes and opinions their followers post, which can lead to low self-esteem, depression and other mental health issues. Perhaps we, as followers, need to think more about what part we play in that cycle.
As Brexit day creeps closer, one issue that remains unresolved is the way that food names will be protected in Britain and the EU. From parmesan and feta to cornish pasties and Bavarian beer, the EU is fiercely protective over protected designations of origin (PDOs) or protected geographical indications (PGIs).
A number of highly popular products are protected under this legal framework that dictates certain products can only be produced in certain regions. So champagne must be produced in the Champagne region of France and prosecco in a small pocket of north-eastern Italy. These are products with big market shares in the UK, with consumer loyalty being built up and consolidated through the use of these reputable geographical names.
The issue is also important to the UK. Many British products are also protected under the EU regime. It helps protect both their quality and value.
But when the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer be under the laws that govern the protective status of these products. The government’s recently launched white paper, which outlined the UK’s plans for Brexit, declares that Britain will set up its own protection of geographical names to provide for continuous protection of UK products within the UK. But it doesn’t mention any continuation of the EU’s protection scheme.
Some in Brussels have expressed fear that British producers will start exploiting previously protected European names. Yet, rather ironically, British products would not lose their status in the EU (and could still seek new EU registrations in the future), since the EU allows for the protection of geographical names from non-EU countries. It’s an imbalance which seems to please British negotiators.
So, the European Commission fears that after Brexit the high level of protection that European products currently enjoy in the UK under EU law may evaporate. The white paper proposal rather contrasts with the commission’s proposal, which suggests that the UK continue protecting geographical indications, as it does under the EU.
But the EU’s desire that post-Brexit Britain keep its protection of geographical indications is bound to collide with US strategic interests. The US position is an important factor to take into account in the Brexit negotiations. If the UK signs a trade deal with the US, it will likely clash with a lot of EU regulations – including provisions governing the use of geographical names for food and beverages.
The US plays by different rules when it comes to the protection of these names. There are numerous US food companies that freely use European geographical expressions (including parmesan and feta for cheese) to identify products that have not been produced in the relevant European locations. In the US, these are considered to be generic names that describe the products and cannot be monopolised by anyone, not even by the producers coming from the relevant European geographical area.
That is why the US is lobbying the UK to abandon the EU’s protection of geographical indications, namely to allow US food and beverage companies to enter the British market by freely using European names. A US-UK trade deal would likely be contingent on the UK dropping the EU-level protection of geographical indications. But this, in turn, would scupper the prospects of a trade deal with the EU – an even bigger trading partner for the UK.
The EU has continuously placed great emphasis on the protection of its geographical names during trade negotiations. It proved to be a big sticking point in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. France and Greece, for example, threatened to veto a deal with the US unless it upheld their geographical indications. More recently, Italy’s minister for agriculture noted that Italy may not ratify the EU’s trade deal with Canada because, in his view, it does not adequately protect Italian geographical names.
It is therefore not a stretch to say that the entire Brexit deal could hinge on the issue of geographical indications. There is no doubt that providing a level of protection in the UK which is comparable to the current EU scheme – for example, via a mutual EU/UK recognition scheme – would facilitate an agreement not only on the specific issue of geographical names, but also of the entire Brexit deal. This would, however, make favourable trade agreements between the UK and the US less likely. The battle over geographical indications will surely go on.
Dr Sascha Dov Bachmann, Associate Professor in International Law (BU) and War Studies (Swedish Defence University), acting Director of BU’s Centre for Conflict,Rule of Law and Society has joined forces with Professor Louis de Koker and Professor Pompeu Casanovas from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia to convene the conference
Global peace and security has seen the arrival of new security threats in the form of hybrid threats and cyber-attacks.
