Once there were many, now but one? UK Youth and Ambition merge

We got a sniff of this latest manoeuvre in the youth sector the other day and it has come to pass.

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Youth work organisations UK Youth and Ambition have merged, it has been announced.

The announcement is accompanied by the usual managerial rationalisations, the two CEO’s vying to outdo one another in a contest of cliche. Anna Smee, chief executive of UK Youth claims, “we feel we are much more credible now as the one leading organisation that works across non-uniformed and, to some extent, uniformed youth organisations.” Emma Revie, chief executive of Ambition, said coming together strengthens both organisations. “By joining forces with UK Youth, I’m confident we have the potential to be greater together than the sum of our parts and I’m excited to see what we can achieve.”

For our part we remain sceptical about the claim that this merger will strengthen the voice and quality of the youth work sector. It will strengthen a particular voice, centralised and still wedded to a neoliberal ideology of self-improved young people and self-improved workers. In the present political ferment a plurality of voices would be much healthier.

As it is, as CYPN notes,

The move comes just two years after Ambition, which was known as Clubs for Young People until 2012, merged with the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services, the organisation for local authority youth service leaders. Ambition also merged with the now defunct National Council for Voluntary Youth Services last year.

And, indeed, a proposed merger between UK Youth and the National Agency was on the cards for a time last year. We won’t hold our breath if this possibility is soon revived.

It’s worth remembering too that the NCVYS once proudly presented itself as the independent voice of the voluntary youth sector.

To complete the exchange of banalities, Tracy Crouch, the Minister of a government, which has implemented a succession of policies antagonistic to the needs of young people, never mind youth work itself, welcomes the corporate move, “UK Youth and Ambition have both done fantastic work supporting young people across the country and I am confident that this partnership will only strengthen their offering.

“Together I’m sure they will continue to lead the way championing youth voices, and supporting innovation and partnerships.”

By now, though, I suppose we are meant to do no more than shrug our shoulders at such empty rhetoric.

Two new articles from Y&P – On NEETS and Young Muslims

Continuing the promise of Y&P’s revised format, two new, stimulating articles are awaiting your perusal.

From ‘NEET’ to ‘Unknown’: Who is responsible for young people not in education, employment or training?

NEETS

Situating his discussion in its recent historical context, Liam Wrigley examines how young people labelled as ‘NEET’ have now become ‘unknown’ or ‘lost’, arguing that this is due to a lack of clear strategy concerning actors that have been responsibilised in responding to the employment, training and welfare needs of young people.

The number of young people (between 16-24 years of age) who experience being Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) has been of grave concern, with the rates of young people labelled as not in education, employment or training remaining high (Simmons et al, 2014). In the UK alone, the number of young people who are NEET has fluctuated between 15% in 2002 to 11.5% in 2016 (DfE, 2017). The label NEET has been successively adopted throughout Europe and internationally (Simmons et al, 2014), although there has been great variation in how this policy label has been defined globally (i.e. some countries count unemployed young people who are graduates or in precarious work situations or ‘zero hour’ contracts). The label reflects a growing trend in recognizing young people that have fallen outside the labour market or education. Throughout Europe, the rate of NEET young people remains high, with countries such as Spain, Ireland and Italy recording more than 17% of young people as out of education, employment or training (Eurofund, 2016).

Young Muslims and exclusion – experiences of ‘othering’

 

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Ta to voa.news

 

On the 16th anniversary of 9/11, Stephen Pihlaja and Naomi Thompson explore experiences of exclusion faced by young Muslims in England.

Since 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’ we have seen an increase in terror attacks receiving high-profile media attention in the UK and Europe. In 2017 these have included attacks taking place in London on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, and at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester. At the time of writing, the recent Barcelona attack is the most current example with media coverage ongoing. There is a strong sense of solidarity after such events that has seen people come together in often positive ways to respond, grieve and build community with each other. However, such events are also followed by increased levels of hate crime towards Muslim individuals and communities, and the aftermath of these events impacts on the everyday lives of young Muslims. In addition, both the fact that most ‘Islamist’ terror attacks take place in Muslim countries against Muslims and the hate crime that is levelled against Muslim communities in the UK and elsewhere following terrorist events, go under-reported.

