For F*****’s sake! Tories Out!

 For our Future’s Sake, Tories Out

I’ve never been persuaded that turning out, whenever it suits politicians and their paymasters, to put a cross on a ballot paper is the highest expression of my democratic conviction. It strikes me as bizarre that handing over my say about how the world should be to an individual, who is the obedient follower of his or her party and who is neither accountable or recallable to me, is perceived as the democratic moment of my existence. Neither is my doubt an insult to the memory of those, who struggled for the universal adult franchise. This important victory is but a stepping stone towards more inclusive forms of democratic involvement, Even under its own rules representative democracy denies the vote to young people, who are taxed without representation.

Hence I’ve always treated elections with caution,  even though, in my time, I’ve leafletted and canvassed for Labour. Indeed there have been moments when I have also openly argued against voting Labour and shown sympathy with the anarchist slogan, ‘Don’t Vote, it only encourages them!’ This is not one such moment.

Across the years the professional youth workforce has tended to support Labour, seeing it as a progressive party committed to the central role of the state in providing public services. Indeed in 1997 many workers were seduced by Blair’s ‘Third Way’ with its championing of what has come to be called ‘identity politics’.  The price paid was a heavy one as New Labour abandoned class politics and solidarity, embracing both neoliberalism’s masturbatory self-centredness and its fetishistic belief in an iron law of the market.  The price paid has been austerity and widening inequality. The price paid has been the creation of the precarious society. The price paid has been the eruption of a Manichean world of good and evil, of our bombs and their bombs, none of which distinguish between the guilty or the innocent. Even as it forfeited power to the Conservatives, New Labour proved unable to think outside the neoliberal oblong. Thus there has seemed to be little choice in the party political arena – ‘you couldn’t put a Rizla between them’.

However, in the last turbulent months and volatile days, the scenario has changed dramatically. A Labour Party, perceived as in a terminal crisis, has risen from its bed, led by Jeremy Corbyn, an unlikely and much-maligned figurehead. To the dismay of much of its Parliamentary wing the Labour Party has been reminded of its social-democratic heritage. Its manifesto, whilst by no means the last word in radicalism, is being experienced as a breath of exhilarating air, by many more than just the faithful. It asserts the common good against private greed. It desires peace not war. Whilst it says very little about youth work – a promise to stop the cuts, NCS retained – it offers hope for young people, aspiring to free them from debt and zero-hour contracts. For now, our sectional interests are not the burning issues.

Where does this leave us? It seems pretty straightforward – Vote Labour on Thursday. And yet? Despite Labour’s remarkable recovery from being written off, it is very unlikely that it can achieve an overall majority, especially with Scotland in mind. And I’m convinced such a triumph would be deeply problematic. It would be pulled off with the support of a minority of the population, which would not stop Labour from declaring it had a mandate to impose its programme. At odds with the proposal that he’s about a new way of doing politics, Jeremy Corbyn is still tribal in his outlook. He yearns for the revival of the two-party contest, Labour versus Conservative. Thus he refuses to countenance supportive, working agreements with other political parties. The Greens are dismissed, even though Caroline Lucas might well be the first choice for a Deputy Prime Minister. He argues neither the Scottish National Party nor the Liberal Democrats are progressive, not to be touched with a fishing rod. Yet the majority of his own party’s MP’s suffer in stunned silence, unable to get their heads around the collapse of their pragmatic accommodation to the status quo.  Can you believe it, they are now being expected to believe in something other than their own careers?

For sure, it’s a mess of contradiction, but let me end with two proposals, for what they’re worth.

  1.  If at all possible, it is vital to prevent five further years of a growing Tory authoritarian populism.
  2. We need to celebrate the possible emergence of a Coalition of Chaos, which brings together in creative dialogue and practice political groupings, which in opposing the way things are, possess a vision of a fairer society.  In IDYW we urge a practice that is improvisatory and reflective, democratic and emancipatory, knowing that nothing is ever guaranteed.

