Sustenance for the Senses 4 – PAR, PYJ, Austerity, Families and Democracy

Very interesting thread on Facebook about Participatory Action Research [PAR] sparked by Lucy Hill’s opener, full of recommended links, the offer by Roy Smith of an initial meeting of interested parties and the chance of an IDYW seminar on PAR in the Autumn. Will keep my fingers crossed. Have a look.

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Ta to IDS

Hi, I will soon be carrying out a dissertation on ‘Co-creating a community space with young people through participatory action research’. I am in the lucky position that we have secured funding for a purpose-built youth centre so the research will feed directly into this.

I will be exploring the concepts of participation, community and asset-based community development but can anyone recommend some key reading around PAR with young people?


 

PYJtransatlantic

A new article from Steve Case and Kevin Haines, our friends at Positive Youth Justice, in Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal.

Transatlantic ‘Positive Youth Justice’: a distinctive new model for responding to offending by children?

This paper examines the origins, main features, guiding principles and underpinning evidence bases of the different versions of positive youth justice developed in England/Wales (Children First, Offenders Second) and the USA (Positive Youth Justice Model) and their respective critiques of negative and child-friendly forms of youth justice. Comparing and contrasting these two versions enables an evaluation of the extent to which positive youth justice presents as a coherent and coordinated transatlantic ‘movement’, as opposed to disparate critiques of traditional youth justice with limited similarities.

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BRITAIN’S BIG SQUEEZE

The New York Times comments via the Daily Telegraph: Well worth reading in full.

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

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Parts of central Liverpool that were rebuilt to attract tourists stand alongside largely neglected areas. credit Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

After eight years of budget cutting, Britain is looking less like the rest of Europe and more like the United States, with a shrinking welfare state and spreading poverty.

PRESCOT, England — A walk through this modest town in the northwest of England amounts to a tour of the casualties of Britain’s age of austerity.

The old library building has been sold and refashioned into a glass-fronted luxury home. The leisure centre has been razed, eliminating the public swimming pool. The local museum has receded into town history. The police station has been shuttered.

Now, as the local government desperately seeks to turn assets into cash, Browns Field, a lush park in the centre of town, may be doomed, too. At a meeting in November, the council included it on a list of 17 parks to sell to developers.

“Everybody uses this park,” says Jackie Lewis, who raised two children in a red brick house a block away. “This is probably our last piece of community space. It’s been one after the other. You just end up despondent.”

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Roy Smith is running a workshop on Family and Democracy in London on the 9th June as part of AntiUniversity 2018. He says it would be great to hear from people interested in political education and how families might work together for political and social change.

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How do we learn about democracy? The biggest influence on most young people’s political views and behaviours are those of their parents and community. Many people feel let down by politicians creating negative experiences, alienating them from democratic processes that should exist to help them. This leads to apathy and conclusions like ‘they are all as bad as each other’ or ‘nothing ever changes’. I am researching how families could improve learning about democracy and lead social change together.

The first part of this workshop will be a chance to discuss some of the challenges and inequalities in our political system, sharing experiences and opinions on political education as well as imagining how things could be better.

We will then be experimenting with photovoice, a research method that uses photography to answer questions, to explore how political decision-making impacts on physical spaces, the family and everyday life. This may involve going outside and using camera phones to capture images.

It’s a free event, but please book a place on Eventbrite if interested. If you look at http://www.antiuniversity.org there are loads more events going on over 2 weeks. Sadly this is the last year, but it would be good to make it a great one.
https://www.facebook.com/events/176787719693906/?ti=cl

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Easter Sustenance for the Senses 2 – Community Education, Mental Health, Military Schools, Queensland and Civil Society

CONCEPT

As ever a stimulating array of pieces from our friends at CONCEPT.

CURRENT ISSUE

Vol 9 No 1 (2018): Spring

ARTICLES

INSPIRATIONS

POETRY


This article poses more than a few questions with regard to youth work’s growing infatuation with a skewed and individualised notion of mental health, well-being and indeed happiness – see the reference to NCS.

DON’T TURN BRITAIN’S SCHOOLS INTO MENTAL HEALTH CENTRES

Jennie Bristow argues that government plans for ‘Mental Health First Aid’ risk pathologising ordinary childhood while doing little for those with more serious difficulties.


For a brief moment, I thought this was an April Fools’ story.

Government to consider plans for ‘military schools’

The government is considering the introduction of a ‘military ethos’ in schools across the UK to help children from deprived backgrounds. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has commissioned MP Robert Goodwill to review the benefits of an education inspired by the ‘values and disciplines’ of the Armed Forces.