 

Transformative Youth Work International Conference – registration open

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN at  Transformative Youth Work

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Transformative Youth Work International Conference
Developing and Communicating Impact

4-6 September 2018 at Plymouth Marjon University
This will be the 1st major International conference focusing on the ‘Impact of Youth Work’.

 
AIMS:

  • To disseminate the latest research on the Impact of Youth Work
  • To promote the Impact of Youth Work
  • To stimulate debate about the processes which bring this impact about.

 

 

Includes inputs from across Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as the publication of the Erasmus+ funded 2-year comparative study of the Impact of Youth Work in Europe.

 
KEYNOTES:
Joachim Schild: (Former Head of European Youth Partnership) – ‘History of Youth Work Impact in Europe’
Dr Dimitris Ballas: ‘A Human Atlas of Europe – United in Diversity’

 
The conference is open to youth workers, youth work academics & trainers as well as policy makers.
Bursaries are available for non-UK delegates

Transformative Youth Work 2018 [pdf poster] – please circulate

Is the tide turning? A workshop template to help you be involved

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Suggested session format for discussion workshops based on the paper:
Is the tide turning? Policy proposals for youth work: A discussion paper.
In Defence of Youth Work, Summer 2017

In Defence of Youth Work created the ‘Is the Tide Turning?’ discussion paper in summer 2017 in order to encourage discussion around the potential revival of open youth work, particularly in the aftermath of the 2017 General Election.

We would like to encourage individuals and groups who read the paper to organise discussion workshops based on the paper to discuss its key tenets. We hope to gather feedback from these events to feed into our analysis of the responses to the paper and the way forward for open youth work. We will collate and analyse this feedback and share it widely including at our 2018 annual conference.

The session format suggestions below are intended as a template for those who want some guidance on how they might run such a workshop. Please don’t see them as a rigid formula but do organise your workshops and gather evidence in any form to send back to us.

We imagine that the workshops will be centred around the three questions that are contained within the summary (and perhaps also any sub-questions that emerge in initial discussions):

  • Should local authority youth services be reopened, or are there different ways that state-supported youth work can be organised?
  • What principles should underpin the revival of open youth work?
  • How can these changes be made feasible in terms of funding, infrastructure and staffing?

 

IDYW – Tide Turning workshop template– please visit and share the full proposal

tideturning

To repeat as per Monday’s post

A Provisional Timetable of Activity

We are looking to use the National Youth Work Week, November 6 – 12, as a point of reference, especially as its theme is:

Youth Services: youth work for today and tomorrow

Our hope is that a diversity of local and regional meetings will take place in and around this week, although not necessarily so. For the moment we are not envisaging an explicitly national event. Thus, from now, we are taking a two-pronged approach.

We are approaching specific people to act as organisers of regional gatherings.
We are hoping very much that this initiative will resonate with our readers/supporters and that you will feel moved to organise meetings at a local level, however small or large. To repeat, please feel free to get your act together as you think fit.

In some ways, our ‘Is the tide turning?’ initiative is a test of our collective energy and sense of purpose. We believe together we can rise to the challenge. We hope you agree.

The idea of an educated public’: ‘One can only think for oneself if one does not think by oneself’ [Alasdair McIntyre (1987)]

For more information and to let us know you are throwing your questioning hat into the ring of critical debate, contact isthetideturning@gmail.com

Is the tide turning? An IDYW initiative that means little without you.

 

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Is the tide turning?

Policy proposals for youth work: A discussion paper.

                                         In Defence of Youth Work, Summer 2017

Summary

It is likely that local authority youth services will have disappeared by 2020. Yet in the aftermath of the 2017 general election, there are renewed possibilities for state-supported open youth work. This discussion paper will argue that progressive, political parties, focused on the common good rather than private interest, should make an explicit commitment to open, universal, all year round youth work. In order to put this commitment into practice, the following questions need further discussion:

  • Should local authority youth services be reopened, or are there different ways that state-supported youth work can be organised?
  • What principles should underpin the revival of open youth work?
  • How can these changes be made feasible in terms of funding, infrastructure and staffing?

