Thinking seriously about youth work. And how to prepare people to do it – views from across Europe

Following on from our recent reference to Youth Work in the Commonwealth: A Growth Profession news from Europe of a challenging publication, ‘Thinking Seriously about Youth Work’, which houses over 37 thought-provoking chapters plus a compelling introduction and conclusion. As someone, who over the years has lost some of his faith in the power of the written word, a major concern is that this flood of diverse analysis will drown the potential reader’s interest before they even dip their toe into its contents. I hope my pessimism is misplaced. For now my favourite piece is ‘Youth work in Flanders – Playful usefulness and useful playfulness’ by Guy Redig and Filip Coussée, who, in suggesting that youth work is a necessary kind of wild zone and free space in society, crucial to democracy itself, note that,

Flanders youth work operates on the front line. The vast majority of (local) youth work can be described as intuitively hostile to demands for utility or instrumentalisation. At the same time, it has to survive the dominant discourse of using all resources – including youth work – for economic activation and adaptation in a neoliberal system. For the more pessimistic prophets, Flemish youth work can be classified as an anachronism close to extinction, soon to be replaced by professional, efficient and smooth concepts suited to multiple purposes. For other observers, the authenticity, autonomy and joie de vivre of Flemish youth work are unbeatable and will survive con brio. Youth work will survive, stubborn and petulant, peevish and cross, generation after generation.

The complete publication is available online via the following link.

 

Thinking seriously about youth work. And how to prepare people to do it

Hanjo Schild, Nuala Connolly, Francine Labadie, Jan Vanhee, Howard Williamson (eds.)                                                                                                                                                      

Thinking-couv

If we consider the 50 states having ratified the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe or the member states of the European Union, the multiple and divergent nature of the realities, theories, concepts and strategies underlying the expression “youth work” becomes evident. Across Europe, youth work takes place in circumstances presenting enormous differences with regard to opportunities, support, structures, recognition and realities, and how it performs reflects the social, cultural, political and economic context and the value systems in which it is undertaken.

By analysing theories and concepts of youth work and by providing insight from various perspectives and geographical and professional backgrounds, the authors hope to further contribute to finding common ground for – and thus assure the quality of – youth work in general. Presenting its purified and essential concept is not the objective here. The focus rather is on describing how to “provide opportunities for all young people to shape their own futures”, as Peter Lauritzen described the fundamental mission of youth work.

The best way to do this remains an open question. This Youth Knowledge book tries to find some answers and strives to communicate the strengths, capacities and impact of youth work to those within the youth sector and those beyond, to those familiar with its concepts and those new to this field, all the while sharing practices and insights and encouraging further reflection.

 

Section I – Theories and concepts in selected European regions and countries includes:

Winning space, building bridges – What youth work is all about by Howard Williamson

Youth work and youth social work in Germany by Andreas Thimmel

Thinking about youth work in Ireland by Maurice Devlin

Influential theories and concepts in UK youth work – What’s going on in England? by Pauline Grace and Tony   Taylor

 

Section II – Key challenges of youth work today includes:

 Youth work and an internationally agreed definition of youth work – More than a tough job by Guy Redig

Keep calm and repeat – Youth work is not (unfortunately) just fun and games by Özgehan Şenyuva and Tomi   Kiilakoski

Young people, youth work and the digital world by Nuala Connolly

Youth radicalisation and the role of youth work in times of (in)security by Dora Giannaki

 

Section III – Reflections on the recommendations made in the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention includes:

 Further exploring the common ground – Some introductory remarks by Hanjo Schild

Towards knowledge-based youth work by Helmut Fennes

Funding sustainable youth work by Claudius Siebel

Youth work, cross-sectoral youth policy, and co-operation: critical reflections on a puzzling relationship by Magda Nico

 

 

 

 

Beyond Brexit: The Impact of Leaving the EU on the Youth Work Sector

Y&P

A challenging piece from Annette and Sinéad on at least two levels.

