The Swindon Young People's Empowerment Programme (SYEP) was started in January 2001, by Bahá'í’s of Swindon, in order to work with young people on such things as anti-social behaviour, uncontrollable anger, bullying, depression, fear of failure and poor school attendance. Its main aim is to develop a healthy human spirit in children and young people, and adults who work with them, which means developing one's full and positive potential as a human being.
Originally funded by the Bahá'ís of Swindon, the European Social Fund (ESF), the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the Partnership Development Fund, SYEP now has several other funders including Lloyds TSB and the Tudor Trust.
Developing a healthy human spirit isn’t new or radical. It is mentioned in many government documents including OFSTED’s document of 2004 called Promoting Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development.
Measuring/evaluating the development of a healthy human spirit.
The impact of SYEP is measured in 3 main areas:
- Increase in sense of self worth, which helps develop an enquiring mind.
- Increased motivation to learn and improve behaviour.
- Desire to be of service to others.
These have been identified as characteristics of a healthy human spirit and as SYEP has been expanding in eight local schools, much evaluation has been carried out both within the project and externally, providing compelling evidence that this approach is working.
Dr Stephen Bigger, of the University of Worcester, has been working as an external evaluator over the past few years. In a recent report he stated: "SYEP sets out to change the way young people think about themselves and their potential. It seeks to help them realise that their lives can be meaningful … It is innovative, and we can find no systematic provision similar to it countrywide.
"In my view, the Swindon Young People's Empowerment Programme has distinctive methods in focusing on the needs of 'dispirited' young people which are already beginning to grow beyond Swindon and have the potential to become much more widespread. This concern for building self-esteem and personal meaning is an important factor in truancy and disaffection, and is very appropriate for a faith community. This Bahá'í contribution, in the experience of those involved, has been open and inclusive social action, bringing benefits to a wide range of young people in Swindon. This could also make a major contribution to the government's concern for both spirituality in schools, and the social and emotional aspects of learning."