200 years on has Karl Marx anything to say about Youth Work?

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This week it’s the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, a much honoured, much-reviled giant of history. As someone deeply influenced by his legacy I’ve been messing about with writing something about the extent to which Marx has influenced youth work thinking and practice over the last 50 years.  I hope to post something of interest on my blog in the next few weeks. In the interim, I think it’s appropriate to draw your attention to a number of contemporary interventions, which seek to weigh up more generally whether Marx has anything fruitful to say about the present crisis of meaning in society, the present uncertainty about the future, at the centre of which are young people.

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K is for Karl – Series of 5 Films by Paul Mason about the meaning of Marx today

“Why does Marx matter today?” is the question posed by British journalist and filmmaker Paul Mason in five short films produced by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung to commemorate Karl Marx’s 200th birthday. Through Marx, Mason explores the topics of “Alienation”, “Communism”, “Revolution”, “Exploitation” and “The Future of Machines” in order to demonstrate how Marx, who Mason describes as the most influential thinker of the modern world, remains deeply relevant to understanding our contemporary world.

In the first of a series of five short films, British journalist and filmmaker Paul Mason searches for the roots of Marx’s thinking in Berlin, where he began his university studies in 1836. “For Marx, alienation doesn’t just mean we get depressed, we hate our jobs, or that we feel bad about the world. It means we’re constantly using our creative powers in the wrong way. We make things, but the things we make – machines, states, religions, rules – end up controlling us.”


 

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Paul Mason again, after all, he hails from the same Lancashire town, Leigh, as me and we stood together on picket lines during the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike.  Friendship aside, disagreements aside, he’s always challenging.

On the bicentenary of his birth, Marx continues to be a key thinker thanks to his surprising faith in the individual.

Why Marx is more relevant than ever in the age of automation

If I could speak across time to the people frozen in the above photograph [the blurry snapshot catches Leon Trotsky in mid-sentence, in Frida Kahlo’s house sometime in 1937. To the left of the frame is Natalia Sedova, Trotsky’s wife. To the right is Kahlo and, half hidden behind her, a young woman listening intently: Trotsky’s secretary Raya Dunayevskaya],  I would say, after congratulating them for their magnificent lives of resistance and suffering: “That inner desire you are suppressing, for Marxism to be humanistic? That impulse towards individual liberation? It’s already there in Marx, just waiting to be discovered. So paint what you want, love whom you want. Fuck the vanguard party. The revolutionary subject is the self.”

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Yanis Varoufakis has composed a new introduction to the Communist Manifesto of 1848.

Marx predicted our present crisis – and points the way out

For a manifesto to succeed, it must speak to our hearts like a poem while infecting the mind with images and ideas that are dazzlingly new. It needs to open our eyes to the true causes of the bewildering, disturbing, exciting changes occurring around us, exposing the possibilities with which our current reality is pregnant. It should make us feel hopelessly inadequate for not having recognised these truths ourselves, and it must lift the curtain on the unsettling realisation that we have been acting as petty accomplices, reproducing a dead-end past. Lastly, it needs to have the power of a Beethoven symphony, urging us to become agents of a future that ends unnecessary mass suffering and to inspire humanity to realise its potential for authentic freedom.

 
No manifesto has better succeeded in doing all this than the one published in February 1848 at 46 Liverpool Street, London. Commissioned by English revolutionaries, The Communist Manifesto (or the Manifesto of the Communist Party, as it was first published) was authored by two young Germans – Karl Marx, a 29-year-old philosopher with a taste for epicurean hedonism and Hegelian rationality, and Friedrich Engels, a 28-year-old heir to a Manchester mill.

 

As a work of political literature, the manifesto remains unsurpassed. Its most infamous lines, including the opening one (“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism”), have a Shakespearean quality. Like Hamlet confronted by the ghost of his slain father, the reader is compelled to wonder: “Should I conform to the prevailing order, suffering the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune bestowed upon me by history’s irresistible forces? Or should I join these forces, taking up arms against the status quo and, by opposing it, usher in a brave new world?”

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Learning from Practice – the new International Journal of Open Youth Work

A cordial greeting to the second edition of the International Journal of Open Youth Work, ‘Learning from Practice’ – available by this link as a pdf. Its contents have already got me reaching for my critical pen, which can only mean one thing. Like all properly challenging texts, a raw nerve has been touched. Thanks for the stimulus.

