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

 

 

 

 

Youth Work in the Commonwealth: A Growth Profession

The Commonwealth Secretariat has published a major report, ‘Youth Work in the Commonwealth: A Growth Profession’ which seeks to establish a baseline of youth work in the Commonwealth.

The foreword begins:

More than 60 percent of the population of the Commonwealth is aged under 30,
and young people’s unique needs and capabilities, and the importance of their role in
national development, have been the central premise of the Commonwealth Youth
Programme for over four decades. This is also enshrined in the Commonwealth
Charter, which recognises ‘the positive and active role and contributions of young
people in promoting development, peace, democracy and in protecting and promoting
other Commonwealth values, such as tolerance and understanding, including respect
for other cultures’.
Youth workers have an essential, but often under-recognised and under-resourced,
role in engaging and supporting young people to be these positive and productive
citizens who contribute to national peace and prosperity.

BeltonC'wealth

At the launch of the publication, Brian Belton, the lead writer, made a presentation, which is to be found here in full – Belton commonwealth

These excerpts should whet your appetite.

Build a Collaborative Vision of what youth work is
We need a collaborative vision of what youth work is, what it can (and can’t do) and be prepared to review and develop this according to the changing needs of young people and global economic and social considerations. But this needs to be informed by a broad base, not just ‘northern’ and ‘academic’ interpretations, but particularly practices developed and pioneered, at the grassroots level, in the global south.

One definition of ‘academic’ is “not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest”. We love our theories for sure, but so often they are made to look pallid on exposure to reality. What youth work is, how it might effectively be done, cannot be satisfactorily cobbled together from behind the walls of the ivory towers.

Establish and implement supervision frameworks
Supervision is what differentiates youth work as a reflective practice that advances via dialogue and dialectical processes. It encompasses the main tool of youth work, focused and questioning examination of phenomena and circumstances; it is the basis of accountability and so ethical and rights-based practice. Supervision is a means of managing, evaluating and supporting practitioners and practice and a means to promote learning from the same.

Brian concludes:

However, without investment in the base, we will be that much less likely to know what it is that works in youth work and therefore less able to ensure the continued growth of a sector that can make full use of professional practices and understanding. I put it to you that the latter situation, where there is relatively little invested in the base, is one ensured to be fraught with frustration and inefficiency, as well-educated but effectively practically naive professionals lead young people to destinations premised more on hope and grand ideals than couched in a broad knowledge of practicalities and possibilities.

The comprehensive and challenging report can be downloaded as a pdf.

Youth Work in the Commonwealth
A Growth Profession

EXAMINING STOP AND SEARCH IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Am I right in thinking the Stop and Search debate in the UK as a whole has ignored the history of policing and young people in Northern Ireland?

November 6 – further to the original post see this link to an  Institute for Conflict Research report, Beyond the Margins – Building Trust in Policing With Young People

Thanks to Debs Erwin for the link.

 

stop and search

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

Sue Atkins, an extraordinary woman – 80 Years an Activist

 

Sue Atkins80

Last weekend Sheffield was warmed by autumnal sun and the joy emanating from those gathered at Sue Atkins’ 80th birthday party. Crossing the festooned threshold of the venue was to be thrown into a melting pot of humanity – youth workers past and present, the very young and the quite old, the toothful and toothless, folk from a diversity of cultures and backgrounds, All were thrust together through their shared respect and affection for a remarkable woman, who has devoted much of her life to a form of youth work, that aspires to be ‘volatile and voluntary, creative and collective – an association and conversation without guarantees’, informed at every turn by a genuine love for young people.

For my part, I met Sue first at a tumultuous Community and Youth Service Association [CYSA] conference in around 1980, out of which through the power of caucusing emerged the Community and Youth Workers Union [CYWU], of which she was to be a future President. Of her lengthy sojourn within youth work many a tale could be told, which suggests much sooner rather than later, an interview with Sue would be fascinating and revealing. Indeed it would shed light on why in the late 1980’s, in a memorable phrase, she described me, amongst others, as ‘a shite in whining armour’. Watch this space.

For now it’s sobering to note that she continues to be a leading light of the voluntary organisation, Youth Association South Yorkshire, a member of the Education and Training Standards Committee (ETS), the body that provides professional validation for youth work qualifications in England, on behalf of the JNC for Youth & Community Workers, not forgetting her formidable presence on our very own In Defence of Youth Work steering group.

Amongst the variety of tributes made during the day a highlight was the heartfelt rendition of this clever rewriting by Julia Lyford of a Flanders and Swann ditty, ‘The Gas Man cometh’. I suspect its lyrics will strike a chord with many a youth worker visiting these pages.

