Youth workers as agents for change? A New Year perennial? A New Year challenge to be critically conscious.

As we enter 2017, not sure about you, but I’m struggling. This evening I’m going to a concert, ‘Musical Optimism for the New Year’. I’m afraid I might not catch the spirit of the occasion. Trying to write something about the state of youth work and how this relates to the divided, precarious and violent character of capitalism in turmoil has hardly calmed my anxiety.

In this context it’s always helpful to know other folk are wrestling with the same dilemmas. Hence here’s a challenging piece from Riikka Jalonen [Finland] and Farkhanda Chaudhry [Scotland], which begins:


Farkhanda and Riikaa together


It is time for the youth workers to be brave again! We need to recall the radical traditions of youth work. We can support the youth to understand the unequal power structures in society and what they can do if they want to challenge the socio-political status quo. In order to do that, firstly we need to reflect whether we want to uphold the existing unequal power structures or are we ready to challenge them? Is youth work today aspiring to those core values and ideals or has institutionalisation of youth work made us servants of the state rather than change makers? Whose purpose does this serve?

In the last decades we have noticed that the radical tradition of youth work has been fading and youth workers have been seen more and more as service providers for youth. The EU and national governments are providing youth workers resources such as training, funds and space to keep the youth out of trouble The trend is to work on the ‘problems’ that young people may face, for example, being unemployed, drugs and addiction, juvenile crime, or to be excluded from society. This model of engagement focusing on the individual has no scope for young people to collectively challenge the existing power structures. The current fear of radicalization further hinders youth workers’ possibilities of engaging young people in activities that facilitate resistance to oppression.

Read in full at

Youth workers as agents for change

In their conclusion they talk of ‘consciousness’, our sense of ourselves as individuals and our collective interdependence, what we used to call ‘personal, social and political awareness’.  Given the continuing effort to inflict on youth work simplistic explanations of both our own and young people’s so-called behaviour our new year’s resolution might well be to argue for youth work as the cultivation of critical consciousness. OK, fair enough this way of putting it is hardly snappy and a mite pretentious, but its heart is in the right place. Its desire to defend and extend youth work as a mutual, questioning dialogue free from imposed timescales, prescribed outcomes and top-down definitions of good character remains as necessary as ever.

Looking forward to arguing and struggling together in the months ahead and feeling better than when I started to scrawl these thoughts.

Best Wishes and Solidarity to friends and critics across the globe

And to keep our feet on the ground the latest news from Brighton .

There will be a Protect Youth Services campaign strategy meeting at Brighton Youth Centre this Friday (6th Jan) 5-7pm. It would be great if lots of young people could be there – please pass the word on (we can help with travel costs if needed).

In addition Brighton residents being encouraged to e-mail members of the Children Young People and Skills Committee
Tom Bewick (Labour) – Chair of CYPS Committee –
Daniel Chapman (Labour) – Deputy Chair-
Emma Daniel (Labour) –
Caroline Penn (Labour) –
Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Labour) –
Vanessa Brown (Conservative) – Conservative Spokesperson –
Nick Taylor (Conservative) –
Andrew Wealls (Conservative) –
Alex Phillips (Green) – Green Spokesperson –
Amanda Knight (Green) –


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.