NHS at 70: Defending the Common Good Together

                                                             #NHSwontletgo

NHS at 70

Thanks to Sue Atkins for the collage

In our proposal,

REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE

our final point signals our solidarity with the struggle to defend the National Health Service on its 70th birthday.

The renaissance we urge hinges on a break from the competitive market and the self-centred individualism of neoliberalism and the [re]creation of a Youth Work dedicated to cooperation and the common good.

 

 

PARTISPACE – Spaces and Styles of Participation: challenging, must-read research

If heaven forbid, I was Youth Work’s Overlord I would issue an edict requiring all youth workers of a reflective persuasion to immerse themselves in this thought-provoking research. 

PARTISPACE – Spaces and Styles of Participation: Formal, non-formal and informal possibilities of young people’s participation in European cities

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To whet your appetite,

Summary of PARTISPACE outcomes

There is widespread concern across Europe about the future of democracy, and in particular about young people’s apparent failure to participate, often attributed to lack of motivation or capability. The PARTISPACE project shares the concern, but questions the diagnosis. It starts instead from an assumption that the dominant understanding of youth participation in research, policy and practice is too narrow, often limited to institutionalised forms of participation, and ignores much of what young people do in public space. This bias is related to structures of social inequality, and thus is itself a part of the problem of democracy.

PARTISPACE aims at a rethinking of youth participation by analysing what young people do in public space, what it means to them and to what extent this can be understood as political, civic and social. The research question is: How and where do young people participate, across social milieus and youth cultural scenes? What styles of participation do they prefer and develop – and in what spaces?

The project has undertaken a comparative mixed-method study in 8 cities across Europe: Bologna (IT), Frankfurt (DE), Gothenburg (SE), Eskisehir (TK), Manchester (UK), Plovdiv (BG), Rennes (FR), Zurich (CH). The design included reviews of national youth policies, a secondary analysis of survey data, and a critical discourse analysis of European policy documents. Then, qualitative local studies were conducted consisting of 188 expert interviews, 100 group discussions and 96 biographical interviews with young people as well as 48 ethnographic case studies of formal, non-formal and informal participatory settings. Additionally, 18 participatory action research projects have been conducted by and with young people.

Policy reviews, discourse analysis, secondary analysis of surveys and expert interviews confirm the dominance of a narrow understanding of participation. Group discussions with young people in contrast revealed that they are highly active in public spaces, yet in most cases in informal ways. They are busy with coping with their lives which are structured by pressure to succeed, precariousness and discrimination. In so much as these practices of coping involve public space, they include claims of being a part of, and taking part in, society. Therefore, they are referred to as everyday life participation and thus as political (as distinct from politics).

PARTISPACE has studied a diversity of practices, some of which are recognised as participation whilst others are not. We have analysed their relationships with local contexts, spaces, styles, biographies, and learning:

  • Local contexts differ according to socio-economic factors, discourses about youth, youth policy infrastructure and responsiveness, and youth discourses. Influence of national welfare systems is less direct, although regulation of access to education, welfare and good jobs affects social inclusion and citizenship. Where youth policies are most developed, forms of formal youth representation tend to be established. However, take-up tends to be low, they are criticised for tokenism and paternalism – aimed at forming ‘good’ citizens.
  • Social space structures young people’s practices, and young people’s practices structure social space. A key finding is that young people are active in appropriating public spaces, turning them into places that are meaningful for them, where they belong and feel they have control, which fit with their youth cultural styles, and where they feel safe. Appropriation involves exploration, conquering and defending spaces as well as ‘boundary’ work: inclusion/exclusion, insider/outsider, and relevance/irrelevance are constantly questioned, contested or confirmed.
  • Analysing young people’s styles of participation means asking not if and why young people participate, but how they participate in different ways, and noting the different and unequal recognition which different styles receive. Analysing differences in terms of (youth cultural) styles shows that not only forms but also issues matter. Young people participate only in ways that enable exploration of their individual and collective identities. However, there are also differences and distinctions reflecting social inequalities of life chances, risks, resources and recognition.
  • Young people’s participation biographies reveal that searching for recognition and belonging seems to be the most important motive to engage. In some cases, this is linked to coping with critical life events, problems with peers, experiences of injustice or lack of self-efficacy. Where and how young people participate depends on a complex interplay of factors in individual biographies. Positive experiences with formal institutions, especially school, seem to be a condition for involvement in formal participation, whilst most young people prefer informal settings.
  • The question of how young people learn to participate cannot be separated from the observation that across different contexts there is strong evidence of a ‘pedagogisation’ of youth participation: young people are being seen as not knowing or not wanting to participate and therefore needing education. There is little attention paid to structures of inequality and dominance or to young people’s competences and ideas. Rather than through teaching and training, participation is learned by doing. Adults can support this by recognising and offering young people dialogic reflection of their own activities in public space.

In sum, PARTISPACE findings point to the need to understand youth participation as relational (not individualised), based on experiences and relationships of recognition, as political (but not politics) and as often conflictual. Participation  is rooted in everyday life practices structured by social inequalities and dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion. It evolves in public spaces and thus includes claims to be a part of, and attempts to take part in, society.