Across the oceans, our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland [YANQ] have published the findings of a 2017 Youth Sector survey. The following brief excerpt is likely to ring a bell or two.

                  Sivayash Doostkhah, YANQ

Findings of Queensland Youth Sector Survey 2017

Survey responses repeatedly identified that services are under-funded and under-resourced
to meet the level of service demand (both in terms of intensity of service provision and numerical demand). Funding agreements are overly prescriptive and restrictive, dictating short-term, output-focused service delivery models. As such, services are hamstrung from achieving their full potential to be innovative and respond effectively to the real needs of young people within the context of their individual circumstances.

The combination of funding criteria and competition-based tendering were seen as creating a sector culture that encourages ‘siloed’ service delivery. Organisations become inward focused and are increasingly operating independently of other services. Service delivery becomes focused on narrow, specified outcomes at the expense of addressing the inter-related needs affecting young people’s long-term outcomes. Funding criteria also effectively preference funding to large NGO’s at the expense of experienced, specialist local agencies that typically have a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of local community and youth needs.

Respondents also described the constant change imposed by the lack of funding security inherent in short-term contracts and defunding of programs. This impacts support relationships with young people and inhibits services’ capacity to offer ongoing support over time for young people with multiple complex needs. It also
fosters a sector culture plagued with uncertainty that makes it difficult for organisations to undertake long term agency-level planning and offer job security to staff.


Staying in Australia a searching article, Whatever happened to civil society by Vern Hughes echoes the findings of the NCIA Inquiry into the Future of the Voluntary Services. to which IDYW contributed.

In the last 40 years the architecture of voluntary citizen action has been transformed. Why aren’t we fighting back?

He begins:

At the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos, ‘civil society’ is referenced in virtually every presentation and fireside conversation. The world, it seems, no longer consists of two sectors—public and private, state and market—there is a third: NGOs and INGOs, charities and philanthropists, human rights watchdogs, aid and development agencies and global environmental campaigns to name but a few. The ‘Third Sector’ has arrived, and Its CEOs now mingle seamlessly with those from banks, energy companies, media giants and government agencies.

The problem with this embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO. Just 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact.

He suggests in a provocation to many of us:

The principal factor, however, in driving both the transformation of the social sector and the relatively low level of critical public debate about it has been the global rise of the managerial class and its capture of much of the not-for-profit world. In the wake of the 1960s/1970s social movements, governments invested heavily in a plethora of welfare state programs and services, and universities churned out an army of social science practitioners with an insatiable demand for things to manage.

Not-for-profits and charities were easy pickings, so voluntary associations of all kinds were transformed into instruments of service delivery, ‘community representation’ and ‘therapeutic welfare’ in the public interest. Traditional bodies such as the Red Cross, the YMCA, church missions and voluntary health societies fell like dominos to ‘management capture’ and quickly became unrecognisable to those who knew them a generation before.

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Putting Relationships at the heart of public policy – a conversation

The R Word is a conversation bringing together policy wonks, scientists, practitioners, philosophers, philanthropists, innovators, people facing down disadvantage, and others who will engage in a series of discussions that put relationships at the heart of public policy.

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Over the last few weeks David Thompson, a community worker, has posted a series of blogs exploring the task of renewing our commitment to the building of what he terms ‘deep value’ relationships.

The first ‘Connecting Well’ argues:

Connecting well is not the same as being “well connected”. It is not about the size of our address book. It is about the quality of our relationships and, whilst we may now network and transact more than ever, meaningful time together has been, and is being, systematically displaced by fast and shallow connections. We are becoming more atomised and automated, more comfortable with technology but less close to one another.

Aggressive self-interest has triumphed over mutual support as the neoliberal economy has invaded every corner of our lives.

In the tenth of the series, What have we learnt and now what?, he ventures ten tentative headlines, amongst which are:

Responding only to loneliness would be the Food Bank solution — a humane reaction to symptoms and consequences and a necessary response to a crisis but not an attack on the cause. We need also to dig deeper, act earlier.

The future is beyond our current frame of reference, that’s why it is the future. Too often social innovators, especially in the third sector, reduce the scale of an issue to the dimensions of the funding programme. The world doesn’t need a new charity in this field, maybe not even a new app but a different kind of entity helping us all to reimagine and rebuild, generating momentum and catalysing mass. More Airbnb than Travel Lodge, more Lego than Airfix, more MeToo than Trade Union.