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Contents

01 The good practice of Young meet young
Mårten Jönsson and Marie Larneby
02 Open youth work in a closed setting:
Applying key elements of Youth Work in a school
Luke Blackham and Jessica Smith
03 PLOUTOS – Pedagogical learning through the
Operation and Urging of Teams for Overcoming
Social exclusion
Angela Passa, Georgia Drosopoulou
and Dr. Vassilis Passas
04 Finding common ground without losing your own.
Results of the project ‘Mapping Professional Open
Youth Work in Europe’
Manfred Zentner and Alexandra Beweis
05 Key competences of non-formal
learning in youth work: based on the example of
Estonian open youth centres
Ilona-Evelyn Rannala and Anu Allekand

 

The first article is a best practice example about how youth workers can
create dialogue between young Swedes and young arriving refugees. The
second article addresses an important discussion about how open youth
work perspectives can be adapted and used in a formal school setting.
The third article brings us to the Greek town of Patras and an examination
of the methodologies used in the project PLOUTOS. Erasmus + grants are
important for the field of youth work; the fourth article examines and
investigates a strategic partnership within the Erasmus + Programme, and
gives important insight into successes and challenges in such projects.
The last article in this issue problematizes the key competencies of nonformal
learning in youth work in an Estonian context.

Solidarity with the launch of the Irish Youth Workers Association, March 14

We are pleased to publicise in solidarity the launch meeting of the Irish Youth Workers Association.

The Irish Youth Workers Association is proud to announce on Wednesday the 14th of March, IYWA will launch for membership.

📌 Get an overview and insight into IYWA
📌 Meet the committee
📌 Get involved with the discussion
📌 Network with other Youth Workers
📌 Sign up for more information on the day
📌 Q&A

Please spread the word to your youth work colleagues –  contact at irishyouthworkersassociation@gmail.com

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Is the tide turning? Agreeing an IDYW position paper for the political arena?

Further to our series of ‘is the tide turning?’ events and, by twist of fate, fast on the heels of John McDonnell’s pledge to support a statutory Youth Service, you will find below a draft of a possible IDYW position paper to be used in discussions with political parties ahead of a General Election, which may not be long in coming.

Obviously the proposals in the paper are little more than bullet points, which will be backed by supplementary explanation and material if dialogue is forthcoming.

At the beginning of next week’s conference this set of proposals will be presented for debate, agreement/disagreement, amendment or indeed rejection.

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TOWARDS AN IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK POSITION PAPER

  1. The neoliberal competitive desire to marketise and individualise is utterly at odds with youth work dedicated to cooperation and the common good.
  2. The rejuvenation of a distinctive, state-supported youth work focused on inclusive, open access provision ought to be based on a radical and complementary relationship between the Local Authority [LA] and a pluralist, independent voluntary sector.
  3. The renewed practice should be sustained by statutory funding, the purpose and allocation of which ought to be determined locally via a democratic youth work ‘council’ made up of young people, workers, voluntary sector representatives, officers and politicians.
  4. Inter-agency work is vital, but youth workers should retain their identity and autonomy rather than be absorbed into multi-disciplinary teams.
  5. Youth Work as an integral element in education from cradle to grave should be situated in the Department for Education.
  6. Youth Work should be associational and conversational, opposed to oppression and exploitation, collective rather than individual in its intent, unfolding at a pace consonant with the building of authentic relationships.
  7. Cornerstones of practice should include the primacy of the voluntary relationship; a critical dialogue starting from young people’s agendas; support for young people’s autonomous activity, for example, work with young women, BAME and LGBTQ+ young people; an engagement with the ‘here and now’; the nurturing of young people-led democracy; and the significance of the skilled, improvisatory worker.
  8. Open access, universal provision is more effective than imposed, targeted work in reaching vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
  9. Youth Work outcomes, not being prescribed in advance, are complex and often longitudinal. Practice ought to be judged and evaluated, but not subject to the measurement of what is immeasurable.
  10. Training and continuous professional development through the HE institutions and local providers is essential for full-time, part-time and volunteer workers in ensuring the quality of practice.
  11. The National Citizen Service ought to be closed or curtailed, its funding transferred into all-year round provision, of which summer activities will be a part.
  12. JNC terms and conditions ought to be the basis for LA employed staff. However, youth work is not the property of a profession and recognition has to be given to other players, such as Faith groups, in the arena.
  13. Closer links ought to be revived and created between the youth work training agencies, regional youth work units and research centres, such as the Centre for Youth Impact.
  14. Youth Work ought to have advocates at a national level and key organisations such as the NYA and UK Youth ought to develop as critical and independent voices.
  15. Irrespective of Brexit, Youth Work ought to embrace the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention [2015] and be internationalist in outlook.
  16. Youth Work is not a soft-policing instrument of social control. Its fundamental aspiration is profoundly educational and political, ’for the many, not the few’. It seeks to nurture the questioning, compassionate young citizen committed to the creation of a socially just and democratic society.

TOWARDS AN IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK POSITION PAPER– Word version

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.)                                                                                                                                                      

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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

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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

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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