On Thursday, vote defensively to stop the Tories and vote optimistically for a new way of doing politics. In this momentous clash our vote is but the beginning. Both within and without youth work our obligation is to carry on building from below. Our task is to hold politicians to account. Our commitment is to speak truth to power.

Thursday looks like being more enthralling than we ever thought. Whatever the outcome, the struggle continues.

 

 

Vote, but voting is never enough……what about some social action?

Predictably Theresa May’s General Election call has led to an upsurge of interest in voting, democracy and politics. Our Facebook page is hosting an interesting thread, kicked off by a question about how to engage young people with the spectre of the looming election. My own long-standing concerns about youth work’s widespread fear of being political and the stunted nature of parliamentary democracy itself are best left to a separate post. Indeed it might be an appropriate moment to dig out a rant I inflicted on a Federation of Detached Youth Workers conference back in 2007. I don’t think it’s past its sell-by date.

However, whatever my reservations about equating voting every so often with being political, the coming election is a highly significant moment in a volatile global atmosphere. Thus here are a number of recommended resources to inform our conversations and activities with young people in the coming weeks.

The League of Young Voters

Bite the Ballot

cropped-BTB-logo-turquoise

Democracy Cookbook – The Recipes

Register to vote

 

And whilst we are exploring with young people the significance or otherwise of the vote, it might be an appropriate time to rescue the idea of social action from the suffocating ‘volunteering’ definition advanced by Step up to Serve. In the run up to the election what about exploring with young people taking direct, public action around issues that perhaps matter to them – a right to benefits, the issue of low pay and zero-hour contracts, the lack of appropriate housing, the precarious future they face and indeed the demand to vote at 16 – not to mention what’s happening to youth provision in their neck of the woods? If we are talking about politics, about power, there is a question haunting youth work. To what extent, with honourable exceptions, has it supported the growth of young people’s authentic social movements from below, giving the lie to Tim Laughton’s fatuous claim that NCS is the fastest growing social movement in Europe. Grassroots social movements don’t have marketing budgets. In this context the recent and ongoing young people’s campaign to save youth services in Brighton offers lessons and poses dilemmas. At this very moment these young people’s energies are turning to wider social and political issues than just youth work. I wonder out loud what is their take on the forthcoming General Election?

This has been said many times, in different ways, but the great advances in terms of freedom and justice have not been the outcome of ruly and bureaucratic procedures from on high, but the result of unruly and improvised action from below. Yes, vote, but don’t stop there.

Over 3,000 folk follow In Defence of Youth Work on Facebook

To keep non-Facebook followers in the picture I posted this message on Facebook at the weekend.

 

20170317-_DSC1292

Pauline Grace is ecstatic as Fin Cullen reveals the number of IDYW Facebook followers! Ta to Justin Wyllie for the brilliant image

 

Just a note to say that as of now the IDYW Facebook group membership has passed the 3,000 mark – 3,046 to be exact. From its humble beginnings on the back of a 2009 Open Letter, which sought both to criticise and oppose the undermining of open, young people-centred, process-led youth work, it has developed, I think, into the most active and pluralist forum of information and debate in the UK. There was a time when the majority of posts came by way of me. That narrow source has long been surpassed. In recent years more and more people have contributed under their own steam, sparking off unexpected and challenging threads of discussion. Indeed this developing diversity flies in the face of those, who, when it suits, peddle the myth, that IDYW is no more than a bunch of moaners trapped in the past. It is true, though, that a few of us might well be put out to pasture, but for the time being, we’ll carry on mucking in. And as evidence that our collective thoughts remain relevant, look out this week for news of a significant piece of European research led by a Finnish university, inspired by our IDYW cornerstones and our Story-Telling approach to interrogating practice.
In the meantime sincere thanks for your critical support, involvement and solidarity.