There is much to argue about within this exploration, which I’m sure David would welcome, but it points to the continuing need for youth work to allow that its principles and concerns are an expression of the wider struggle to create a just and democratic society.

 

RIP, John Parr, former Head of Youth and Community Work, Westhill College

In Defence of Youth Work is committed to remembering and respecting those, who have contributed to the creative and pluralist tradition of work with young people we wish to defend and extend. 

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John Parr, former Head of Youth and Community Work at the Westhill College in Birmingham died recently. John Holmes has penned this informative and touching tribute.

JOHN PARR

It was in 1978 that I first met John. I was a researcher looking at career paths of ex-students of the JNC qualifying courses in England. I met John, as Head of Community and Youth Work at Westhill College in Birmingham, the longest established Youth Work course. I was looking for support in pursuing research that I was quickly finding out was a highly political and contentious area. John, along with a number of other heads of courses (such as Peter Duke from Leicester, ….) were well aware that the research could threaten the funding of their courses (direct from the DES at this time) but were helpful to me. Little did I know at the time that I would be taking over John’s role at Westhill, on John’s retirement in 1991.

 
By 1978 John had already had a long career in youth work. Born in Liverpool, and with lifelong family links to the city, Birmingham became his home for his adult life. John attended Westhill College as a student in the 1950s and became a lecturer in the 1960s. When I met him I remember he reminded me of my Dad, and seemed from a different generation. His commitment to helping young people was very clear, but for me, as a child of the 1960s, his liking for the youth culture of the 1950s, such as Tommy Steele made him seem the other side of the ‘generation gap’. Only later did I come to realise how open he was to others, how good he was at listening before offering any advice. He had strong principles about not offering advice when not appropriate. I always remember him telling me that he would not interfere with my role when I became head of Community and Youth Work at Westhill. This must have been difficult giving his long links to the college and even living opposite when he retired. It must have grieved him to see Westhill closed and the buildings demolished in the years before he died.

 

John always struck me as a modest man, and so it came as no surprise to find out at his funeral just how much he had done in the service of others. Within youth work, he was highly valued within youth organisations working with homeless young people, involved in youth counselling, and chaired a key committee of the Birmingham Association of Youth Clubs (BAYC) for many years. A story he told me showed how he tried to build links between his various roles, and the enduring power of youth work. A new Westhill Principal, Gordon Benfield, was appointed in the 1960s and when he was introduced to John they greeted each other as long lost friends. Apparently, John had been Gordon’s patrol leader in the Scouts in Liverpool. John persuaded Gordon to become chair of BAYC, so helping to keep youth work central on Westhill’s agenda, at a time when teacher education was becoming dominant.

 
Another thing I learned at John’s funeral was just how important John’s Christian faith was to him. John was a very active Methodist lay preacher and clearly his faith gave him the strength to do so much for young people. For me as the first, and last, non-Christian head of Community and Youth Work at Westhill, it was somewhat strange to hear the words ‘Bless you’ from John’s lips, but I now recognise the importance of the tradition that John came from and the huge contribution he made.

 

John Holmes, January 2018

Community Engagement: What’s the Problem? The new Winter CONCEPT explores

CONCEPT

A warm welcome to the Winter edition of CONCEPT, the Community Education Journal, which explores what we mean by Community Engagement. In particular, the articles guide us towards the rewarding reader, Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners, written by Mae Shaw and Jim Crowther.

Community engagement is generally assumed to operate for the
good of various kinds of communities, but it’s not as straightforward
as that. Thinking politically about community engagement means
delving beneath the surface claims it makes for itself to ask questions
about what it’s really for. What is its purpose? This means looking
at how it’s funded, for what and why? Who is considered to be
‘the community’ and who is not? Who benefits and who loses out?
Engagement on whose terms? How can communities operate within
these circumstances to shift the balance of power in their favour?
These are all questions that raise political issues

 

CURRENT ISSUE

Vol 8 No 3 (2017): Winter

S.O.S. Voice of Youth will close… unless you can step up and take it on?

Voice of Youth is circulating the following plea, which gives also a revealing insight into the joys and tensions of organising ‘horizontally’, alongside challenging the target and outcomes culture embraced by so much of the youth ‘sector’.

S.O.S. Voice of Youth

Hackney youth workers’ cooperative VOY will close…
unless you can step up and take it on?

After six wonderful years of cooperative youth work in Hackney, we are now looking for the right team of youth workers to take Voice of Youth forward.

