As most readers/supporters will recognise IDYW is very much a voluntary venture. It relies on a few souls to maintain its organisational presence on the youth work scene. Without wanting to exaggerate my significance I have reached a moment when for personal reasons, I need to withdraw from my role as the IDYW coordinator. With this in mind, the IDYW steering group is meeting on Friday, June 15 in Manchester to explore the consequences of my decision, which has not been taken lightly.
For information, you will find below my report circulated to the steering group, which will be used to open the discussion. Obviously, we will report back to you on the outcome of our musings.
My experience of being the IDYW Coordinator
In the end, I’ve failed to quantify the privilege/burden of being the IDYW Coordinator across almost a decade. In addition, a couple of previous efforts to provide something useful for our discussion in Manchester on June 15 have foundered on my indulgent guilt about letting the side down by withdrawing from the role.
Before dealing with the three main areas – the website, social media and administration – it’s important to say something about the issues of time, capacity and energy, which govern how much any person[s] can give to the role. To offer but two examples from my experience.
- Given I no longer sell my labour I have finished up in a position, whereby almost the first thing I do every day involves IDYW – switching on the computer, going to Gmail, Facebook, checking links etc.
- I read rapidly, voraciously and, some might say, superficially. I write laboriously and, some might say, pretentiously, giving more weight to my words than they deserve, all the while typing with one finger!
Someone else might well be much more organised, efficient and innovative, provided circumstances allow.
The IDYW website
According to the statistics, in 2017 there were 24,000 visits and 48,928 views. Significantly many visitors found their way via search engines, where IDYW is prominent, because of the level of its activity. Facebook and Twitter are also prominent in guiding people to the site. Whilst the UK boasts the most views at roughly 75%, almost 20% emanate from the USA, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Belgium.
I think this data indicates the importance of posting regularly and interestingly to the website. Hence I have seen this as a priority, but, with the above caveats in mind, this is time-consuming.
The website has never generated ongoing debate through its Comments facility.
The Social Media [Facebook and Twitter]
As of May 27, the IDYW FB page has 3,677 members. Over the years it has grown to be, I believe, the most active and wide-ranging UK youth work discussion forum. Thus I feel obliged to enter its portals more or less every day – checking for new member requests, moderating [very rarely] posts, cross-referencing with the website, picking upon links posted by members and intervening myself in discussion threads.
This last point poses a contradiction. The FB page represents our best opportunity for a continuing dialogue with our readers/supporters, yet I have chastised the Steering Group [SG] with honourable exceptions for failing to grasp this opening. However, I suspect, the FB page would survive a lack of intervention from ourselves as it has morphed increasingly into being the place to go for advice on practice, to advertise projects and jobs etc. Our dilemma is that this pluralist shift risks the forum losing its grounding in the IDYW cornerstones, especially if the website was reduced in importance.
As a matter, of course, I link all website posts to Twitter, which, as we have seen, does generate traffic, but I only visit there a couple of times a week.
This area of responsibility has fluctuated over the years and at the meeting we should visit our attempted division of labour to see how successful it has been. Without going into detail it has confirmed my sense that we need a named person, who retains an overview of what’s going on. In the past, I think my efforts to summarise where we’ve seemed up to ahead of SG meetings have been valuable.
As things stand I’m still the first port of call via email for anyone wanting to get in touch with IDYW. To repeat this very ordinary demand leads to the daily pressure to think about IDYW.
More broadly my identification as the IDYW coordinator has led to invitations to contribute in that role at national and International gatherings, for example, the forthcoming Transformative Youth Work conference in Plymouth. So too it has meant that I’ve scribbled with this head on, both individually and collaboratively over recent years, for example, the chapter, ‘The Impact of Neoliberalism upon the Character and Purpose of English Youth Work and Beyond’, written with Paula Connaughton, Tania de St Croix, Bernard Davies and Pauline Grace, to appear shortly in the Sage Handbook of Youth Work Practice.
For the moment I’ll circulate these thoughts as a first provisional assay into our debate. I would welcome questions, criticisms.