Taking this into account, policy and practice can support youth participation by:

  • Shifting from inviting young people into formal participation to recognition of a diversity of practices in public space
  • Making youth policies responsive and reflexive while increasing and diversifying funding making it accessible for young people directly
  • Accepting and allowing for the enactment of conflicts as constitutive for participatory democracy
  • Democracy is learned by doing, adults and professionals can support this by recognition and dialogue but power and rights should not be made conditional on prior learning.Democratising school to turn it into a place of experience and recognition of participation rather than of mere citizenship teaching
  • Opening up public spaces for young people by providing additional spaces, accepting diverse use and appropriation of public spaces and giving access to abandoned spaces
  • Developing and securing a reliable and diverse youth work infrastructure providing open spaces which are not instrumentalised for school, employability and entrepreneurship
  • Addressing discrimination, inequality and precariousness by unconditional access to welfare, education and employment
  • Developing a (European) Charter of Youth Rights – understood as living document – as a platform both for the conflict and the recognition aspects of youth participation.

 

Late next year a book based on the research will be published, entitled, Contested Practices, Power and Pedagogies of Young People in Public Spaces: The Struggle for Participation
edited by Andreas Walther, Janet Batsleer, Patricia Loncle and Axel Pohl (Routledge)

 

Transformative Youth Work International Conference: Developing and Communicating Impact – Last chance for places!

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Transformative Youth Work International Conference: Developing and Communicating Impact
4-6 September 2018, University of St Mark and St John, Plymouth

Book before 22nd June 2018 to join the conference. Registration available via this link

This conference will specifically address the issue of outcomes and the impact of youth work. The conference, supported by Erasmus +, will bring together a range of experts from across Europe and the wider world, to showcase the latest research on the Impact of Youth Work, including publication of the Erasmus + funded 2 year comparative study of the Impact of Youth Work in UK, Finland, Estonia, Italy and France. Keynote confirmed as Professor Rob White from Tasmania University addressing: ‘Innovative Approaches to Transformative Youth Work Practice’. Over 70 non-UK participants have already booked incl. from Japan, Nepal, USA and New Zealand, so be sure to reserve your place before the final deadline of 22nd June 2018.

PS Tony Taylor of IDYW is a contributor on the panel at the end of the conference. Given his hostility to the neoliberal discourse of outcomes and impact, it will be interesting to see how his argument is received.

The Future of In Defence of Youth Work – steering group discussion, June 15

 

As most readers/supporters will recognise IDYW is very much a voluntary venture.  It relies on a few souls to maintain its organisational presence on the youth work scene. Without wanting to exaggerate my significance I have reached a moment when for personal reasons, I need to withdraw from my role as the IDYW coordinator. With this in mind, the IDYW steering group is meeting on Friday, June 15 in Manchester to explore the consequences of my decision, which has not been taken lightly.

For information, you will find below my report circulated to the steering group, which will be used to open the discussion. Obviously, we will report back to you on the outcome of our musings.

My experience of being the IDYW Coordinator

In the end, I’ve failed to quantify the privilege/burden of being the IDYW Coordinator across almost a decade. In addition, a couple of previous efforts to provide something useful for our discussion in Manchester on June 15 have foundered on my indulgent guilt about letting the side down by withdrawing from the role.

Before dealing with the three main areas – the website, social media and administration – it’s important to say something about the issues of time, capacity and energy, which govern how much any person[s] can give to the role. To offer but two examples from my experience.

  • Given I no longer sell my labour I have finished up in a position, whereby almost the first thing I do every day involves IDYW – switching on the computer, going to Gmail, Facebook, checking links etc.
  • I read rapidly, voraciously and, some might say, superficially. I write laboriously and, some might say, pretentiously, giving more weight to my words than they deserve, all the while typing with one finger!

Someone else might well be much more organised, efficient and innovative, provided circumstances allow.

The IDYW website

According to the statistics, in 2017 there were 24,000 visits and 48,928 views. Significantly many visitors found their way via search engines, where IDYW is prominent, because of the level of its activity. Facebook and Twitter are also prominent in guiding people to the site. Whilst the UK boasts the most views at roughly 75%, almost 20% emanate from the USA, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Belgium.

I think this data indicates the importance of posting regularly and interestingly to the website. Hence I have seen this as a priority, but, with the above caveats in mind, this is time-consuming.

The website has never generated ongoing debate through its Comments facility.

The Social Media [Facebook and Twitter]

As of May 27, the IDYW FB page has 3,677 members. Over the years it has grown to be, I believe, the most active and wide-ranging UK youth work discussion forum. Thus I feel obliged to enter its portals more or less every day – checking for new member requests, moderating [very rarely] posts, cross-referencing with the website, picking upon links posted by members and intervening myself in discussion threads.

