As of this week an IDYW Facebook page has appeared, to be found at https://www.facebook.com/InDefenceYouthWork/

Why are we creating an In Defence of Youth Work [IDYW} Facebook Page when there is already an IDYW Facebook Group? To get a handle on this we need a bit of history. Back in 2009 as IDYW got off the ground one of our supporters sorted out a Facebook Group to further our efforts to defend the threatened tradition of open-ended, open access youth work. The Group grew in importance slowly – not everyone was comfortable with it as a platform for discussion.

However in the past few years the Group’s membership has gone through the roof, well over 5,000 at the last count. More significantly the number and diversity of posts and threads have increased dramatically as people use the Group to share information, advice and opinion about youth work and the youth sector in general. However, whilst this makes for a vibrant and busy atmosphere it means we can feel overwhelmed. There’s too much to keep up with. As all of us familiar with Facebook know posts can disappear and defeat all efforts to retrieve them. Nevertheless we have neither the mandate nor desire to change what has happened. The IDYW Facebook Group has morphed into the go-to pluralist reference point for youth workers. This is a fact of life, not to be sniffed at.

This said the growth of the Group has posed increasing dilemmas for the original IDYW project, captured still in our Cornerstones of Practice.

  • The primacy of the voluntary principle; the freedom for young people to enter into and withdraw from Youth Work as they so wish.
  • A commitment to conversations with young people which start from their concerns and within which both youth worker and young person are educated and out of which opportunities for new learning and experience can be created.
  • The importance of association, of fostering supportive relationships, of encouraging the development of autonomous groups and ‘the sharing of a common life’.
  • A commitment to valuing and attending to the here-and-now of young people’s experience rather than just focusing on ‘transitions’.
  • An insistence upon a democratic practice, within which every effort is made to ensure that young people play the fullest part in making decisions about anything affecting them.
  • The continuing necessity of recognising that young people are not a homogeneous group and that issues of class, gender, race, sexuality, disability and faith remain central.
  • The essential significance of the youth worker themselves, whose outlook, integrity and autonomy is at the heart of fashioning a serious yet humorous, improvisatory yet rehearsed educational practice with young people.

In truth many of our IDYW posts focused in one way or another on the above, usually links to our web site, are being drowned in the waterfall of Facebook Group contributions. Now this may be because our cause has been overtaken by events, by the inexorable march of imposed targets and programmes. We prefer not to think so, but creating this IDYW Facebook Page will be a litmus test of our optimism.

Hence this Facebook Page will only feature posts linked via the IDYW web site. The intention is to refresh with yourselves a debate about Open Youth Work. Let us stress that as well as hoping you will respond on this Page itself we would welcome you offering blogs and articles, which can appear on the web site. To go down this road contact Tony Taylor at tonymtaylor@gmail.com.

Enough for now. Looking forward to renewing our sense of a practice that is volatile and voluntary, creative and collective – an association and conversation without guarantees.

Please respond on the Facebook Page with queries and comments.

Tony Taylor on behalf of the Steering Group

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