What is Voice of Youth (VOY)?
Voice of Youth is a special organisation. We do things differently: we work co-operatively without bosses, we are inspired by radical and anti-oppressive practice, our work is rooted in young people’s needs and wishes, and we avoid funding that involves meeting targets or defining young people as problems. We were set up in 2011 by local young people and youth workers, and have been doing estate-based youth work, detached youth work, and projects on social issues. Our recent work in Upper Clapton, Hackney, has had around 30 fantastic young people aged 8-18 taking part each week (over 100 each year). We have received funding from a variety of sources, have a good track record in managing our funding and running projects, and currently have around £16,000 available for a project using creative activities to get young people talking about social issues. Our overheads are very low, so even when our income is low, we are still reasonably financially stable.

So, why would VOY need to close?
We have always had a committed group of co-operative members (some paid as part-time sessional workers where funding allows) and volunteers, who run the organisation cooperatively. Sadly, the current workers and volunteers (apart from one of us) will need to move on over the next few months, for a variety of work-related and personal reasons. We all still love VOY and working together, and we are all sad to leave, but we will need to plan for closure unless we can find a new group. We are keen and happy to hand over to you and help you get started – and then it’s all yours!

What we can offer a new group:
– Funding for a 6 month youth project, including sessional paid work for three workers, using creative methods to discuss and challenge inequality.
– Current co-op members will hand over and provide support to the new group over the next few months. One of us – a young woman from the local area who is an experienced youth worker – plans to stay on long-term as part of the co-op.
– Several years of relationships with young people, parents and carers, and organisations in the area.
– All legal documentation, policies, working procedures, financial records, financial procedures, a website. You can choose to amend these, but at least you’re not starting from scratch! We are registered as a non-profit company and workers’ cooperative, and have developed a widely respected ‘How we Work’ pack for our volunteers and co-op members.
– Established processes for insurance and DBS (criminal record checks) – these are currently paused while our work is paused, and will need to be reinstated before starting face-to-face work. Access to free community venues. Freedom to work together to take the organisation in new directions – once you get up and running, there are few restrictions on what you can do.

What does it mean to be a co-op member?
Co-op members work together without bosses to run the organisation. The idea is that those working with young people make the decisions about how the organisation is run. Between them, they share out all the tasks such as working with young people, organising activities, buying resources, supervising and supporting each other, keeping financial records (one member needs to be the treasurer), and ensuring meetings happen and conform to certain procedures (one member needs to be the secretary). All the co-op members also share legal responsibilities – including for safeguarding, financial management, and accountability to funders. Have a look at our website to find out more about our work and our principles: www.voice-of-youth.org. So far, some of our co-op members have been unpaid, and others have been contracted sessionally as self-employees. We don’t yet have long-term funding or PAYE systems – the new coop could, of course, choose to change all of that.

Who can be a VOY co-op member?
Anyone who supports and commits to working towards our principles and policies! Our work relies on trusting relationships with young people and within the staff team, so we ask you to commit to 6 to 12 months if at all possible, and to working well with others and sharing tasks and responsibilities. Anyone aged 16+ can join the co-op (you need to be 18 to be officially on the committee, but we will still involve 16-17 year olds in all decisions). We aim to reflect the community we work in, and we particularly welcome Black and Minority Ethnic people, local people, and EVERYONE of ANY background and identity who is keen to work with young people on their terms, valuing their views and perspectives. All co-op members and volunteers will need a DBS (criminal record) check – an unrelated criminal record is no problem, but please discuss this with us in advance. Travel expenses may be available, ask for details.

Come to an open meeting to find out more: 6pm Monday 5th March (venue tbc).
Contact voyhackney@gmail.com by 19th Feb to let us know you’re coming.

Albemarle pioneer and Principal of the National College, Peter Duke RIP

We have to register with great sadness the news that Peter Duke, a pioneer of post-Albemarle youth work, died recently.

 

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Peter Duke in the NCTYL days

 

As a result of the Albemarle Report’s 1960 recommendations to expand youth provision and the need for an increase in the youth service’s full-time staffing an ’emergency’ college offering a one year course was set up. Peter Duke became the Vice-Principal of the National College for the Training of Youth Leaders (NCYTL), welcoming 90 students as its first intake at the adapted civil defence premises in Leicester. He took over as Principal when Ted Sidebottom left in 1964. When the college was closed in 1970 he moved to become the Course Leader of the Leicester Polytechnic Youth & Community course, which was housed on the Scraptoft campus. We are not sure of the date of Peter’s retirement from this pivotal post.