The Facebook page is to be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/90307668820/

The cuts are taking youth clubs back to their Victorian roots – Sue Shanks in the Guardian

Just in case you missed it here’s the link to Sue’s insightful piece in the Guardian this week.

The cuts are taking youth clubs back to their Victorian roots

 

20170317-_DSC1329

Sue chats to Malcolm Ball at last week’s conference – ta to Justin Wyllie

 

IDYW Local and Regional Seminars, February 24 – Join in and organise

newlogo

 

Colin Brent is coordinating our effort to encourage you to meet locally and regionally to further reflection and debate

Hi everyone, it’s time to start thinking again about the next round of local seminars/discussions. These provide an opportunity for youth workers, students and friends of youth work to come together and discuss issues that they face. I’m suggesting “space” as the theme for the next one: can we share the ‘safe space’ we create with young people with other agencies and how do we negotiate this; does youth work need its own distinct spaces (youth centres) or can it take place in schools, council offices etc.? The last seminars were  in London and Liverpool, it would be great if other areas could join in the debate.

As things stand Colin is looking to coordinate meetings on Friday, February 24th and promising noises are being made by people in London, Liverpool/Oldham and Brighton. Obviously the onus is on local folk to find a venue and publicise, but it can be very low-key. Simply bringing together a handful of people would be a positive start.

Contact Colin to find out more at birnbaumbrent@hotmail.com

Organising IDYW Activity in 2017

Minutes of meetings are hardly anybody’s idea of a riveting read. However, we’d be grateful if you could give the following notes of our last Steering Group meeting a quick glance. And to say that anyone interested in giving some time to our endeavours is encouraged to get in touch. We are in no sense a closed group – the more voices, the better.

newlogo

Present: Malcolm Ball, Bernard Davies, John Grace, Pauline Grace, Naomi Thompson, Tony Taylor and, via SKYPE with differing levels of success, Colin Brent, Paula Connaughton and Tania de St Croix.

Apologies: ;Susan Atkins, Paul Hogan, Kevin Jones, Diane Law

The primary purpose of the meeting was to explore and agree on a fresh way of organising the work of IDYW. taking into account the publicised shift to being first and foremost a forum catalysing critical discussion and the need to move beyond there being a single, leading IDYW Coordinator. In seeking to do so and in the light of recent discussions about blurring the boundaries of what constitutes youth work the Steering Group confirmed its commitment to defending the distinctiveness of youth work as expressed in the IDYW cornerstones of practice.

After much discussion the following was agreed:

TASKS and Lead Person[s]

Maintaining website/blog, Facebook and Twitter plus encouraging participation etc. – Tony Taylor
Developing European links and relationships – Malcolm Ball, Colin Brent, Pauline Grace
Coordinating Story-Telling Workshops – Bernard Davies
Maintaining Story-Telling website and resource – Colin Brent
Admin support for seminars/conferences/events – Rachel via Youth Association South Yorkshire [YASY]
IDYW Accounts – Heather via YASY
Monitoring possible Research opportunities – Naomi Thompson
Annual Conference arrangements – Malcolm Ball
Encouraging regional and local IDYW networks/meetings – Colin Brent
Encouraging national and regional IDYW seminars – Tania de St Croix
Monitoring possible contributions to external conferences/events/publications – Tony Taylor
Linking/relating to National Youth Agency/Education,Training Standards Committee – Sue Atkins
Linking/relating to Institute of Youth Work – Pauline Grace
Linking/relating to ChooseYouth – Malcolm Ball
Linking/relating to Centre for Youth Impact – Tania de St Croix
Linking/relating to Training Agencies Group and Youth & Policy – Paula Connaughton
Acting as secretary to SG meetings – to be rotated

 

Further bits and pieces of interest:

 

