The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Center on Crime and Community Resilience (CCR) at Northeastern University organized a virtual conference to promote evidence-based decision making for more effective strategies to prevent and reduce youth crime and violence in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean (ESC). The event forms part of USAID’s Building Evidence on Security and Community Resilience in the Caribbean (Building Evidence) program.
On May 13, the conference–entitled Caribbean Regional Research Incubator (RRI) 2021: Expanding the Evidence Base on Youth Crime and Violence Prevention–convened over 50 participants including internationally renowned researchers and experts, policymakers, law enforcement, and civil society organizations from the United States and Caribbean. Attendees engaged in high-level panel discussions and interactive sessions focused on ‘what works’ across multiple areas of citizen security. After a brief welcome, USAID/ESC General Development Office Director Kipp Sutton kicked off the conference with remarks about the significance of evidence-based strategies in the region.
USAID along with ESC policymakers and civil society are actively working to address the issue of youth crime and violence by implementing programs across three categories of prevention – primary, secondary, and tertiary. However, we know that the knowledge base on what works is limited and comprehensive evaluations and standardized metrics are needed to understand what prevention models are actually effective and where governments and organizations should be allocating their resources.
The conference program also included presentations from nine ESC government and civil society organizations, who presented on their youth crime and violence prevention innovations and evaluation designs generated through the Building Evidence program. At the event, USAID awarded select organizations with research grants to implement evaluations of their program, from which findings will be used to strengthen crime and violence prevention policies throughout the region. At the conclusion of the event, CCR’s Executive Director Ben Struhl reflected on the program’s achievements.
There is a real appetite for better research and data among governments and NGOs. Unfortunately, researchers historically have not been in sync with the actual needs of governments. In response, the Building Evidence program aimed to make research actually grounded, locally informed, and tied to the goals and needs of local organizations and USAID’s broader portfolio in the region. At the end of the day, we want the partners we work with to have the information and resources at their fingertips to engage in impactful programming. And, we want to be able to tell the success stories of the innovations that are occurring in the ESC, so groups inside and outside the region can learn from those.
Since 2018, USAID’s Building Evidence program, which is scheduled to conclude in June 2021, has been leveraging academic resources to expand the evidence base on effective youth crime and violence prevention strategies and to support the institutional research capacity of ESC organizations. The virtual RRI conference aligned with the program’s goals of building and sharing knowledge, strengthening research practices, and advancing USAID’s learning agenda in the region.