Towards an Open Conference on the Future of Youth Work

The following self-explanatory letter has been circulated on behalf of our Campaign.  Already there have been positive responses, tempered sometimes with caution. Certainly we stand by our concern that significant sections of those involved in youth work seem to be sleepwalking into the suffocating clutches of the market, mumbling monotonously that there is no alternative. However it may be that we are the comatose ones, failing to wake up to today’s new dawn.  Time therefore for all of us to heed the alarm and join in a serious exchange of opinion about the future of youth work.

To Choose Youth Partners, NCVYS, NCIA and Youth & Policy,

The first half of this year has seen our Campaign continuing its commitment to critical debate about the state of youth work today. Our defence of youth work leads inexorably to questioning the future of youth work. Thus we have made a number of informal overtures to leading players within youth work about the possibility of organising a pluralist and accessible conference, which grapples with the issues facing all of us.

To take but one example, we are concerned deeply about what we view as the uncritical embrace of the business model in the so-called ‘youth sector market’. In response we are criticised for failing to engage with ‘new ways’ and ‘new thinking’. At the very least this clash of opinion needs to be out in the open – not least because there is a growing wider argument about whether there is ‘a common good’, which cannot and should not be calculated by the market.

At a minimum, if we are true to the critical and democratic tradition within youth work, we ought to engage together with the contradictions of our differing perspectives. With this in mind we are suggesting that under the banner of Choose Youth such a conference comes to pass and that a working group, reflecting our differences, is charged with its organisation.

Your responses, hopefully supportive, would be appreciated and we trust that this proposal will be discussed at the next Choose Youth meeting on May 16.


Tony Taylor [Coordinator IDYW] at


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