In Defence of Youth Work’s storytelling workshops emerged as a proactive response to attacks on youth work as a critical practice of informal education. Our aim was to provide evidence of the qualitative impact of youth work on young people’s lives. In doing this, we sought to demonstrate an approach that sits within the ethos of youth work and challenges a focus on ‘box ticking’ and statistical exercises that dominate the monitoring of youth work. Instead, our project focuses on gathering ‘stories of practice’ – youth workers’ and young people’s narratives of their direct experience of youth work in action, in all its complexity. Many of these stories arise from workshops, drawing on a dialogical approach to analysis initiated by Sarah Banks and others.
The lockdown has given us a chance to update our records and we felt it worth sharing our best attempts to record what we have been getting up to since 2011 in relation to the storytelling aspect of our work.
- We have carried out at least 58 workshops in a variety of youth, community and training settings, either taking participants through the storytelling method in practice, or reflecting in detail on what we can learn from storytelling in youth work.
- Approximately 1416 participants have taken part in workshops; this has included youth workers, volunteers, peer youth workers, young people, community workers including social street workers, and multi-agency groups. (Note that we do not have precise numbers of workshop attendees for some events, but this is our best estimate.)
- Resources have emerged from the storytelling workshops, including:
- Our IDYW book This is Youth Work: Stories From Practice and an accompanying video in which young people share their views on youth work.
- Our IDYW storytelling workshop resource website Story-tellinginyouthwork.com which includes reflections on storytelling and all the resources you need to run your own workshops;
- A book by youth work academics and practitioners in Japan documenting youth work stories as part of a ‘counter-documentation movement’;
- Two booklets of stories gathered in Warwickshire:
- Youth Stories of Asylum gathered by detached youth workers and used in local schools; and
- Youth Work Stories: Warwick District: Stories of ten young people’s involvement in youth work and with youth workers.
- Articles and chapters including an article in Youth and Policy and a chapter in a book on teaching youth work in Higher Education.
- The storytelling workshop method has been used in at least nine countries: England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Japan, Finland, Argentina, Czech Republic, and Kazakhstan – let us know if any countries are missing from this list that you know have engaged with IDYW’s storytelling workshops!
This is all the more impressive because the storytelling project has been carried out on a largely voluntary and unfunded basis, with over twenty youth workers involved in facilitating workshops.
We had been looking forward to our next workshop at the ‘What’s the story?’ international youth studies conference in Maynooth, and to the possibility of running a storytelling workshop with youth and community workers in New York, but these have been impeded by the current Covid-19 pandemic.
We are willing to try out the possibilities of running an online storytelling workshop on zoom; let us know if this is something you would be interested in: email@example.com