Turning the Tide in Birmingham, November 8 – Have your say

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK

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(In partnership with Birmingham Association of Youth Clubs

and Youth Work Europe)

 

presents

 

“IS THE TIDE TURNING?”

a BIG CONVERSATION for youth workers

                                                              

Wednesday 8th November

10.30 – 13.30

BAYC

581 Pershore Road

Birmingham

                   B29 7EL                      

 

“Should local authority youth services be re-opened, or are there different ways that state-supported youth work can be organised?”

 

“What principles should underpin the revival of open youth work?”

 

“How can these changes be made feasible in terms of funding, infrastructure and staffing?”

 

Responses will be fed back to In Defence of Youth Work

for analysis and dissemination.

 

Please RSVP

to John Grace:     j.grace@yweu.eu

or Ed Wright:     ed.wright@bayc.org

 

In preparation for this event, colleagues may wish to read an article by

Bernard Davies in the May edition of Youth and Policy (pp24-44):

http://www.youthandpolicy.org/y-and-p-archive/issue-116/

 

And the paper “Is the tide turning?” by In Defence of Youth Work at:

https://indefenceofyouthwork.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/isthe-tideturningfinal.pdf

Using Sport as a ‘tool’ in Youth Work – more than a few questions

Ta to healthyliving.az.central

Funnily enough, I came into youth work as a part-timer, given the responsibility for running the gym in a magnificent, rambling building, formerly the National Coal Board’s Centre for apprentices – hence the facilities. Thus, sweating profusely, doing sport together with young people was my passport into making relationships. This said it was contradictory. Long ago I tried to write something about anti-sexist practice with young men,  the tensions of trying to be anti-sexist in the football or rugby team.

Any road there’s been a conversation on Facebook about the role of sport in youth work. which gives me the excuse to post a link to Sean Harte’s challenging dissertation.

Taking Sides – “A critical sociological analysis of competitive sport as a medium for democratic youth work”

Sean is concerned that it was written a few years ago, but I think its argument retains its pertinence. And to add, it’s a pleasure to rescue a dissertation/essay from post-qualification oblivion. If you’ve got a piece, which you think is worth sharing, just get in touch.

Sean’s foreword is as follows:

Some supporters of the notion that sport builds character suggest that `it’s not the winning that’s important, it’s the taking part’. The lyrics from the song below perhaps suggest that many supporters and participants of sport have a very different outlook on what is important …

 

WE’RE GONNA WIN

 

WE’RE GONNA WIN

DON’T WANNA BE A LOSER – GONNA WIN

CUZ WINNIN’ REALLY IS THE ONLY THING

GET OUT OF THE WAY WE’RE COMING IN

IF YA WANNA FIGHT JUST STEP INSIDE THE RING

DOES ANYBODY WANNA TAKE A SWING?

IT’S GOTTA BE ALL OR NOTHING

OH YEH WE’RE GONNA BE THE CHAMPIONS

YA WE’RE GOIN’ ALL THE WAY

WE’RE GONNA WIN

 

WE’RE GONNA WIN

FORGET ABOUT A DRAW – WE GONNA SCORE

AND THEN WE’RE GONNA GET A FEW MORE

MAYBE ANOTHER ONE JUST TO BE SURE

WE’LL MAKE YA LOOK JUST LIKE AN AMATEUR

UNTIL THE FINAL WHISTLE IT’S A WAR

AND THEN WE GONNA PICK YA OF THE FLOOR

WE WANNA HEAR THE CROWD REALLY ROAR

YA – WE’RE COMIN’ IN WE GONNA WIN WIN

 

WE’RE GONNA WIN – WE WANNA WIN

CUZ NUMBER ONE IS EVERYTHING

WE’RE GONNA WIN – WE WANNA WIN

WE’RE GONNA BE THE CHAMPIONS

WE’RE GONNA WIN

 

Written by Bryan Adams and R. I. Lange

©1996 Badams Music Ltd. / Zomba Music Publishers Ltd.

The formal vs informal clash: the challenges of ethnographic research with young people in a youth drop-in context

Latest from Youth & Policy

ethnography

Reflecting on experiences in a current ethnographic research project, Phoebe Hill discusses the particular challenges around consent and ethics when undertaking research in informal youth settings.

The formal vs informal clash: the challenges of ethnographic research with young people in a youth drop-in context

Just an extract from this excellent, self-critical piece,

One final challenge of carrying out ethnographic research in a youth drop-in environment is around your role as researcher. Although young people may know that you are a researcher, they may relate to you as they do to all other adults in the drop-in space: as a youth worker. This creates ‘ethical speedbumps’(Weis and Fine 2000) which catch you off guard in the field, and throw you into quandaries about how and who to be in moments that you aren’t expecting.