  1. Our own ‘is the tide turning?’ discussion paper ignores Brexit. Why?
  2. They continue to suggest that many of us, despite our claim to be reimagining the future, are hampered by a fear of the unknown.

We should seek to address these criticisms in next month’s debates.

The UK having voted to leave the EU, Annette Coburn and Sinéad Gormally consider potential problems and possibilities for youth work within post-Brexit Britain, with a focus on Scotland in particular. They outline how youth work has reached a ‘tipping point’ in its evolution, where austerity measures have consistently undermined it. They examine the potential impact of the further loss of EU funding. Recognising that it is entirely uncharted territory, they assert that despite the inherent concerns, Brexit could also be a catalyst for re-imagining youth work as a creative and resistant practice within social and informal education.

Beyond Brexit: The Impact of Leaving the EU on the Youth Work Sector

Transformative Youth Work International Conference – registration open

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN at  Transformative Youth Work

marjon

Transformative Youth Work International Conference
Developing and Communicating Impact

4-6 September 2018 at Plymouth Marjon University
This will be the 1st major International conference focusing on the ‘Impact of Youth Work’.

 
AIMS:

  • To disseminate the latest research on the Impact of Youth Work
  • To promote the Impact of Youth Work
  • To stimulate debate about the processes which bring this impact about.

 

 

Includes inputs from across Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as the publication of the Erasmus+ funded 2-year comparative study of the Impact of Youth Work in Europe.

 
KEYNOTES:
Joachim Schild: (Former Head of European Youth Partnership) – ‘History of Youth Work Impact in Europe’
Dr Dimitris Ballas: ‘A Human Atlas of Europe – United in Diversity’

 
The conference is open to youth workers, youth work academics & trainers as well as policy makers.
Bursaries are available for non-UK delegates

Transformative Youth Work 2018 [pdf poster] – please circulate

UK YOUTHVOICE write to a Prime Minister, who can’t and won’t deliver

 

Youth voice

UK Youth Voice outside 10 Downing Street. Ta to UK Youth for the photo.

 

On Wednesday, June 20 a deputation from UK Youth Voice delivered the group’s manifesto to 10 Downing Street. Addressed to the Prime Minister the detailed contents of the manifesto are to be applauded. Amongst the demands are:

  • Make youth services a priority public service
  • Enable every young person to take an active role in democracy
  • Provide accessible, high-quality education for all young people
  • End discrimination, prejudice and hate crime towards young people
  • Enable future generations to live in a clean, safe and sustainable
    environment

Contrary to a number of pre-election statements from leading youth sector organisations Youth Voice explores these headings in detail. For example the reader will find calls to protect the NHS; for votes at 16; for young people’s involvement in the EU negotiations and the replacement of the Erasmus+ funding stream; free education at all levels plus the cancellation of student debt; equality of pay and an end to zero-hour contracts;  the protection of environmental legislation; and much more.

READ IN FULL at Youth Voice Manifesto

The contradiction facing the young people of Youth Voice is that many of its demands cannot be delivered by a Tory Prime Minister and government, increasingly out of touch with significant sections of society. Indeed it seems that an overwhelming number of 18-25 year olds voted for the revival of social democracy as expressed in the Labour Party’s manifesto and against the failed free market model of neoliberalism. In this context we are very interested in what might be the next political steps for Youth Voice?  To what extent will it be hamstrung by the idea that Youth Voice should be in some contorted way neutral? Is this a moment when it’s necessary for Youth Voice to climb off the fence and pin its colours to an anti-austerity mast?

We look forward to hearing more about how Youth Voice chooses to use its progressive manifesto. For now we wish simply to congratulate Youth Voice on the work it’s put in. Good stuff. And this might just be the beginning.

