Colin Brent reports on the recent initiative, he is leading, to revive and extend the place of regional seminars in the argumentative, challenging life of IDYW.
On Friday 18th November, the first of what we hope be a series of seminars on issues that affect youth work practice took place in London and Liverpool. The London seminar took place in the UNISON headquarters in Euston, and brought together youth workers from London, Bedfordshire and Northampton to discuss the ethics of banning young people from youth work provision.
In a context of dwindling resources, and evermore pressure to become more targeted, the seminar grappled with some of the issues at the heart of youth work. Why youth work? And with whom? Given that any provision is riven with power dynamics and acknowledging how peer networks can exclude as well as include, how do we decide who can access our provision and how? And how do we, as youth workers, work to try to assuage oppressive power dynamics, such as in gang related activities, whilst still remaining relevant to the realities of young people’s lives? If a young person or a group of young people are preventing, by their mere presence, other young people accessing provision, then should they be asked to leave?
There are no easy answers to these questions, but some of the ideas that came out were about how we create inclusive spaces, where young people learn to tolerate and be tolerated. We discussed how to include young people into projects, such as participation projects, where they might not have felt able to access. The decision to not ban young people who expect, from all of their other contacts with schools, youth justice, the police, to always be pushed away, was seen as a powerful sign that we are different, and that the spaces we work within create a different dynamic. The need sometimes to ban young people who are threatening completely to undermine the fabric of this space was also acknowledged.
As always when you get a group of youth workers in a room, the discussions will weave in an array of dilemmas, reflections and frustrations, and linking up with the group in Liverpool at the end seemed to confirm this. We hope to continue with these seminars, with another one in three months’ time.
It would be great if we could add other regions to the debate, so please contact me at email@example.com if you would like to get involved. Any ideas for the topic of the next seminar are similarly welcome.