Droppin' the Flag

Droppin' the Flag was a project led by the Healthy Aboriginal Network (HAN), a Vancouver-based non-profit organization that promotes health, literacy and wellness among Aboriginal youths. Like many of HAN's projects, Droppin' the Flag involved the collaborative development of a comic book and video short. The comic book was published and distribution of 10,000 copies began in July 2011; the project evaluation was completed in September 2011.

The project supported a key aim of the Youth Justice Initiative: the reintegration of young offenders into mainstream society through non-traditional means. HAN projects directly involve young offenders in the development of comic books and short videos that reflect their experiences while discouraging criminal behaviour and gang activity. Participation in the process encourages them to develop their own coping strategies. The distribution of the comic books and short videos also has a meaningful effect on youths who are not directly involved.

Droppin' the Flag tells the story of a young Aboriginal male who leaves a gang. Much of the story is based on the experience of a former gang member who was interviewed for the project.

HAN followed a nine-step process to develop Droppin' the Flag. At several stages, consultations were held with Aboriginal youth on the content, style and design of the comic book. As the comic took shape, HAN created a video composed of sketches and narration, posted it to YouTube, and put a link to it on the HAN Web site. To further publicize the video, emails were sent to the 800 e-mail addresses on HAN's contact list.

Project evaluation

The Whetstone Group, an Ottawa-based network of independent consultants, conducted the evaluation.

Given the timing — shortly after Droppin' the Flag was published — the evaluation focused on process rather than impacts. It examined the project's relevance, alignment of activities with objectives, and outcomes.

The evaluation consisted of reviews of program materials and budgets, interviews with project staff and online surveys of community- and facility-based service providers and legal education experts. In addition, focus groups were held with Aboriginal youths in treatment and correctional centres in Winnipeg and Calgary. In all, 38 incarcerated youths participated; two-thirds were male.

Key findings

The evaluation found that there was a significant need for the product due to a lack of available information about guns, gangs and youths – particularly Aboriginal youths. Most focus-group participants identified with some aspect of the story, indicating that the piece was relevant. About two-thirds (66 percent) of the youth care providers surveyed felt that the comic would encourage Aboriginal youths to get involved in their own care.

Lessons learned

  • Given that many in the target group have poor literacy skills, posting final videos online would improve the project's reach.

  • Follow-up studies are needed to explore medium- and long-term impacts, and to identify uptake patterns and methods of use.

  • Consultations with service providers during pre-production would have improved the effectiveness of Droppin' the Flag by ensuring that the products would be incorporated into existing programs.

Conclusion

Droppin' the Flag was successful in reaching out to Aboriginal young offenders and encouraging them to obey the law and avoid gangs.

View the project description

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