The Commonwealth Secretariat has published a major report, ‘Youth Work in the Commonwealth: A Growth Profession’ which seeks to establish a baseline of youth work in the Commonwealth.
The foreword begins:
More than 60 percent of the population of the Commonwealth is aged under 30,
and young people’s unique needs and capabilities, and the importance of their role in
national development, have been the central premise of the Commonwealth Youth
Programme for over four decades. This is also enshrined in the Commonwealth
Charter, which recognises ‘the positive and active role and contributions of young
people in promoting development, peace, democracy and in protecting and promoting
other Commonwealth values, such as tolerance and understanding, including respect
for other cultures’.
Youth workers have an essential, but often under-recognised and under-resourced,
role in engaging and supporting young people to be these positive and productive
citizens who contribute to national peace and prosperity.
At the launch of the publication, Brian Belton, the lead writer, made a presentation, which is to be found here in full – Belton commonwealth
These excerpts should whet your appetite.
Build a Collaborative Vision of what youth work is
We need a collaborative vision of what youth work is, what it can (and can’t do) and be prepared to review and develop this according to the changing needs of young people and global economic and social considerations. But this needs to be informed by a broad base, not just ‘northern’ and ‘academic’ interpretations, but particularly practices developed and pioneered, at the grassroots level, in the global south.
One definition of ‘academic’ is “not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest”. We love our theories for sure, but so often they are made to look pallid on exposure to reality. What youth work is, how it might effectively be done, cannot be satisfactorily cobbled together from behind the walls of the ivory towers.
Establish and implement supervision frameworks
Supervision is what differentiates youth work as a reflective practice that advances via dialogue and dialectical processes. It encompasses the main tool of youth work, focused and questioning examination of phenomena and circumstances; it is the basis of accountability and so ethical and rights-based practice. Supervision is a means of managing, evaluating and supporting practitioners and practice and a means to promote learning from the same.
However, without investment in the base, we will be that much less likely to know what it is that works in youth work and therefore less able to ensure the continued growth of a sector that can make full use of professional practices and understanding. I put it to you that the latter situation, where there is relatively little invested in the base, is one ensured to be fraught with frustration and inefficiency, as well-educated but effectively practically naive professionals lead young people to destinations premised more on hope and grand ideals than couched in a broad knowledge of practicalities and possibilities.
The comprehensive and challenging report can be downloaded as a pdf.