Finding Common Ground : Howard Williamson’s European tour de force

euro youth forum

For most of my life I’ve regarded myself as an internationalist, inspired no doubt by the line in the Communist Manifesto, ‘working men [sic] have no country’. And yet across the years my youth work focus remained insular. I knew next to nothing about youth work outside of these shores and precious little more about Scotland, Wales and Ireland! Ironically I have been something of a tiny Englander in my outlook, notwithstanding winning finance now and again for European Youth Exchanges and the like. However in the last decade I have thrown off my national shackles and discovered European youth work in its diversity, not to mention more recently developments in Australia, Canada and the USA.  A key figure in this transformation has been Filip Coussee from the Ghent University in Flanders, with whom I began to exchange conversations and articles. His invitation to contribute to European conferences led to the renewal of my contact with Howard Williamson, Professor of European Youth Policy at the University of South Wales, whose outward looking perspective could not be more historically different than mine.

All of which is a preface to the appearance of a sweeping and challenging traversal of the European youth work landscape,’Finding Common Ground : Mapping and scanning the horizons for European youth work in the 21st century’, written by Howard for the 2nd European Youth Work Convention to be held in Brussels, April 27 – 30. I could have done with something as magisterial thirty years ago. It is a veritable tour de force and obligatory reading for anyone wanting a handle on the diversity of definitions and practices across Europe. Within its pages he elaborates in detail the following summary:

The current state of play for youth work in Europe – coupled with its history and evolution that has taken many different forms – calls for establishing whether there are today prevailing, consensual ideas throughout Europe on what youth work is and does. The 2nd European Youth Work Convention will aim at finding common ground within the diversity of youth work practice by tackling seven themes:

– The meaning, the ‘raison d’être’ of youth work
– The aims and anticipated outcomes of youth work
– The patterns and practices constituting youth work
– The connections between youth work and wider work with young people (formal education, training and employment, entrepreneurship and more)
– The recognition of youth work within and beyond the youth field
– The need for education and training for quality
– The value of youth work for young people, their communities and society at large

Read FINDING COMMON GROUND in full – well worth the effort.

POSTSCRIPT – I’ve received a late invitation to attend the Convention as Coordinator of In Defence of Youth Work, which says something significant about how we are regarded on the wider youth work scene. If I can establish a working relationship with my tablet I’ll try to post as the Convention’s activities unfold.


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