 

Youth leaders urge election commitments for young people, but fall short of specific demands

election reform

Fifty-one UK youth organisations have signed an open letter to the main UK political parties asking them to make firm commitments to young people. Amongst the signatories are UK Youth chief executive, Anna Smee; British Youth Council chief executive, Jo Hobbs; Volunteering Matters chief executive, Oonagh Aitken; Young Minds chief executive, Sarah Brennan; and Girlguiding’s chief executive, Julie Bentley.

It would be interesting to know the full list of organisations signed up to the welcome plea and how they came to be involved. More importantly, the request seems to miss the opportunity to make concrete demands upon the political parties, all the more so as the letter claims that their collective research has unearthed the key issues faced by young people. My apologies if I’m missing something here and  that these have been identified in a supplement to the letter.

Off the top of my head, a less than an exhaustive list of demands could have included:

  • Lower the voting age to 16
  • Abolish tuition fees in HE and restore maintenance grants
  • Bring under-25 National Living Wage in line with 25-year-olds.
  • End zero-hour contracts.
  • Prioritise a serious and properly funded strategy to end child poverty.
  • Implement immediately a building programme to create affordable, quality housing.
  • Restore funding and render statutory youth work provision.
  • Maintain and expand opportunities to live, work and study abroad.
  • Introduce Proportional Representation.
  • Recognise that public services for the common good are essential to a vibrant and inclusive democracy.

The letter in full as best I know

Dear Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron, Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood,

As Britain prepares for a snap general election, we call on you to make a firm commitment to young people across the country.

Since the referendum last year, our organisations have worked to engage young people from every part of the UK and from all backgrounds and political persuasions to present a clear plan for what they want from post-Brexit Britain.

Our national research and consultation has given us a strong and consistent picture of the top issues that matter to young people in post-Brexit Britain.

We can show you that younger generations are united on the big issues that will shape their future.

Now more than ever, their overwhelming demand to be part of the political process must be acted upon.

As the generation that will live longest with the outcome of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, we ask you to recognise that young people can have a positive impact on the Brexit negotiations and give real legitimacy to the process.

This election offers a huge opportunity to reshape the nation’s priorities and restore young people’s confidence in our democracy.

As you put together your platform for the general election, we are calling on all party leaders to make an explicit commitment to represent young people’s demands in their upcoming manifestos.

As you all prepare for this election we will all be galvanising our networks to ensure young citizens are engaged and registered to vote. We are calling on you to give them something to vote for.

 

Call for Contributions: Youth Work with Young Refugees

Apologies I’ve only just caught up with this call so it’s pretty short notice. You’ll need to read the following in full to get a sense of what is being looked for. I’ve copied below the background from the full document.

YOUTH WORK WITH YOUNG REFUGEES

 

refugees

Ta to tbo.com

 

COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND EUROPEAN UNION: YOUTH PARTNERSHIP

We invite you to write a contribution and send it to Tanya.basarab@partnership-eu.coe.int and to maria.pisani@um.edu.mt. We strongly encourage in your papers to focus on youth work with young refugees primarily – which is the main theme of the Youth Knowledge Book.

 

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO YOUTH KNOWLEDGE BOOK ON
YOUTH WORK WITH YOUNG REFUGEES

In 2015 more than a million migrants requested asylum in Europe. Efforts to block the
Mediterranean route, through controversial agreements such as the EU/Turkey deal, has
witnessed a drop in numbers. However, in the absence of safer alternatives, the Central
Mediterranean route has continued to increase, as month on month thousands of refugee and other forced migrants continue to risk their lives in an effort to cross borders, and find safety, dignity and a better life in Europe. The vast majority making this journey are young people, aged between 14 to 34 (Eurostat, 2016).

For many young refugees then, the border represents both death, and hope. The border
serves as a state instrument of control, and also as the ideological marker for the
construction of national and political identity – delineating who belongs, and who does not; who has rights, and the right to rights (Pisani, 2015). But borders are not just definite lines, they are also a messy collage of creative spaces, of relationships and stories (Sassen, 2006). The ‘young refugee’ embodies the borderlands, a liminal space between nation states and cultures, between childhood and adulthood – where different identities, cultures, ethnicities, languages and ways of knowing, imagining, and being can interact, and intersect, opening up possibilities for transformative, political spaces.