We encourage you to discuss these questions informally and in organised groups, with young people, colleagues, students, friends, policy makers, decision makers, campaigners and activists. We are conscious that our thinking relates most directly to youth work in England and Wales, but hope that its argument will have resonance for practitioners in Scotland and Northern Ireland. All feedback will be greatly valued.

tideturning

isthetideturningfinal – the discussion paper in full {WORD}

isthe tideturningfinal – the discussion paper in full {PDF}

A Provisional Timetable of Activity

We are looking to use the National Youth Work Week, November 6 – 12, as a point of reference, especially as its theme is:

Youth Services: youth work for today and tomorrow

Our hope is that a diversity of local and regional meetings will take place in and around this week, although not necessarily so. For the moment we are not envisaging an explicitly national event. Thus, from now, we are taking a two-pronged approach.

  1. We are approaching specific people to act as organisers of regional gatherings.
  2. We are hoping very much that this initiative will resonate with our readers/supporters and that you will feel moved to organise meetings at a local level, however small or large. To repeat, please feel free to get your act together as you think fit.

On Wednesday we will post a proposal offering a possible template based on the discussion paper, which might be useful as you get your head around planning a meeting.

In some ways, our ‘Is the tide turning?’ initiative is a test of our collective energy and sense of purpose. We believe together we can rise to the challenge. We hope you agree.

‘The idea of an educated public’: ‘One can only think for oneself if one does not think by oneself’ [Alasdair McIntyre (1987)]

For more information and to let us know you are throwing your questioning hat into the ring of critical debate, contact isthetideturning@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Youth work, performativity and the new youth impact agenda: getting paid for numbers? – Tania de St Croix

 

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Tania de St Croix

 

The ‘impactful’ youth organisation relies on self-improving youth workers and self-improving young people – ideal entrepreneurial, neoliberal subjects.

Continuing the debate on the youth impact agenda Tania de St Croix, a member of the IDYW steering group, has published a provocative, yet nuanced, incisive and widely-researched article, Youth work, performativity and the new youth impact agenda: getting paid for numbers? in the Journal of Education Policy. I’d be tempted to say it is robust and rigorous, if that tired phrase had not been done to death and lost all meaning. Its appearance is timely, coming only a few days before the Centre for Youth Impact’s gathering in London, Shaping the future of impact measurement. Her shot across the bows of the ‘impacteers’ is that their fixation threatens to marginalise further open access, process-centred youth work. A distinctive strength of her analysis is that it is grounded in her research project’s face-to-face engagement with part-time youth workers and volunteers, often a silent and silenced constituency.

Abstract

A growing policy emphasis on measurement and outcomes has led to cultures of performativity, which are transforming what educators do and how they feel about themselves in relation to their work. While most analysis of performativity in education has focused on schools, this article investigates parallel developments in youth work. Youth work is a practice of informal education, in which young people learn and develop through activities, conversation and association. Its evaluation and monitoring have changed over the past two decades, as funding has become tied to targets and measureable outcomes. This article focuses on the English context, where government and third sector organisations are promoting a ‘youth impact agenda’, encouraging organisations to predefine and measure their outcomes. Drawing on data from interviews and focus groups with youth workers, the article argues that the current emphasis on impact risks further marginalising youth work at a time when this practice is already suffering from extensive spending cuts. The article concludes that we need to re-think the purposes and processes of evaluation and accountability – in youth work and beyond – in ways that genuinely value the perspectives of young people and grassroots practitioners.

A brief excerpt to whet the appetite:

Open youth work is particularly unsuited to ‘measurement’ because of its open-ended nature and its basis in peer group learning and informal education. Rather than outcomes being defined in advance, they emerge in negotiation with young people, and the focus is likely to shift and develop in relation to the specific individuals and groups attending, their needs and interests, and the changing social and political context in which they take place. The everyday activities of open youth work can even appear chaotic or purposeless to an outsider: perhaps a rowdy game of cards is in progress in a corner; another group is gathered around chatting and laughing; some people are painting a mural; others appear to be in deep and serious conversation by the kettle. These ‘everyday’ situations are supplemented with more structured elements introduced in negotiation with young people (perhaps an outdoor activities residential or making a film); ‘projects’ that are easier to report on. What is more difficult to describe, let alone measure, is the long-term relationship-based engagement that is at the core of the work, and without which specific projects would be less likely to happen; there is a significant focus in open youth work on process, on what happens ‘between the cracks’ and over time. It is this emphasis on and celebration of the informal and the open-ended that brings youth work into conflict with cultures of managerial accountability and performativity.