 

The Youth Worker Cometh

(With acknowledgements or apologies to Flanders and Swann)

 

In June of 1940 a circular was born

It spoke of building character, for brains but also brawn

It hoped to foster places where young people chose to be

Both physical and social, or just for jamboree

And it all made work for the volunteer to do dum dum dum…dah dah dah

 

The fifties kept on building up the recreation show

The teenager was born, discovered coffee and Bongo

In uniforms or sports strips or in drama, choir or dance

Communities and charities took up a moral stance

And it all made work for the youth leader to do dum dum dum….dah dah dah

 

‘Twas in the 1960s that Albemarle was cool,

It led to flashy centres, to arts labs and to pool

The dawning of Aquarius gave pace to drugs and sex

And self-determination meant that most of us were wrecks

But it all made work for co-counsellors to do dah dah dah…dah dah dah

 

The Seventies saw people start to recognise the gaps

To notice gender, race and class and reach for the detached

Nintendo loomed, and numbers fell, young people stayed away

So issue – based and project work began to have their day

And it all made work for the activist to do dum dum dum dah dah dah

 

The Eighties saw the riots, young people were ‘at risk’

From HIV or pregnancy or other kinds of fix

The Union fought the cuts and tackled section 28

We had to look for outcomes, with process out the gate

And it all made work for youth officers to do dum dum dum dah dah dah

 

From YTS to work – or not – young people bore the brunt

The nineties went thematic and put learning at the front

We taught in schools, had casework loads and tried to join it up

We ended with Connexions, aspirations all amock

And it all made work for personal advisers to do dum dum dum dah dah dah

 

The Noughties said ‘Youth Matters’ and we ended up in Trusts

We raided health and care funds and pretended to consult  

We safeguarded the vulnerable but not so much ourselves

We got bogged down in paperwork or starting stacking shelves

And it all made work for the volunteer to do dum dum dum…dah dah dah

 

So – in the twenty-tens Sue’s raised us all up in Defence ……

She’s given us momentum, to let youth work re-commence!

 

FOR THE TUNE!!

And, just to close by observing that to say Sue has been an activist for 80 years seems to be stretching a point. Yet I can just imagine Sue emerging from the womb with a half-apologetic, searching question already on her lips. So eighty years it is and long may it continue.

 

 

 

Youth & Policy on Feminism resurgent, Worklessness and the NCS Money-Tree

Having been out of action for a week and with loads happening I can’t sadly do justice to the latest trio of articles from the new-style Youth & Policy. However, they are all worth your time and contribute significantly to our understanding of the fluctuating scenario, within which we find ourselves.

Y&P

Young Women, Youth Work and Spaces: Resurgent Feminist Approaches

Janet Batsleer begins:

There has – in one thread of youth and community work – been a long-standing desire to link our practice in the most excluded and precaritised neighbourhoods with working-class social movements which also seek to turn back and away from sexism, racism and other oppressive forces (Batsleer, 2013). It is in this context – as such movements against neoliberalism are gathering strength again and being reframed – that I was invited in 2017 by two wonderful projects to act as a consultant to their work. The first is based with YouthLink Scotland and has involved an oral history of the links between youth work and the women’s movement in Scotland (www.scotswummin.org). The second is the publication by a Brussels NGO called Childcare Activists of a pamphlet called: Filles et autres minorises….des jeunes comme les autres? Vers un travail de jeunesse accessible a tou(s) (tes) which translated as ‘Girls and other minorities: youth like the others? Towards a youth work accessible to all?’ (www.activistchildcare.org). This study by Eleanor Miller and Mouhad Reghif, highlighted sexism, racism and intersectionality as key issues for street work, all of which have been captured in this pamphlet. In May 2017 I was invited to speak at a Conference for street workers and key figures in Francophone NGO’s from Belgium and France where the pamphlet was launched. What follows is a brief extract from my presentation.

 

Exploring ‘generations and cultures of worklessness’ in contemporary Britain

Despite research which emphasises that the idea of ‘generations of worklessness’ is a myth, the general public, politicians and the mainstream media still suggest that generations and cultures of worklessness exist in contemporary Britain. Kevin Ralston and Vernon Gayle outline evidence that disputes this damaging myth.

Introduction
The concepts of generations and cultures of worklessness have popular, political and international resonance. In politics, high profile figures, such as the UK Government Minister Chris Grayling, are on record as stating there are ‘four generations of families where no-one has ever had a job’ (in MacDonald et al, 2013). Esther McVey, when she was UK Minister for Employment, made reference to the widespread idea that there is a ‘something for nothing culture’ among some of those claiming benefits (DWP, 2013). The general notion, that there is a section of undeserving poor who should receive punishment or correction, is a central concept in neo-liberal politics (Wiggan, 2012; Soss et al, 2011; Wacquant, 2009; de Goede, 1996). Ideas associated with generations and cultures of worklessness also regularly appear in the traditional UK print media and the international press. For example, in 2013, the Daily Mail reported the story of an individual convicted of burning down his house, which resulted in deaths. They reported his status as a benefit claimant and described living on welfare benefits as a ‘lifestyle choice’ for some.

 

The National Citizen Service and The “Magic Money Tree”

This article by Sean Murphy draws on interviews with youth workers to argue that youth citizenship and engagement would be better supported by sustained youth and community work, rather than through the National Citizen Service.

Introduction
We are living in precarious times. Theresa May’s ‘snap election’ has catapulted the United Kingdom into a minority Conservative administration, and a far cry from the ‘strong and stable’ pre-election mantra. The nation is careering towards a Brexit with a limited mandate, its government, the economy and politics are in a state of flux. As Youniss et al. (2002) suggest, these changes can easily reshape concepts such as national identity, nationhood, and multiculturalism within a globalised world; and in such a moment, the meaning of citizenship can no longer be taken for granted. Moreover, the ‘snap election’ has led to the Conservative government devising a political deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reportedly worth over £1.5billion additional public spending for Northern Ireland.

Latest CONCEPT traverses youth work, adult education, governance and mental distress

CONCEPT

Another stimulating group of articles from our good friends at CONCEPT.

Vol 8, No 2 (2017)

Summer