Likewise, positioned at the ‘cusp’ (Williamson, 2014), youth work can also be seen as
positioned within these borderlands – fluid, contested and diverse, the ‘borders’ of youth
work often refutes definition, offering a diverse range of motivations, purpose and
activities, ranging from civic engagement towards transformation and social justice, to
being an instrument of the state, focused on leisure activities, integration and control.

The borderlands is a space that presents competing pressures and interests, and produces conflicting responses. The youth work response will depend on the varied ways in which we imagine these spaces and how we enact them. Youth work is never complete: evolving contexts and lived realities bring new imperatives, and new questions about the role, purpose and value of youth work.

Apologies too that the formatting is not sorted properly.

 

 

 

On being heard in your own country, on being heard in Europe

There’s a famous passage in the New Testament, in which Jesus reflects that a prophet might well find it difficult to be heard on their own patch. This observation sprang to mind on hearing that both the IDYW cornerstones and our Story-Telling approach to unravelling the character of practice are at the heart of a new European publication looking at impact and evaluation. I’ll hand over to Bernard Davies, who coordinates our work on Story-Telling, to continue the tale.

Finnish

Studying the Impact of International Youth Work – Towards developing an evaluation tool for youth centres reports on a research project funded by the European Erasmus + programme and carried out in Finland, Estonia and Slovenia. Written by Anu Gretschel, the senior researcher, in co-operation with academic and practitioner colleagues from all three of the participating countries, it has been published by the Helsinki: Finnish Youth Centres Association, the Finnish Youth Research Society and the Finnish Youth Research Network.

Particularly significant – and encouraging – for IDYW is the project’s development of the IDYW youth work story-telling process as one of its main research methods. To analyse the evidence coming out of the stories this generated, it then used a version of the IDYW Cornerstones of youth work practice which we subsequently revised to highlight the importance of giving attention to young people’s class, gender, race, sexuality, disability and faith. The report also includes references to our This is Youth Work stories book (now supplemented by the booklet of youth work stories produced by Warwickshire youth workers) and to the IDYW story-telling web resource.

For demonstrating open access youth work’s ‘impacts’ and ‘outcomes’, this international recognition of a qualitative ‘methodology’ like youth work story-telling and ‘measures’ such as the IDYW Cornerstones is welcome and indeed overdue. Statistical ‘tick boxing’, certainly in England, continues to obsess politicians, policy-makers and also many academics to the point where not only have their demands distorted how the practice is understood, but also how it is actually implemented. Those controlling the purse strings have ended up concluding that this practice cannot be supported because, against their narrowly defined criteria, it can’t prove its effectiveness.

Indeed, by using youth work story-telling in these ways, our European colleagues have done something which in IDYW we have talked about from time to time but not actually followed through in a systematic way. My experience has been that our primary focus in workshop groups has been to ‘unpack’ a story and the youth work process it exemplifies in order to prompt practitioners and students to identify what is distinctive about their practice. This, we hope, will help strengthen their identity as youth workers and enable them to become clearer and more robust in communicating its defining (and effective) features to significant audiences – not least those sceptical policy-makers. Though story-telling’s potential for demonstrating how the practice touches young people’s lives often becomes clear as a by-product, this has not been our priority – which for us gives this new report even greater significance.

Given how the researchers defined and applied some of the IDYW Cornerstones, the report also offers some challenging prompts for further discussion and debate within IDYW networks and indeed beyond on how we have been understanding and explaining these crucial signifiers of our practice.

Bernard Davies

The research is available as an e-book at http://www.snk.fi/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Studying-the-impact-of-international-youth-work.pdf

I’m sure both our Finnish friends and ourselves would welcome comments and criticism.