The following paper by Liz Archer has been written as part of the preparations for the Youth Affairs Network of Queensland [YANQ] State Youth Affairs conference, August 21/22, to which our campaign has been invited. It’s well worth a read, giving a sharp insight into how the assault on a process-led practice with young people is global as well as national.
Are you starting to get as fed up with Performance Indicators, Outcomes based funding and concepts like results-based accountability (RBA) in Queensland as I – and pretty much everyone I speak my mind to – am here in the NT? Every service agreement I can think of across youth, health and community services is now expressed in ‘outcomes’ – the number of “clients” we visit, meals we provide, hours our service is open, jobs we assist job-seekers to find and so on with performance indicators, events and milestones adding more layers of restriction to what young people are able to access from our program or service. And in this new millennia where the youth (and allied) sector has become an “industry” increasingly driven by governmental, contractual and at times organisational pressures to “Professionalise,” we have now entered the era of “results based accountability,” (RBA) imported from the For Profit sector and pioneered by the likes of Friedman.
I’ve been an avid part of and defender of the community driven youth sector and its allies since the mid-80s and I’m now truly alarmed by the increasing spread of government influence upon our ideologies, our practices, our agendas and dispirited by a convergence of attacks on these impacting at many different levels. In the 80s and 90s the youth and women’s services sectors in particular were forces to be reckoned with, nationally. We had a plethora of peaks (so many that there were even territorial disputes on occasions!), a robust, diverse and dynamic community sector and a view that encompassed much, much more than the provision of set services as being necessary to overcome the marginalisation and oppression which threatened young people, women or any other dispossessed group, for that matter. Sure, there were many community based agencies and individual practitioners who were more conservative than yours truly but we debated and hotly contested one another’s views and encouraged one another to be able to justify our respective positions from coherent, internally consistent, evidence based positions and in the end we (largely) respected and valued the idea of a diverse, practical, no nonsense sector with the combined aim of improving the lot for those who most mattered – young people. In fact, the strongest imperative back then was for all of us to place young people at the forefront of what we were trying to do and to stay true to their visions, their aspirations and above all to social justice however we saw it for our constituents.
I have been thinking about this a lot and it troubles me, deeply. It is my firm belief that with solidarity comes power. There are things we can do individually, at an agency level and at a sector-wide level to stem the tide of attacks on young people and on our NGO sector. I’m keen to discuss these more widely and am looking forward to hearing more from Tony Taylor, one of the instigators of the In Defence of Youth Work movement when we meet at YANQs State Youth Affairs Conference in Brisbane in August.
In the 80s one of our catch cries as feminists was turn fear into anger and turn anger into action. Let’s converge at YANQs Conference in August 2014 and together let’s develop real strategies to address the increasingly entrenched, individualistic policies and strategies so often imported from the “for profit” or business sectors, such as RBA and Outcomes Based funding and which are undermining the very constituents they claim to be supporting.