by Lorraine Gillies, SCSN Chief Officer

For something to be really measured by an outcomes approach, the words ‘so what’ will come up time after time.  Insert organisation name held 10 events last year – so what?!  You know what I mean. We were so what-ed of our heads!  Rightly so, no one wants to be measured by the number of things they have done but for the quality of the impact achieved.  And that’s what any activity should focus on.

I’m using a new word now.  It’s why.  Why – because I don’t think we say it enough.  And we need to.

Why are people behaving anti socially?

Why is there more shoplifting?

Why is there more violence in schools just now?

I’ve been asked to participate in recent discussions about stopping these things, tackling them, banning them, licencing them, but never have I been asked to think about why these things are happening.  And if we don’t know why, then how can we prevent them.  Which by the way, will ALWAYS cost less than stopping something already in traction.

Let’s look at these things –

Shoplifting – John Lewis is among 10 of the UK’s biggest retailers which have agreed to fund Project Pegasus, a police operation to crack down on shoplifting.

Why are more people shoplifting just now?  Is it too simple to say that it’s because they need things they can’t afford, like food, nappies?  No, shouts the ‘hang em high’ crowd, they steal TVs, beauty items – they don’t need them.  Perhaps not but maybe to sell and get money… to buy the things they need. Like maybe food, nappies etc.?  Here’s a crazy idea – let’s make sure that everyone has enough money to buy food, nappies… and maybe shoplifting will ease.  Could it be that this might cost less than Project Pegasus? 

Anti-social behaviour – what is that exactly and why is it happening?  The Scottish Community Safety Network are in the midst of a deep dive into that just now, so more to say later on this, but it’s clear to me right now that someone’s anti-social behaviour is someone else’s distressed behaviour, perhaps unwanted behaviour – but the term ‘anti-social’ suggests a crime or misdemeanour is being committed. Is it? Really?  When we know what we know about trauma in Scotland and why violence rates respond to a public health approach much better that a punitive approach – why do we still take about anti-social behaviour? What about pro – social behaviour?  What does that look like?  Why do people behave this way and what can we do to prevent it? These seem better questions to me.

Violence in schools – why is this happening?  What is happening to our young people and children that makes them behave violently in a school setting?  Is it under resourced schools, lack of teacher training regarding child-development; harsh or violent parenting; trauma, the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic – what is it and why is it increasing? 

The Scottish Community Safety Network is involved in so many, diverse work streams at the moment, including these and others like violence against women and girls; domestic homicide review; home safety; water safety.  The common theme in all of these is understanding WHY and developing preventative solutions. 

That’s why why is my new so what……