Bethia McNeil muses on the dilemmas of naming and measuring youth work


Our relationship with the Centre for Youth Impact [CYI] remains inevitably delicate. We are deeply cautious about the consequences of its perspective for a process-led, person-centred youth work practice. However, we have sought to be in critical dialogue with CYI and this desire has been reciprocated. Hence it’s important to engage with Bethia McNeil’s New Year’s musings on what she sees as key issues in the ongoing debate about the relationship between something we call youth work and the heterogeneous layer of humanity we call young people.

Thoughts From The Centre – to be found in the very useful CYI Newsletter
This month, Bethia has been mostly thinking about…

  • What is the most meaningful language in which to talk about provision for young people? Does it make sense to talk about different ‘fields’ of practice? Or approaches? Or even practices? And what about ethics, values and principles? To what extent is shared learning held back by a lack of common language and/or understanding?
  • What is the relationship between ‘organisational’ or ‘practice improvement’ and improvement in outcomes for young people? Are there common areas of improvement, or is it more nuanced? How much is about systems and processes, and how much about relationships?
  • How can we value the act of measurement as much as the data that we are gathering? It feels like there are fractures on both sides of this issue at the moment: there is widespread antipathy towards the act of measurement and its impact on youth provision, and similarly a scepticism that the data gathered can tell us anything meaningful about our engagement with young people. Where to start?
  • What do we actually mean when we talk about ‘what works’? To what extent is this in the eye of the beholder?


If I can get my act together I’ll scribble some sort of response to these pertinent questions in the coming week, but it would be brilliant if other folk contributed.

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