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.

 

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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

 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?’

Keeping IDYW alive – divvying up the tasks

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Not that exciting, but necessary. Today in Leamington Spa we’re holding an IDYW Steering Group meeting. Its primary purpose is to work out the best way of keeping the show on the road. As we reported at conference the burden is falling in the main on a few shoulders. Hence we are going to look at how we divide up the diversity of IDYW tasks and how we make sure that our readers/supporters are kept fully in the picture about what we’re up to. In particular we need to keep working at how we involve more people actively in our affairs. The increasing contribution to debate being made on Facebook is something of an inspiration as well as being full of its own ‘likeist’ contradictions.

Hoping to post an upbeat and hopeful report next week. Even a video of the Steering Group in chorus and then again, perhaps not.

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Ta to ptinterest.com

Best wishes and solidarity to all.

Blurring the Boundaries conference : Reflections 3

Adam Muirhead, Chair of the Institute of Youth work, posted these reflections on our IDYW conference on his blog, YOUTHWORKABLE, which is always worth a visit. He focuses in particular on the opening session, which in challenging our emphasis on the voluntary relationship raises issues we hope to explore in more depth in the near future.

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WHERE ‘IN DEFENCE’ ARE UP TO…

In Defence of Youth Work (IDYW) hosted the conference for what is clearly a large supporter base; 70+ of us were welcomed by Tony Taylor, who opened by updating on recent activities, thoughts and considerations of the IDYW group:

The numbers of supporters engaging online remain very good
There is a need for greater capacity and fresh blood on the steering group – plurality is welcomed
IDYW is transitioning from being a campaign group towards being a force for critical engagement with youth work theory and practice
Storytelling work is going strong and has now been translated into several languages
There is scope to increase the number and variety of posts made to the website, Facebook, Twitter etc

 

‘VOLUNTARY’ VS ‘MEANINGFULLY ENGAGED’

Bernard Davies introduced a presentation from Annette Coburn and Sinead Gormally that had been developed from ideas that came out of a chapter titled ‘Youth Work in Schools’ in the recent Graham Bright book . It challenges the ‘voluntary participation’ principle that, over the years, has become somewhat enshrined in youth work lore. The argument centred around the notion that young people may be within a non-voluntary space (such as a school, prison or hospital) and still be engaged in youth work if the focus of the work is young person centred, emancipatory, the relationship with the youth worker is able to be negotiated and if there is capacity to meaningfully engage.

Annette and Sinead argued that should this new paradigm be accepted it may represent a ‘threshold concept’ for youth work that allows us, with a new perspective, to move forwards with youth work representing ‘an educational methodology’ rather than a profession per se, that could help us to explore new theoretical landscapes.

Tania de St. Croix offered a contrasting response that the voluntary component is fundamental to our practice, especially in settings where sanctions can be imposed for non-compliance or non-attendance. The point was made that there remain so few spaces for young people to choose to come and go and youth work represents a bastion of the principle that this is absolutely necessary.

There was a helpful acknowledgement that power and choice are complicated issues – the ‘choice’ to be at a youth club may be because your mum kicks you out of the house each night and you have nowhere else to go. The power presents itself in different guises, for example, the Hitler Youth espoused principles of voluntary engagement…

THE DISCUSSION

The presentations precipitated some interesting reflections from the group at large; deliberately avoiding naming people I have tried to capture some below:

Student placements can’t be refused to those working in non-voluntary settings.
Reassuringly, graduates are going into non-voluntary settings and, with an appreciation for youth work ethics and values, are subverting the practices and creating ‘spaces for youth work’.
There are ‘open-access’ youth clubs that don’t look like they are doing youth work – the power imbalances are left completely unchecked (between genders for example. Conversely some excellent practice exists in school/college settings. Youth workers have colluded with the “give us a job, I can do that” mentality to keep funding. Has this been corrupting?
Is it helpful to consider youth work as separate from youth work skills so that we can ‘set out our stall’ with clarity?
An interesting Chinese perspective was added by one delegate who told of how youth work does not exist in and of itself in China. Those that work with teens outside of school are also known as teachers and the practice of gathering young people in their leisure time bears little significance/meaning in the ways we consider it does – until, that is, individuals take it upon themselves to apply youth work theory. But it’s certainly not permeated social policy at any level in this delegate’s experience.
Others felt that these discussions were quite self-centred on us as professionals; Young people must remain the focus of the discussion as the subject and the object of our work.
Starting where young people are at is key. Back in the day there was nothing else to do but go to the youth club. In this, workers actually had quite a lot of power. We now have to go where young people are at – it represents a new, necessary nature of youth work.
Many new youth workers have their own instincts about being a force for regulation and control and often, only after studying, bring a new emancipatory angle to their work – at the same time as their management try to enforce more control and regulation.
Changing the definition of youth work is the wrong starting place – we have to consider what we feel and know to be good practice (whilst recognising constraints).
We want to train a community of ‘critical pedagogues’ – we then practice youth work in a distinctive setting – after all, a teacher tries to ‘meaningfully engage’ young people…
The critical spaces to iron out these ideas have been in decline.
The setting is less important. Perhaps ‘voluntary’ relationships is a misnomer and an umbrella term should be found to encompass the complexities and multi-faceted nature of this notion?
Yes, youth workers have been guilty of hitting targets or acquiring funding by moving into schools etc – but isn’t it better that youth workers do this than PCSOs or Counsellors?
An interesting exercise may be to conduct an examination of how settings do influence practice. Are these values shared across the UK? Other countries didn’t have an Albemarle watershed…
Sue Atkins shared a funny anecdote about a cleaner at an art college she once knew. One student’s installation had been quite ‘casual’ and this cleaner lady had accidentally cleaned it away overnight. Once, she’d been informed of what she’d done she would go around pointing at rubbish asking ‘is this art?’, ‘is this art?’. There may be parallels now with us wandering confused, asking ‘is this youth work?’

So, perhaps more questions than answers, but I would reflect that delegates seemed to very much value the space provided on the day to thrash these ideas about together – I certainly did.

Thanks to the IDYW team, in my opinion no one creates these spaces better. I look forward to cultivating cooperation with the Institute for Youth Work as we move forwards in solving some of our puzzles!

Notes from the rest of the day may inform a forthcoming post.

Disclaimer – written in this post is my interpretation of people’s meaning and inference at this conference. Please contact me if you would like to challenge any points you recognise as your own that I have misinterpreted.