Continuing a Conversation – Is IDYW too political, out of touch? Colin's final thoughts for now!

Find below Colin’s response to replies to his initial post from Bernard Davies and Tony Taylor. For the moment each of us is calling a temporary halt to the conversation, hoping that others might contribute. Please send thoughts to Tony at or post on Facebook, where there have been a number of responses.

Dear Tony and Bernard,

Firstly, I would like to stress my respect both for the work you have both put into IDYW and how you have gone about it.  As Tony rightly points out, to keep a movement like this going for 5 years, when it could so easily has fizzled out, is a significant achievement.  I do not think IDYW is out of touch, if so I would not be interested in being involved with it.  My main concern is with the perception of IDYW – I also do not feel, and believe I have not said, that it is dogmatic, but rather that this is how many people see it, and this possibly prevents them from getting more actively involved.  However, there is always room for improvement.  I do find it slightly disappointing that these points (that IDYW is out of touch and dogmatic) are both conclusions that have been taken from my original email.  Similarly, I am not suggesting that IDYW becomes apolitical. I am merely suggesting that we must find ways that engage rather than turn off a wider audience.  The fact that many youth workers, in line with the general public, are deeply politically disenfranchised should be seen as a challenge.  How can we reach them and get them involved, or at least aware, of the campaign?  I suggest that we do this with the best of youth work principles, ‘starting where they are’.  So let’s not bombard people with yet more Politics with a capital P, but rather engage with youth workers around their experiences.

As Bernard rightly points out, the story-telling workshops have been but very successful in doing this. I think that they are by far been the most valuable thing IDYW has done in terms of developing practice in line with what we see as youth work values.  Since the workshop Bernard and Tania ran at my workplace, there has been a real shift in the way practice is both seen and evaluated, and I believe this has also affected real practice on the ground.  Maybe we need to make sure that the resulting stories, where possible, appear on the website.

As regards my ‘baulking’ colleagues, most enjoy the ‘This is Youth Work’ book, and few read academic papers or go to conferences, so their opinion of IDYW would not have been influenced there.  Rather, I feel their attitude reflects a wider societal one that left-wing protest politics has little relevance to mainstream society.  This can be evidenced by the relative lack of popular out-cry over the refinancing of the banks.  And despite the cuts hurting more than ever, many people still cling onto individualised goals, with too little solidarity based action.   I have too often experienced, as I’m sure you both have, how easy people find it to write off my opinions as ‘red propaganda’ without even listening to what I am saying.  The question is, do we keep saying it, because we believe it to be right, although we know some people will never listen, or do we find a different way of saying it, at the risk of losing sight of our values?  I don’t know

I also recognise the achievements in terms of visits to the facebook page and website, and the views expressed there.  However, I think we need to find a way to listen to those youth workers who are not involved in the campaign, for whatever reason.  It is a pity that my suggestion that some youth workers find the overt politics IDYW off-putting, indeed unrepresentative, has been met with such defensive answers.  Wouldn’t it be better instead to ask how we can win them over?  After all, they are our colleagues, not our enemies.

Obviously we have differences of opinion, as is only natural.  If I did not care deeply about both the future of youth work and IDYW then I would not get involved.  I do not claim in any way to represent face-to-face youth workers in general, and likewise maybe I have not attended enough IDYW events to build a full picture, but I hope my comments can be of some use.

All the best



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