Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia (STYL)
STYL is an eight weeks group cognitive behavior therapy designed to promote future orientation self-discipline and norms of non-violent, pro-social behavior. Followed by unconditional cash transfer, led to significant decreases in crime, drug use, and violence for participants.
The 14-year civil war in Liberia that ended in 2003, 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. At-risk youth pose risks of broader social instability, through participation in organized crime, violent protest, communal violence, and armed conflict. Given weak state capacity in the post-conflict context, frustrations are many and young men and women are often victims or perpetrators of violence. Two of the most common policy prescriptions—policing and job creation—aim to reduce crime and violence by either changing the economic incentives facing young men or incarcerating them. Yet neither of these policy prescriptions address the root cause nor have they been proven to be effective.
STYL is innovative in that it targets the hardest to reach, most vulnerable youth with a tested and proven intervention to address the issues of violence and crime by focusing on transforming behavior. Most psychosocial training in Liberia centers around crisis management, focusing on issues like substance abuse, PTSD, child abuse, and domestic violence. Rather than individually addressing these acute problems, STYL attempts to engage street youth who are vulnerable and lack opportunities for socioeconomic survival and empowerment, ‘transforming’ them from excluded individuals living at the fringes of society to those working and living within the social and economic mainstream.
STYL’s emphasis on transformation and future-orientation has been widely identified as being of central importance in changing risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use/abuse, crime, violent criminal activities, and vulnerability to recruitment into armed conflict among disenfranchised youth – and are key to establishing long-term social and economic relationships with others and contributing meaningfully to community-level goals.
Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia (STYL) is evaluated by Chris Blattman
Additional information, including links to international media and academic papers can be found here http://www.poverty-action.org/project/0166
Reducing crime and violence: Experimental evidence on cognitive behavioral therapy in Liberia (2017) with Julian Jamison and Margaret Sheridan, American Economic Review