Pauline informed us of a conference in Lithuania to launch the Academic Journal of Open Youth Work. In the event a workshop on neoliberalism’s impact on English youth work was run by Tony Taylor, Pauline Grace and Malcolm Ball. A further post will offer further details, including a link to the on-line journal.
On the Story-Telling front we ran a workshop in Carlow on December 9 with work underway to organise possible events in Cardiff, Huddersfield and Manchester. Look out for the workshop flyer.
As you can see above, we agreed to change the logo to freshen up our image eight years on from our birth. Many thanks to Peter Griffiths at http://www.peter-griffiths.com/ for the design.
In terms of the 2018 national conference we agreed to check if Y&P is holding its History conference next year and if so, to hold our conference in tandem. In past years the event in Leeds has attracted a positive mix of students and workers with a sprinkling of academics. More immediately the 2017 national conference is to be held on Friday, March 17, almost certainly in Birmingham. More info in the next few days.

 

Date of next meeting: February 10

 

I wonder, does every Youthworker……?A freezing James Ballantyne ponders.

My favourite youth work blogger, James Ballantyne, kicks off the New Year with a list of questions it’s difficult to resist answering. His musing starts from pondering whether all youth workers are huddled in cold offices.

cold-office

Ta to distractify.com

Read in full at I wonder, does every Youthworker……?

That got me thinking – what else – apart from the ability to work in a cold office – what other experiences of youth work might be pretty much common, or even universal to all youth workers?

  • Do all youth workers have a positive experience of being ‘youth worked’ as a young person?
  • Do all youth workers have large DVD collections (we could be specific and suggest actual titles)
  • I wonder – do all faith-based youth workers either start or grow up evangelical? – some might stay.
  • Do all youth workers hope they had better supervision?
  • Have all youth workers used at least one ‘ready to use guide’ in youthwork magazine?
  • Have all youth workers had to try and describe what they do by saying what they’re not? (ie police, social worker, teacher)
  • Do all youth workers find the dark spots even when the light is blazing bright?
  • Do all youth workers love that moment when it ‘just clicks’ between themselves and a young person – that moment of conversation, moment of trust, moment of significance
  • Do all youth workers wish more people would ‘get’ what youth work actually is
  • Do all youth workers know the feeling of just running on adrenalin during a residential weekend with young people – but also loving every single minute of it
  • Have all youth workers (in the UK) read either something by Pete Ward, Jeffs and Smith, Paulo Freire, Danny Brierley or Richard Passmore?
  • Do all youth workers cringe at being subjected to the same ice-breakers that they subject young people to?
  • Has every youth worker had the ‘Why me?’ moment when the mini-bus breaks down half way up the M6, or young people smash windows on the residential, or terrorise the neighbours, or run across the roadr, drunk, just when you are with them on detached (maybe that one is just me) – but the ‘why me?’ moment none the less.
  • Has every youth worker took positives from the ‘why me?’ moment – either for themselves, the memories and experiences created or the relationship building with such challenging young people… yeah,, thought so..
  • Does every youth worker secretly wish they got paid as much as a teacher but glad they don’t have to do the work or have the day to day pressure a teacher does.
  • Does every youth worker drink coffee? ( actually no this isn’t true)
  • Is every youth worker on Facebook?
  • Does every youth worker love the variety of every day, of every week and every moment with young people?
  • Does every youth worker hate it when young people are misrepresented, judged unfairly and not listened to?
  • Does every youth worker work in a cold office space?

Nodding much? ..I thought so… I reckon I am at least 15 of these and so I wonder if they are just ‘highlights’ of my own experience as a youth worker, and I imagine many of you reading this will be able to add others to the list. It’s a bit like those magazines, if you scored 0-8 you’re not a proper youth worker, or ‘are you new?’ , score 8-15..and so on.. but

There are times when the world of youth work brings out the distinctions in people’s practices, beliefs or intentions, but I wonder deep down most youth workers share many common experiences of cold office spaces, misunderstood practice, love for coffee and DVD’s, and desire better supervision – all because they invest and care deeply about young people.

PS In a provocative tweet James asks, ‘Call yourself a youth worker? Maybe getting 15/20 is the benchmark?’