My one reservation is that Tania does not pursue what I think is a debilitating consequence of datafication, namely fabrication. Getting paid for by numbers leads to numbers being made up. This tendency is systemic. From my conversations, there is no reason to believe youth work is exempt from this malady.  Perhaps I exaggerate and it would appear that this issue did not emerge explicitly within Tania’s research. Or perchance it remains suppressed.

In a piece, Threatening Youth Work,  I put together with Marilyn Taylor the following exchange takes place.

I’m sure some people will be deeply offended by the implication that results, the need to compete are undermining the integrity of practice.

 
Without doubt, it is happening. To return to the overall argument made by Toby Lowe, his research into Outcomes-based Management reveals that wherever it is being used – in the Health Service, in Social Services, in Housing – ‘gaming’ occurs. To put it bluntly, the need to meet targets and outcomes leads managers and workers into manipulating and fabricating the data. As Toby is at pains to say this is not about maverick individuals, bad apples. ‘Gaming’, falsifying the figures, is a systemic dilemma. It is the consequence of a flawed approach to evaluating the purpose and quality of practice. As things stand youth work has invested its very soul into the Outcomes project. Whilst workers will talk off the record about malpractice, the cost of blowing the whistle would be enormous. It would be perceived as an act of treason.

New development: The paradox of outcomes—the more we measure, the less we understand – Toby Lowe

Standing up for being counted: The Centre For Youth Impact responds to Tony Taylor’s critique

 

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Photo from the March 16 conference pinched unashamedly from the CYI web site

 

A few weeks ago I linked to a piece I’d scribbled for the new look Youth & Policy – Treasuring, but not measuring: Personal and social development. I must confess to being pleased that the Centre for Youth Impact has felt moved to respond in a generous, yet inevitably critical way in a blog, jointly written by Bethia McNeil, Pippa Knott and Matt Hill, the Centre’s core team – Standing up for being counted: When treasuring is measuring, and why we might need a rethink. Within it, they seek to address the challenges found in the current dominant measurement framework and propose a rethink of the value of measurement in youth work.

The blog opens as follows:

Back in March this year, we hosted an event focused on measurement in personal and social development. We were really pleased to see Tony Taylor’s recent article in Youth and Policy, following up on the discussion, and agree that it would have been most beneficial had there been more time and space to explore the themes. Indeed, these themes are so vital that we felt moved to add our voice to Tony’s in this blog. Overall, we were struck at the many points where we agree with Tony’s forthright critique of the dominant paradigm in impact measurement, but there also remain some areas of fundamental disagreement – perhaps as might be expected in such a complex and contested area.

and comment:

We agree that it might be harder to ‘measure’ the impact of youth work than other more targeted or narrowly defined forms of work with young people – but, for us, this demands that we develop how we measure and understand what really counts about youth work, and via a process that enriches rather than undermines practice.

I hope very much you will find time to absorb their argument in full and, as they propose, join a crucial and continuing discussion.

For my part, I’d like to respond afresh, but for the moment I’m struck by the significance of the position they articulate part way through the blog.

Our stance is that measurement is a fundamentally human activity that is woven into every aspect of our lives, and which helps us make sense of the world around us.

Changing just one word in this sentence captures, at least for me, perhaps the essence of our differing perspectives.

‘Our stance is that judgement is a fundamentally human activity that is woven into every aspect of our lives, and which helps us make sense of the world around us.’

To put it another way, we make judgements all of the time in our daily lives, whilst we take measurements only when appropriate.

And the debate will certainly continue in a week’s time at The Centre for Youth Impact Gathering 2017: Shaping the future of impact measurement

taking place on 11 September 2017, 10:00 – 16:30 at Platform Islington, Hornsey Road Baths, 2 Tiltman Place, London N7 7EE.

I’m not sure if there are still places available, but visit the above link to find out. I’d love to be there.