This symposium provides a platform for the discussion of a new form of warfare, namely ‘hybrid warfare’. Hybrid war is the use of a range of non-conventional methods (e.g. cyber warfare and lawfare) in order to disrupt, discourage and disable an adversary’s capabilities without engaging in open hostilities and may use the full range of military and non-military options for achieving its strategic objectives. Such hybrid warfare might include aspects of ‘cyber terrorism’, ‘cyber war’ and cyber-based ‘information operations’, a topic of particular interest given Russia’s ‘Ukrainian Spring’, the continuing threat posed by radical Islamist groups in Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region as well geopolitical shifts.
The interdisciplinary symposium will discuss military doctrines, new and traditional approaches to war and peace and its perceptions, the use of cyber warfare, the use of mass media communication to meddle in internal state affairs, including impact on state elections and public sentiment, as well as the use of lawfare (the strategy of using – or misusing – law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve a war-fighting objective) to achieve military goals in a non-kinetic way and the use of various means to disrupt a nation’s economy, public services and national interests.
At the heart of the symposium stand the questions of how to increase resilience and whether responses to such hybrid threats need to change in the future.
This seminal conference brings together academics and military professionals from the region and beyond to discuss new security challenges from a Asia-Pacific and especially an Australian perspective.
Deadline for submissions: 31 October 2018
Symposium Date: 25 – 26 March 2019
Place: La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
Proposals must be sent by email to the Lead Convenor: Professor (AP) Sascha Dov Bachmann (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Professor (AP) Sascha Dov Bachmann (email: email@example.com (Lead Convenor)
- Professor Pompeu Casanovas (CasanovasRomeu@latrobe.edu.au) and Professor Louis de Koker (L.deKoker@latrobe.edu.au).
The mahseers are an iconic group of fish found throughout the fast-flowing rivers of South and South-East Asia. Characterised by their large scales, attractive appearance and potentially vast size, the mahseers have long been afforded saintly status as “God’s fishes”. They are also known to anglers as some of the world’s hardest fighting freshwater game fish, earning them the reputation of “tigers of the water”.
But despite lots of interest in mahseers, their future is under serious threat as their rivers become polluted and blocked by hydropower dams in order to support a rapidly growing human population. Those fish that do survive are vulnerable to illegal “dynamite fishing” in which a blast kills or injures all aquatic life, allowing poachers to harvest anything that floats to the surface.
Of the 18 currently valid species of mahseer, the official IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists four as endangered, one as vulnerable, and one as near threatened. The rest either lack enough data to reach a conclusion or haven’t been evaluated.
Recent research published by colleagues and I in PLOS ONE focused on the hump-backed mahseer, the largest and most endangered of all mahseers. The fish was once common throughout the Cauvery river and its various tributaries in southern India, but it is now limited to just a handful of small isolated populations. Weighing as much as a small adult human (55kg), this freshwater giant qualifies as megafauna, yet bizarrely it has remained a taxonomic enigma without a valid scientific name.
Until now. Colleagues and I discovered that the hump-backed mahseer is actually the same species as Tor remadevii: a mahseer that previously lacked a common name. Scientists first described Tor remadevii as a new species in 2007, based on a small sample of juvenile fish from the most southerly tributary of the Cauvery catchment in the state of Kerala. Little did they realise that the small fish they had discovered from this remote sub-catchment was the same as the monster mahseer found in the upper and middle reaches of the main river Cauvery.
The rise and fall of a freshwater icon
The hump-backed mahseer was first brought to the attention of the world’s anglers in Henry Sullivan Thomas’s 1873 classic, The Rod in India. During British rule, several huge specimens were recorded, including the still-standing world rod-caught record, a 120lb (54kg) monster captured in 1946 by a taxidermist from Mysore known as de Wet Van Ingen. Indian independence followed soon after, and the mahseer was largely forgotten by the outside world, with many believing the fish had been dynamited to extinction.
That was until 1977, when the Trans World Fishing Team – comprised of three Englishmen –travelled to India and spent several months exploring the country’s rivers before reaching the Cauvery. There they found the hump-backed mahseer very much alive, and realised their sporting dreams by recording individual catches up to 92lbs (42kg).