Sue Atkins, still going strong and a student at the NCYTL, remembers Peter.

Without Peter Duke, I wouldn’t be doing the job I do, or have done the jobs I’ve done as a Youth Worker for the last fifty years

I first met Peter when I got involved with Oxford House, through my sister who with friends from University were community service volunteers there and among other things took groups of kids on a regular Summer Camp to Goudhurst in Kent. I spent two weeks at that camp when I was 16. Two years later when I got a job in London I volunteered to run some activities with the youth club; and would go once a week when we chatted and did some ‘Drama’. 

Peter, was ‘The Man Upstairs’ at Oxford House; the group I worked with was all boys and we had a very ‘interesting’ version of the Workman’s play from Midsummer Nights Dream that we adapted and brought up to date with our very own ‘Duke’. It never got to full production though but I remember we had a great time making it up, ‘rewriting’ or reimagIning Shakespeare. I wish I’d kept the ‘script’, such as it was.

At the time I recall Peter as being an overall benign presence in the House who was suitably impressed and amused by being ‘The Duke’ of our Play, and probably quite relieved we didn’t get to the performance . By the way, working with this group I learnt a valuable lesson; it is not all about The Play and performing it, but chatting, improvising and just playing with it was great too. (Another by the way, this all took place in Bethnal Green and Whitechapel at the time of ‘Call the Midwife’, making me realise that my life experience is other people’s history!)

For the next ten years I continued on my path of ( what I later found out was ) chronic job changing. Basically I auditioned for Theatre School, ( got places and didn’t take them) worked in Bookshops , wandered through dole offices, delivered the post, and soap coupons etc. ………all the while working with a Youth Theatre Group in Hillingdon and teaching drama in a dancing school.

Ten years later I took the plunge and applied to and was accepted at the National College for Training Youth Leaders.was placed in the tutorial group of  a certain Bernard Davies  (who left after my first term choosing that year to go to the United States). Of course, I renewed my acquaintance with Peter who was the Principal and once again I saw how he brought his ‘presence’ to that enterprise on Humberstone Drive

There were 148 students at Leicester that year, and if I recall only 17 were women . There was a disproportionate fall out rate of the women students and I was nearly one of them.

You didn’t ‘Fail’ at Leicester. It was ‘put to you’ that you might like to consider your position, you reflected with your tutor on the feedback, and came to the ‘right’ decision and withdrew. I had lasted to the end of the second fieldwork practice in Huddersfield.  The Club Leader I worked for, decided I wasn’t suitable so with my tutor ( NOT Bernard who was still in the US)  put this decision to me, pointing out all the negative feedback from other tutors, including my ‘scores’ on the ‘tends To X tends to Y questionnaire, which apparently were extremely unbalanced, not forgetting the fact that I wore blue woollen stockings! So I was invited to consider my position over the weekend . . . .

If I drank, that would have been the night I drowned my sorrows and got very drunk ~ but fortunately I didn’t drink ~ so after a long weekend wallowing in despair and feeling sorry for myself, feeling angry and conned by said Youth Leader/Supervisor, ranting about those bloody men, whilst drinking copious cups of tea and coffee and yes crying a lot ~got to OK I’ve considered my position and I don’t want to go , so I am going to stay.  If ‘they’ disagree then ‘they’ will have to change their policy and ‘Fail or Sack me’. That’s what I told my tutor, who then asked Peter to come and talk to me, presumably to sort me out. Peter came. He didn’t ‘talk’ to me, he asked questions, he listened, he asked more questions, and listened some more and the upshot was he agreed with me that I should stay.

So Thank you, Peter Duke, you really were the Instrument of my completion of the Course (albeit by the skin of teeth) at NCTYL . A wee while back I found my certificate, a copy of which I’ve pinned on the wall behind my desk at Youth Association South Yorkshire, where I still lend a hand. It is, of course, signed by Peter Duke and so as ever I have his backing , his presence as ever inspiring, caring and believing the best in people always.

We’ll leave the final word to Malcolm Ball, a Scraptoft student in the mid-1980’s, a member of the IDYW steering group and Adviser to Lewisham’s Young Mayor.

Indeed Peter was a lovely man. It seems to me he was the epitome of what is to be defended in the Albermarle legacy, a belief in the values of the enlightenment and a commitment to holistic, liberal education. He warned against the dangers ‘of doing irreparable good’ in the name of ideology and warned always of the dangers of working on rather than with young people – a measure of his deep knowledge and subtlety.