In the third of our briefing papers Susanna Darch and Tania de St Croix reflect on how well we have lived up to our rhetoric on making alliances.
Making Alliances : Broadening the Struggle?
Discussion paper for ‘Where are we up to? Where are we going?’, 19th & 20th January 2012
From the outset, the In Defence of Youth Work campaign has stressed the importance of making alliances. We have always felt that it is a necessity that we should play a part in the wider struggle for equality, justice and democracy. The open letter suggested in 2009 that, if we took action on youth work, we would “not be alone. Organised, dissident resistance is growing.” The past three years have shown this to be the case.
As argued in our book This is Youth Work: Stories From Practice: “Defending youth work provision is of course only one contribution to the defence of public services overall”. So, what alliances do we have already? We have sought to work closely with the trade unions, Choose Youth, the National Coalition for Independent Action [NCIA], the Social Work Action Network [SWAN], the Federation of Detached Youth Work, youth work training agencies / university courses, and various campaigns against student fees and public sector cuts. Other links may well exist informally, perhaps especially in local and regional groups, or are being developed at the moment.
How have our existing links developed? Which alliances have not flourished, and why?, Often, alliances and links work at least partly on the basis of personal connection. Some IDYW folk are active in some of these other organisations already; others have made an effort to commit themselves to going along to the meetings or conferences of some of these groups.
Despite our limited time and energy, are there things we should be doing that we’re not? For example, we have tried to keep in touch with and provide support to groups of young people defending their youth services, but should we be linked more closely with youth movements? Are there youth organisations we have been slow to approach, for instance in the so-called Faith sector and, if so, why? To what extent are we in touch with the current and recent wave of (mostly youth-led) activism: the student marches, school walk-outs, university occupations and Occupy movements? Given that we talked at our first conference in Manchester about campaigning on ‘stop and search’, should we be involved with supporting young people against increasingly violent policing, negative media coverage and repressive anti-demonstration tactics? What are the other issues of concern to young people that we could support them on? Which youth-led groups should we be looking to?
Possible questions for discussion:
What are the benefits (not just for ourselves) of working alongside or in alliance with other campaigns, organisations or networks
Are there any drawbacks or potential drawbacks to building alliances? How can we (have we) manage(d) these drawbacks?
Which organisations, campaigns and networks do we already have alliances with? What is the quality of these alliances? How can these alliances be strengthened?
What other alliances should we be building? What needs to be done and (practically) how should it be done? Who has time to do it?
A Word version of Making Alliances to print and/or circulate.