This reignited global interest, and catch-and-release anglers from around the world flocked to the River Cauvery in search of the legendary fish. Local villagers found employment as angling guides, cooks or drivers, some of them rehabilitated poachers who realised that a live mahseer had renewable value, unlike the single value of a dead one at market. Patrols were set up to protect the species 24/7, allowing the ecology of the river to flourish.
But all was not what it seemed. Since their establishment in the 1970s, the angling camps had been collecting invaluable data which shed new light on the situation. When colleagues and I analysed these detailed catch records, we realised the hump-backed mahseer had almost disappeared. Although overall mahseer stocks were rising, the humpback itself was being rapidly replaced by a non-native and highly invasive species of mahseer, which had been deliberately introduced to the River Cauvery to boost stocks in the late 1970s. This led us to publish a paper in 2015, outlining the threat of imminent extinction facing the hump-backed mahseer.
So, what’s in a name?
The hump-backed mahseer has been known around the world by its common name, but confusion over its scientific name has prevented its inclusion in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Given the fish is on the edge of extinction, it proved a significant challenge finding wild specimens from which to collect the DNA and associated evidence required to support a formal taxonomic clarification. Only after three years of expeditions was our team finally successful in finding a small population of humpbacks in a remote jungle section of the River Moyar, a tributary of the Cauvery.
The paper we recently published fixes the scientific name as Tor remadevii and should see the iconic species assessed as “critically endangered” in the next update of the Red List. The significance of the research published will afford this iconic fish the recognition and legislative protection it so urgently requires to develop robust conservation planning.
However, in the long term, the fish’s future rests in the hands of the three Indian states with stakes in the highly-contested Cauvery river system – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka. One hope is that the humpback mahseer will become a unifying force and bring these states together to protect the rich biodiversity and natural function of the Cauvery from further decay, allowing the river to continue to support the many millions of people who depend on it.
From educational toys to governmental guidelines and detailed nursery progress reports, there are lots of resources available to help parents track and facilitate their children’s development. But while there are tricks we can use to teach children to talk, count, draw or respect others, a surprisingly big part of how they develop is determined by the culture they grow up in.
Child development is a dynamic, interactive process. Every child is unique in interacting with the world around them, and what they invoke and receive from others and the environment also shapes how they think and behave. Children growing up in different cultures receive specific inputs from their environment. For that reason, there’s a vast array of cultural differences in children’s beliefs and behaviour.
Language is one of the many ways through which culture affects development. We know from research on adultsthat languages forge how people think and reason. Moreover, the content and focus of what people talk about in their conversations also vary across cultures. As early as infancy, mothers from different cultures talk to their babies differently. German mothers tend to focus on their infants’ needs, wishes or them as a person. Mothers of the African tribal group Nso, on the other hand, focus more on social context. This can include the child’s interactions with other people and the rules surrounding it.
This early exposure affects the way children attend to themselves or to their relationship with others – forming their self image and identity. For example, in Western European and North American countries, children tend to describe themselves around their unique characteristics – such as “I am smart” or “I am good at drawing”. In Asian, African, Southern European and South American countries, however, children describe themselves more often around their relationship with others and social roles. Examples of this include “I am my parents’ child” or “I am a good student”.
Because children in different cultures differ in how they think about themselves and relate to others, they also memorise events differently. For example, when preschoolers were asked to describe a recent special personal experience, European-American children provided more detailed descriptions, recalled more specific events and stressed their preferences, feelings and opinions about it more than Chinese and Korean children. The Asian children instead focused more on the people they had met and how they related to themselves.
Cultural effects of parenting
Parents in different cultures also play an important role in moulding children’s behaviour and thinking patterns. Typically, parents are the ones who prepare the children to interact with wider society. Children’s interaction with their parents often acts as the archetype of how to behave around others – learning a variety of socio-cultural rules, expectations and taboos. For example, young children typically develop a conversational style resembling their parents’ – and that often depends on culture.