Take the following example. I was sat with Charlotte in the quiet room at the drop-in. We were talking about life, and she mentioned that she was being bullied at school. I asked her what was going on, and she shared that she was receiving constant messages on her phone throughout the day and night from the people bullying her. She concluded by saying, ‘No one loves me. No one wants me here. I wish I wasn’t here.’ Without thinking about it or being able to ponder the ethics and intricacies of what I ‘should do’ in this moment, my researcher ‘hat’ was tossed aside and the youth worker and human part of me leapt to the foreground, blurting out: ‘I love you! I want you here!’. Charlotte smiled and said thanks, and the conversation moved on. I’ve reflected on this moment many times since. What should I have done? Not offered any sort of personal opinion or in any way ‘disrupted’ the environment? Charlotte was clearly inviting more from me in that moment than to be a researcher. She was crying out for help. She was asking me to be a youth leader, a human being. I don’t know if I made the right call. This is another of the challenges of being ‘in deep’ in the field with young people, because in actual fact they don’t care who you are – researcher, youth leader. In those moments, they simply want somebody, anybody, willing to listen.

 

 

Hidden Faces – young people leaving care speak out

Alison Wilkinson gets in touch with this important message and moving video, hoping in particular that you will use the resource and let her know you’ve done so.

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National Care Leavers Week 2017

I am writing to you in my role as Youth Services Manager for Bournville Village Trust (BVT), a housing association in the West Midlands founded by George Cadbury in 1900.

Part of my role at BVT involves the strategic management of our supported living scheme for 16-18 year old care leavers, and it is particularly in my role as advocate for them, in which I write to you.

Currently, there are around 94,000 young people in care in the UK*; that’s the same as the amount of people who were estimated to attend Reading Festival this year! There has been a 7% increase in children in care since 2010 and that figure is still rising*.

National Care Leavers Week 2017 runs from the 25th October to 1st November and aims to highlight some of the challenges that care leavers face daily, as well as raise the profile of some of the fantastic work that happens in partnership with, or because of, care leavers.

Earlier this year, BVT had the pleasure of working with Rage Arts on a 4-week film project for the Urban Film Club, which empowers young people to make a professional film of their choice over 3 weeks. Our group were passionate about making a film which challenged the stereotypes of care leavers and positively raised their profile. The result is one of this year’s finalists in Bottle Smoke Film Festival: ‘Hidden Faces’.  

The script is an amalgamation of experiences and observations informed by the groups collective entering and growing up through the care system. It is a powerful and poignant piece of theatre from which the group hope positive discussions about those in and leaving care, will emerge.

 

 

The theme this year of National Care Leavers Week is ‘togetherness’ and so, it’s fitting that ‘Hidden Faces’ questions how much a part of society young people leaving local authority care feel.

I asked one of the young people what she thought about showing ‘Hidden Faces’ to a group of delegates at a conference next week, her reply was “I think everyone should see it, it explains how a lot of us feel”. I asked her what she meant by that and she elaborated:
“People think, assume, that everyone comes from a ‘normal’ background. They don’t. Not everyone. And sometimes, obviously not everyone, but a lot of people who go through care, well, they have other problems too. Like, they feel rejected by people, sometimes their parents, sometimes other people; or they don’t have or know their family at all. A lot of people I know in care have a hard time. They find it hard to trust people and they have problems. Depression and that. They self-harm or get really angry and no one understands why, sometimes they don’t understand why even! I’m about to move into my own property as I turn18. I’ve decorated it and all that, but I don’t know….I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel like I deserve it; it feels like things are going too well, and I’m waiting for it to fall apart.”
Another care leaver who I spoke with a few weeks ago, who is now a mum in her 40s said something similar:
“I was angry when I was younger. I didn’t know what I was angry about, but I was angry. I’d go round to friend’s houses for tea, and because I went to a school in a nice area; those houses were really big and really nice; and I felt…like I was trespassing in some way, like I didn’t belong there, I was out of place. And that made me angry too. And upset.”

 
The young people who made ‘Hidden Faces’ wanted to show the depths of complexity and emotion that can surround a care leaver’s life, and inspire both care leavers and wider society to recognise this, but not allow it to limit their ambitions in life! We recognise of course there is much more to this subject, this is just the start of a much wider discourse which social and political commentary will undoubtedly play a part.

 
If you decide to use the film, could I please ask you to fill in the accompanying data form to the best of your ability. We are trying to track how widely the message is spread and to reach at least 2,000 people in this next week and a half. If you are sharing on social media could I ask you to use the hashtags: #HiddenFaces and #NCLW17 and include our Twitter handle @BVTNews This will help enormously with the data collection.

National Care leavers Week 2017 Data Monitoring Form

Making up the Numbers – the elephant in the room

In this piece, Tania de St Croix continues our ongoing and necessary debate about the ramifications of the impact/outcomes/ measurement agenda upon a process-led open youth work.

fiddling

Making up the numbers?

 

Do youth workers ‘make up’ numbers in order to demonstrate measureable outcomes? In a recent article, I argued that open access youth work is disadvantaged by an increasing policy emphasis on measureable impact. (The article is available open access here: Youth work, performativity and the new youth impact agenda: getting paid for numbers?). In a thoughtful post on this site, Tony Taylor responded:

 

“My one reservation is that Tania does not pursue what I think is a debilitating consequence of datafication, namely fabrication. Getting paid for by numbers leads to numbers being made up. This tendency is systemic. From my conversations, there is no reason to believe youth work is exempt from this malady.  Perhaps I exaggerate and it would appear that this issue did not emerge explicitly within Tania’s research. Or perchance it remains suppressed.”

