Fellow Since 2008
Chiangmai Youth Community (Project to Reduce High-Risk Behavior - translation of the Thai name) among Inner City Chiang Mai Youth
This profile was prepared when Laddawan Chaininpun was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Through her Chiangmai Youth Community Center (CYC), Laddawan is redefining the perception and function of gangs in Thailand’s north and transforming them from incubators of violent crime into support groups for the region’s high population of troubled youth. Laddawan’s approach is the first in Thailand to recognize that young people often join gangs to achieve a sense of belonging, and find in them a supportive community they frequently lack at home. As such, the current government push to eradicate gangs altogether leaves young members without a much needed support network. Having spent a decade getting to know gang youth, she has realized that the best solution is one that will leverage the potential of these existing social networks to influence youth to lead more responsible lives. Building on, rather than breaking down, the strength of existing gang networks, Laddawan brings rival groups together to solve conflicts peacefully and establish a more positive rapport, with a focus on building the leadership capacity of a core group of gang leaders. Laddawan’s CYC enlists gangs to become part of the solution, rather than driving the problem. In the last seven years, more than 4,000 gang youth in northern Thailand have sworn off drug use and violence and are making positive contributions to society. Laddawan’s CYC is building a scalable model and working to replicate it to other provinces in Thailand. In addition to improving relations between youth, Laddawan’s CYC is building partnerships with police, municipal authorities, teachers, psychiatrists, social workers, and parents, serving to break down the social stigma that often sends gang youth spiraling into further violence and antagonism towards society. By demonstrating that gangs can actually serve to rehabilitate youth behavior and by reaching out to police and other authorities, government and citizen-sector institutions and the media, she has achieved broad acceptance and support for her work. CYC also serves to change the values of the teens, to improve their self-image, and to help them realize they can make a positive impact on society.