Where Next for our Campaign? – Tom Wylie responds

Hopefully fuelling further exchanges Tom Wylie responds to the discussion paper, Where Next for the IDYW Campaign?



May I make  brief comments on a few aspects of this challenging paper .

On ‘the voluntary relationship ‘

There is a danger in being too precious about this component. If a youngster decides to play in a Sunday football team is this youth work ? Probably not because we see youth work as containing other features. For me these include a focus on personal ,social and political education ;the deployment of particular approaches including experiential learning; and the presence of a particular  value base (along the lines originally expressed by Bernard Davies and now in IDYW papers). A voluntary relationship ,sometimes within constrained structural arrangements , is an important aspect of these values but not a principle.

On ‘outcomes’. IDYW is a campaign , not an academic discussion. So  we need to consider the battleground . Of course if people want to do youth work without public subsidy towards their wages they can proceed as they like. But commonly,and increasingly , it is in competition with all manner of  public services. Saying  ‘we have convivial conversations and take it from there…’ is not likely to prove a particularly convincing argument in a struggle for resources . It is also possible to come at the issue of outcomes in different  ways. For example , as targets defined in advance  for individuals or cohorts; or as a way of reporting the results of interventions . At the very least ,it seems to me, youth work needs to be able to identify the groups with whom it intends to work ,to identify the kinds of experiences and relationships it aspires to offer ,and to demonstrate-with metrics as well as stories- the beneficial consequences of the work.  

On pragmatism  ,Bernard has posted elsewhere on the tensions for managers as well as workers of operating within contemporary structures, both in local authorities and the voluntary sector, I wish to make a comment on the national scene. Staff in these bodies can also be constrained by their sources of income. Not simply because the cash is usually tied to specific programmes but also because governments of any colour don’t like criticism of their policies. But we should expect leaders of national bodies at least to be making a coherent  case in public for the benefits of youth work;when did you last see any national youth work figure reported in the national press or appearing on national TV or radio ?

The IDYW campaign is playing a useful role in encouraging many field –based colleagues to keep battling on in the face of major cuts to services. The recent US elections should give us pause. It is possible to maintain an ideological purity which pleases one’s core supporters (ask the Republicans what happened next ). Or a campaign can  blend passion, solidarity and data to pursue a cause (give Barack Obama a call ) .    

Tom Wylie

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