 

I agree that fabrication and gaming are an intrinsic aspect of the datafication of public and voluntary services. The concept of fabrication is explored by Stephen Ball in his 2003 article, ‘The Teacher’s Soul and the Terrors of Performativity’:

 

“Fabrications are versions of an organisation (or person) which does not exist – they are not ‘outside the truth’ but neither do they render simply true or direct accounts – they are produced purposefully in order to be accountable. Truthfulness is not the point – the point is their effectiveness… their transformational and disciplinary impact” (emphasis added).

 

In the research for my book, Grassroots Youth Work: Policy, Passion and Resistance in Practice, I interviewed part-time and volunteer youth workers, and reflected on my own experiences as a practitioner. I discussed several instances of what could be seen as fabrication (see chapter 4):

 

  • Youth workers awarded young people ‘easy’ certificates and accreditations for things they could do anyway, irrespective of their youth work participation, and counted these as ‘outcomes’. (Many of these certificates were condescending at best; AQA unit 83522 ‘Making tea or coffee’ was the most striking and oft-repeated example.)
  • Young people were ‘incentivised’ with a trip, pizza, cash, and expensive motorbike competence courses, in return for attending, filling out paperwork, or completing a course.
  • Youth workers exaggerated the nature of their project’s achievements in multi-agency meetings.
  • Managers recorded the results of ‘easy to evidence’ projects, sometimes even creating these projects for that purpose, to enable less ‘countable’ projects to happen.

 

When workers shared such tactics – many of which I have used myself – it was often with a palpable sense of embarrassment, sometimes even shame. Blatant ‘making up’ of numbers was not discussed; perhaps it was hidden, but in most cases it was probably just unnecessary. After all, the best lies are usually those that are closest to the truth. It seemed to me that workers were pressured to ‘get their numbers up’, and they were probably expected to use gaming practices, but these were left deliberately opaque (thus it was often grassroots workers left to take most of the risk):

 

“Part of the ‘game’ is knowing which fabrications are desirable and which are unacceptable. Workers are kept guessing: how far should the truth be pushed and made to bend? Should we prepare a special session when the inspectors are due? Should we add a young person’s name to the attendance list if they only popped in for a moment? Should we share our doubts and false starts when we attend a neighbourhood meeting, or focus only on our achievements? Knowing which compromises are acceptable and which are straying too far from the truth requires a deep and habitual familiarity with systems of judgement. These games are complicated; cheating is frowned upon, but providing wholly honest versions will not make the grade.” (Grassroots Youth Work, p.91).

 

Fabrication is a useful concept, precisely because it shines a light on the murky area between truth and lies; it also makes me think about the (sometimes overlapping) impulses of conformity and resistance that are often characteristic of a commitment to youth work. Workers feel compelled to engage in inauthentic practices they do not believe in, yet to some extent this ‘gaming’ of the system is also a form of rebellion that buys space for ‘real’, ‘meaningful’, and less measurable forms of practice.

 

Like Tony, I am interested in what kinds of fabrications will become systemic under the influence of newer impact mechanisms such as ‘pre and post tests’, comparison groups, and Randomised Control Trials. Working these days in a research institution, my sense is that such methods – especially when carried out without the academic rigour of ethical approval processes and peer review – are highly vulnerable to distortion. A number of tactics come to mind, including but not restricted to:

  • focusing practice – or at least its evaluation – on the ‘most engaged’ and ‘most amenable’ young people;
  • measuring a large number of indicators, in the hope that some will ‘prove’ significant;
  • exaggerating the importance of small effect sizes;
  • burying negative evidence; and,
  • presenting data in inaccessible or incomplete ways.

 

The feelings invoked by numbers and ‘scientific’ data in a field are important here. Without clear and transparent communication, numbers can act to obscure, legitimise, and exclude. As a consequence of the neoliberal fashion for measuring and monetising everything, we can be almost certain of a continuing increase in the emphasis on targetted ‘projects’ and ‘interventions’ at the expense of open youth work. If I was a youth work manager now, I might well feel compelled to ensure that we had some easily ‘measurable’ projects, with clear and achievable ‘outcomes’. Of course, I would do my best to make space for grassroots youth work too; but this means that open youth work will continue to exist only where passionate individuals fight to make space for it, rather than being available to young people by right. Surely this is not acceptable.

Is the tide turning in Northampton?

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In Defence of Youth Work presents:

Is the
tide
turning?

Reimagining the future possibilities for youth work

A series of discussions based on IDYW’s paper on the
future of youth work in the light of the 2017 election
result.

  • Should local authority youth services be reopened, or are there different ways that state-supported youth work can be organised?
  • What principles should underpin the revival of open youth work?
  • How can these changes be made feasible in terms of funding, infrastructure and staffing?

Latest event in Northampton

Thursday 9th November, 6.30-8pm at Nene Whitewater Centre, Bedford Road, Northampton, NN4 7AA.

For more info/book a place, contact jodie.low@free2talkcic.org

The full discussion paper can be found here – Is the tide turning?