European-American children frequently provide long, elaborative, self-focused narratives emphasising personal preferences and autonomy. Their interaction style also tends to be reciprocal, taking turns in talking. In contrast, Korean and Chinese children’s accounts are usually brief, relation-oriented, and show a great concern with authority. They often take a more passive role in the conversations. The same cultural variations in interaction are also evident when children talk with an independent interviewer.
Cultural differences in interactions between adults and children also influence how a child behaves socially. For instance, in Chinese culture, where parents assume much responsibility and authority over children, parents interact with children in a more authoritative manner and demand obedience from their children. Children growing up in such environments are more likely to comply with their parents’ requests, even when they are reluctant to do so.
By contrast, Chinese immigrant children growing up in England behave more similarly to English children, who are less likely to follow parental demands if unwilling.
From class to court
As the world is getting increasingly globalised, knowledge regarding cultural differences in children’s thinking, memory and how they interact with adults has important practical implications in many areas where you have to understand a child’s psychology. For instance, teachers may need to assess children who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Knowing how children coming from a different culture think and talk differently can help the teacher better interview them as part of an oral academic test, for example.
Another important area is forensic investigations. Being aware that Chinese children tend to recall details regarding other people and be brief in their initial response to questions may enable the investigator to allow more time for narrative practice to prepare the child to answer open-ended questions and prompt them with follow up questions.
Also, knowing that Chinese children may be more sensitive and compliant to authority figures – and more obedient to a perpetrator within the family – an interviewer may need to spend more time in building rapport to help the child relax and reduce their perceived authority. They should also be prepared to be patient with reluctance in disclosing abuse within families.
While children are unique and develop at their own pace, the cultural influence on their development is clearly considerable. It may even affect how quickly children reach different developmental milestones, but research on this complicated subject is still inconclusive. Importantly, knowledge about cultural differences can also help us pin down what all children have in common: an insatiable curiosity about the world and a love for the people around them.
Includes interview with BU’s Professor Keith Brown discussing confidence artists in financial scamming. [31:50 – 36:38]
This episode of The Anthill podcast digs into the concept of confidence. We start by finding out how scientists define confidence and how it works in the brain.
Producer Gemma Ware takes a confidence calibration test with the help of psychologist Eva Krockow at the University of Leicester, who also shares some of her research findings on whether expressing confidence about something is a good marker of being right about it. And neuroscientist Dan Bang from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL, helps explain how a person’s brain computes their level of confidence about certain tasks – and why we need to be aware of the variety in people’s levels of confidence when making decisions as a group.
Then we take a look at how confidence can get us ahead in life – and in the workplace especially. Can you really fake it until you make it? Westminster University’s Chantal Gautier shares some of the findings from her book, The Psychology of Work, where she interviewed a number of industry leaders to discover what it is that makes organisations successful. Confidence is important. But that includes the confidence to admit your shortcomings and ask for help when you need it, she says.
With numerous studies suggesting that men show more confidence than women, we also examine the extent that this explains the gender pay gap. Are women just not leaning in enough?
Recent research by Amanda Goodall at Cass Business School found that women are actually asking for pay rises at the same rate as men. They’re just not getting them. She helps us unpick the idea that you can fake it ‘til you make it and explains why leaders that are real experts in their field are better than those who aren’t.
Lastly, we turn to the dark side of confidence. The Conversation’s Holly Squire delves deep into the murky world of confidence tricksters, to find out what makes a con man (or woman) tick. Professional magician Gustav Kuhn at Goldsmiths University of London, details the deception involved in card trick scams. And Keith Brown from Bournemouth University explains the reality of financial scamming – and the terrible impact it can have on victims.
