PhD Projects: Youth work in schools and Volunteering in communities

In the run up to our conference the issues of what constitutes youth work and the significance of volunteering remain central. In this context, courtesy of Annette Coburn, notice of two PhD opportunities designed to shed more light on proceedings.

Youth work in schools – connecting across boundaries in formal and informal education (PHDED002)

For at least some of us a number of assumptions in the outline of the research prompt caution.

Research has shown that when young people routinely excluded from school, engaged in youth work, they were able to achieve positive outcomes (Finlay et al. 2010, 2013). This study concluded that the infrastructure and focus on content and product in schools – which work well for many young people – do not work for all young people. This raises a question about what we do for young people for whom schooling is not working. 

The position of youth work in Scotland has been strengthened by bringing it into statute (Scottish Govt., 2013) and by integrating it into core education policy, as part of Curriculum for Excellence, which seeks ‘to build and strengthen effective partnerships between schools and youth work’ (Education Scotland, 2013, p.1). This brings opportunities for new collaborative practices in schools. This study seeks to generate new knowledge and understanding of the potentialities for youth work in schools by asking young people, teachers and youth workers about their experiences and their perceptions on the impacts these bring. 

Built on the concept of curriculum as process, ‘the focus of educational youth work is concerned with the processes which young people negotiate in order to grow in personal and social development’ (Milburn et al.1995, p.9) It is anticipated that, rather than pathologising young people who do not achieve in school, analysis will construct an asset based model for integrating youth work with school education. 

All of which renders the research project challenging and intriguing.

The impact of volunteering on communities (PHDED006)

The idea of volunteering, giving something back to a community or worthwhile cause, has underpinned philanthropic interests in the UK for over 100 years. While research has shown individual benefits to volunteers and beneficiaries (Dekker & Halman, 2003; Piliavin, 2003; Wilson & Musick, 2000), little is known about the collective impact of volunteering on communities. This is an area of importance because it has been estimated that approximately twenty two million people volunteer in the UK every year (Hudson, 2006) while voluntary involvement in governance and citizenship roles suggests a direct relationship between deep participation and feelings of connectedness and social integration (Dinham, 2007). 
This study will examine why people volunteer in order to consider their motivations for volunteering in community contexts. It will focus on how volunteering might help to build community connectedness and social cohesion in four to eight case settings. The extent to which volunteering contributes to the social economy and can enhance feelings of well-being and human flourishing will be analysed. 
To gain deep understanding of potential impacts, the research will examine different case sites, in rural and urban locations and will examine the widest possible variation in volunteering experience. For example, areas identified as experiencing high levels of deprivation and poverty will be compared to more affluent communities, and the experiences of different social groups in terms of, for example age, gender or ethnicity, will enable comparisons to be made, and conclusions drawn. The research will involve in-depth analysis of specific cases where volunteering is perceived as making an impact. 

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