This last point poses a contradiction. The FB page represents our best opportunity for a continuing dialogue with our readers/supporters, yet I have chastised the Steering Group [SG] with honourable exceptions for failing to grasp this opening. However, I suspect, the FB page would survive a lack of intervention from ourselves as it has morphed increasingly into being the place to go for advice on practice, to advertise projects and jobs etc. Our dilemma is that this pluralist shift risks the forum losing its grounding in the IDYW cornerstones, especially if the website was reduced in importance.

As a matter, of course, I link all website posts to Twitter, which, as we have seen, does generate traffic, but I only visit there a couple of times a week.

General Administration

This area of responsibility has fluctuated over the years and at the meeting we should visit our attempted division of labour to see how successful it has been. Without going into detail it has confirmed my sense that we need a named person, who retains an overview of what’s going on. In the past, I think my efforts to summarise where we’ve seemed up to ahead of SG meetings have been valuable.

As things stand I’m still the first port of call via email for anyone wanting to get in touch with IDYW. To repeat this very ordinary demand leads to the daily pressure to think about IDYW.

More broadly my identification as the IDYW coordinator has led to invitations to contribute in that role at national and International gatherings, for example, the forthcoming Transformative Youth Work conference in Plymouth. So too it has meant that I’ve scribbled with this head on, both individually and collaboratively over recent years, for example, the chapter, ‘The Impact of Neoliberalism upon the Character and Purpose of English Youth Work and Beyond’, written with Paula Connaughton, Tania de St Croix, Bernard Davies and Pauline Grace, to appear shortly in the Sage Handbook of Youth Work Practice.

For the moment I’ll circulate these thoughts as a first provisional assay into our debate. I would welcome questions, criticisms.

Tony Taylor

The Ten Minute Bill and a problematic PMQ?

 

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I’m probably illustrating how out of touch I am, but I continue to disagree with the line taken by Lloyd in his question to Teresa May. Arguing for a Youth Service on the grounds that an alarming number of young people have felt suicidal or that knife and gang crime is rising does not offer, in my opinion, a convincing and sustainable basis for renewing universal, open access, informal education provision, which remains valuable in its own right, whilst being humble about its part in tackling social dilemmas rooted deeply in an alienating and exploitative society.

Ironically May’s weak response would have been rendered even weaker if Lloyd had at least mentioned the precarious future visited upon young people by the Tories’ policies.

 

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

Q7. Last year, a quarter of young people thought about suicide, and one in nine attempted suicide. Young people are three times more likely to be lonely than older people. Knife crime is up, and gang crime is up. There are fewer opportunities for young people than ever before—68% of our youth services ​have been cut since 2010—with young people having nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to speak to. Is it now time for a statutory youth service, and will the Prime Minister support my ten-minute rule Bill after Prime Minister’s questions? [905633]

The Prime Minister
I think “Nice try” is the answer to the hon. Gentleman, but he said that there were fewer opportunities for young people here in this country. May I just point out to him the considerable improvement there has been in the opportunities for young people to get into work and the way in which we have seen youth unemployment coming down?

Some more photos from Facebook of the great turnout at the Palace of Varieties, to borrow a phrase from Denis Skinner.

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10minutebill

 

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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What future in mind? Critical Perspectives on Youth Wellbeing and Mental Health

I’m not sure if any of our London folk are going to this conference, which is being held today, but it would be excellent to get feedback. The questions being raised need answering by all those wedded seemingly uncritically to notions of wellbeing and the rise of a mentally unhealthy younger generation. Somewhere, gathering dust, I’ve got the notes of contribution I made to a conference on wellbeing. I should blow off the cobwebs and post it sometime.

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What future in mind? Critical Perspectives on Youth Wellbeing and Mental Health.

DATE AND TIME: Fri 18 May 2018 from 10:00 to 16:00 

LOCATION: 152-153 – Cayley Room, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London, W1B 2HW
Amidst mounting concern over wellbeing and mental health, improving the state of mind of the young has become a preoccupation of Western economies. In the UK politicians, celebrities and even key members of the British monarchy have campaigned on the issue, demanding earlier intervention to support wellbeing, resilience and positive mental health in schools. More critical voices have drawn attention to the social and structural conditions shaping wellbeing, arguing that the problematization of personal development deflects from the politics of distress in a context of brutal austerity and rising levels of poverty and inequality.

Yet enthusiasm for classroom-based social and emotional training and mental health education is evident in many other national contexts, spanning a range of political and economic frameworks.

This day seminar will examine how concepts of wellbeing and mental health are being applied to children and young people, and will critically explore how positive minds and futures are being envisaged by policymakers. Questions to be discussed include:

Why is state intervention in the social and emotional lives of children and young people increasing in these regions? Can it improve lives and increase happiness or does it instead seek to foreclose the future for the next generation, securing a problematic (unhappy) status quo?

 
As late capitalism is buffeted by global economic crises are the minds of the young increasingly coveted as key sites to anchor and stabilize market based rationality?

 
Can the concept of wellbeing be reclaimed as a socially located experience or is it necessarily a personalised, psychological variable?

 
What alternative ways are there to understand and support the best interests and wellbeing of young people?