The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops. The song “I Have Confidence” is sung by Julie Andrews from the musical The Sound of Music by Rogers and Hammerstein. Music in the confidence definition segment is Into the Clouds by Nicolai Heidlas Music via YouTube.
Music in the confidence trickster segment is Curtains are Always Drawn by Kai Engel, and Land of Magic by Frank Dorittke from the Free Music Archive.
Thank you to City, University of London’s Department of Journalism for letting us use their studios to record The Anthill.
A couple of years ago, I met Adam (not his real name) at a farm in Dorset. Adam was 14 and had been excluded from mainstream education due to behavioural difficulties and a disruptive home life. He had consequently become involved in regular underage drinking and antisocial behaviour. Adam was being exploited and groomed as a drug runner for a London drug gang infiltrating rural areas. He told me that he had been given a knife by gang members and encouraged to use it to protect himself if necessary against rival gangs or local drug dealers.
The farm where I met him is not a normal farm, but a social one, where the therapeutic use of farming practices and animal assisted therapy is used to provide health, social and educational care services for disadvantaged young people that have become disengaged with mainstream education. Stories such as Adam’s are growing increasingly familiar to staff at the farm he attended, who see other vulnerable young people referred to their service.
Many of the young people living in rural Britain who are being exploited by these gangs are, like Adam, those who are disengaged with mainstream education and are at risk of becoming, or currently are, NEET (not in education, employment or training). There are 808,000 young people (aged 16-24) in the UK who are NEET.
Being NEET has a long-term impact on a young person’s life, leaving them vulnerable to substance misuse, offending behaviour, physical and mental health problems, academic underachievement and reduced employment. These young people are subsequently regarded as a concern to the police, health, education and social care professionals.
Yet current interventions are failing to reduce the number of young people becoming NEET. These interventions typically focus on providing the young person with vocational education, despite the fact that the most common vocational qualifications in the UK have very little or no relevance to the labour market.
Interventions that offer a restorative approach, with therapeutic support and a focus on learning, however, are acknowledged to be more successful.
A green future
Earlier this year, the government launched a 25-year environment plan. The plan acknowledged the importance of connecting children and young people to nature through learning, as well as the benefits of a physical, hands-on experience as a pathway to good health and well-being. The government has pledged £10m to support local strategies which use the natural environment and has further committed to a national expansion of social farming by 2022. This will treble the number of available places to 1.3m per year for children and adults in England.
On social farms, health, social or specialist educational care services for vulnerable people are delivered through structured programmes of farming-related activities. Social farming is established in numerous European countries. Norway currently operates 1,100 social farms, compared to 240 in the UK.
Young people participate in a variety of seasonal farming-related activities, including animal husbandry, crop and vegetable production and woodland management. Social farming has been found to have a positive impact on physical and mental health along with the opportunity to develop transferable skills, personal development, social inclusion and rehabilitation.
When I met Adam, I was in the midst of a research project evaluating whether a year-long farming intervention can prevent disengaged young people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds becoming NEET. Participants typically attend a four-hour session once a week at the farm.
Future roots, the farm I researched, employs a mix of teachers, youth and social workers and therapists. It offers a different model of learning for those struggling in mainstream education. My research demonstrated that the use of the natural environment as a mechanism for change was effective in reducing the risk of becoming NEET.
The young people I followed displayed a significant reduction in self-reported mental health risks and behavioural regulation difficulties; improved social relationships and coping; improved life and work skills; and re-engagement with learning. All of the young people were in employment or training six months after their time at the social farm finished.
Indeed, the social farm was the only place where Adam said he felt safe. He was able to develop a sense of belonging and trust which enabled him to talk about the difficulties he was experiencing in his life. Without the social farm intervention, staff said that Adam would likely have proceeded to harm himself or others. The farmer refers to the changes seen in the young people as a “chrysalis butterfly effect”: the positive transformation seen in these young people as they turn their lives around to look to the future are truly inspiring.