A critical view of NCS and citizenship from the world of political geography

sign up toncs

The National Citizen Service programme has been having a rough ride recently, but its supporters would claim that much of the criticism emanates from the ranks of jealous and prejudiced youth workers. Hence it’s illuminating to ponder the following piece of research undertaken by Sarah Mills and Catherine Waite, published in the journal, ‘Political Geography’.

Highlights

Explores youth citizenship and the politics of scale to propose concept of ‘brands of youth citizenship’.

Examines the imaginative and institutional geographies of learning to be a citizen.

An analysis of National Citizen Service and its scaling of youth citizenship.

Original fieldwork with NCS architects, delivery providers and young people.

Examines ‘Britishness’, devolution and youthful politics in the United Kingdom.

Brands of youth citizenship and the politics of scale: National Citizen Service in the United Kingdom

Abstract
This paper explores the politics of scale in the context of youth citizenship. We propose the concept of ‘brands of youth citizenship’ to understand recent shifts in the state promotion of citizenship formations for young people, and demonstrate how scale is crucial to that agenda. As such, we push forward debates on the scaling of citizenship more broadly through an examination of the imaginative and institutional geographies of learning to be a citizen. The paper’s empirical focus is a state-funded youth programme in the UK – National Citizen Service – launched in 2011 and now reaching tens of thousands of 15–17 year olds. We demonstrate the ‘branding’ of youth citizenship, cast here in terms of social action and designed to create a particular type of citizen-subject. Original research with key architects, delivery providers and young people demonstrates two key points of interest. First, that the scales of youth citizenship embedded in NCS promote engagement at the local scale, as part of a national collective, whilst the global scale is curiously absent. Second, that discourses of youth citizenship are increasingly mobilised alongside ideas of Britishness yet fractured by the geographies of devolution. Overall, the paper explores the scalar politics and performance of youth citizenship, the tensions therein, and the wider implications of this study for both political geographers and society more broadly at a time of heated debate about youthful politics in the United Kingdom and beyond.

If possible don’t be put off by the denseness of the abstract or the profusion of bracketed references demanded by academia, the article explores insightfully the continuing tension about what we mean by citizenship and the particular interpretation advocated via NCS. As ever responses would be most welcome.

Thanks to Lyam Galpin for drawing the article to our attention.

Spring is in the air with a new edition of CONCEPT

Our friends at CONCEPT inform us that the Spring edition is now online at http://concept.lib.ed.ac.uk/Concept/. Always worth exploring.

Vol 8, No 1 (2017): Spring
Table of Contents
Articles
Feminism: A Fourth to be Reckoned With? Reviving Community Education Feminist Pedagogies in a Digital Age by Mel Aitken

Vulnerable Practice: Why We Need Honest Conversations To Make Change  by Nicky Bolland

The Challenges of Community Planning for the Community and Voluntary Sector in the Current Climate: A Road Well Travelled? by Mae Shaw

Youth And Community Based Approaches to Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls: Reflections from India by Marjorie Mayo, Deboshree Mohanta

On The Block: The Fairer Scotland Action Plan and Democracy  by Jim Crowther

Poetry

Poem: United Colours of Cumnock by Jim Monaghan

Reviews

Review: Peter McLaren, (2015) Pedagogy of Insurrection by Juha Suoranta

Review: William Davies, (2016) The Happiness Industry by Christina McMellon

Call for Contributions: Youth Work with Young Refugees

Apologies I’ve only just caught up with this call so it’s pretty short notice. You’ll need to read the following in full to get a sense of what is being looked for. I’ve copied below the background from the full document.

YOUTH WORK WITH YOUNG REFUGEES

 

refugees

Ta to tbo.com

 

COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND EUROPEAN UNION: YOUTH PARTNERSHIP

We invite you to write a contribution and send it to Tanya.basarab@partnership-eu.coe.int and to maria.pisani@um.edu.mt. We strongly encourage in your papers to focus on youth work with young refugees primarily – which is the main theme of the Youth Knowledge Book.

 

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO YOUTH KNOWLEDGE BOOK ON
YOUTH WORK WITH YOUNG REFUGEES

In 2015 more than a million migrants requested asylum in Europe. Efforts to block the
Mediterranean route, through controversial agreements such as the EU/Turkey deal, has
witnessed a drop in numbers. However, in the absence of safer alternatives, the Central
Mediterranean route has continued to increase, as month on month thousands of refugee and other forced migrants continue to risk their lives in an effort to cross borders, and find safety, dignity and a better life in Europe. The vast majority making this journey are young people, aged between 14 to 34 (Eurostat, 2016).

For many young refugees then, the border represents both death, and hope. The border
serves as a state instrument of control, and also as the ideological marker for the
construction of national and political identity – delineating who belongs, and who does not; who has rights, and the right to rights (Pisani, 2015). But borders are not just definite lines, they are also a messy collage of creative spaces, of relationships and stories (Sassen, 2006). The ‘young refugee’ embodies the borderlands, a liminal space between nation states and cultures, between childhood and adulthood – where different identities, cultures, ethnicities, languages and ways of knowing, imagining, and being can interact, and intersect, opening up possibilities for transformative, political spaces.

Likewise, positioned at the ‘cusp’ (Williamson, 2014), youth work can also be seen as
positioned within these borderlands – fluid, contested and diverse, the ‘borders’ of youth
work often refutes definition, offering a diverse range of motivations, purpose and
activities, ranging from civic engagement towards transformation and social justice, to
being an instrument of the state, focused on leisure activities, integration and control.

The borderlands is a space that presents competing pressures and interests, and produces conflicting responses. The youth work response will depend on the varied ways in which we imagine these spaces and how we enact them. Youth work is never complete: evolving contexts and lived realities bring new imperatives, and new questions about the role, purpose and value of youth work.

Apologies too that the formatting is not sorted properly.

 

 

 

On being heard in your own country, on being heard in Europe

There’s a famous passage in the New Testament, in which Jesus reflects that a prophet might well find it difficult to be heard on their own patch. This observation sprang to mind on hearing that both the IDYW cornerstones and our Story-Telling approach to unravelling the character of practice are at the heart of a new European publication looking at impact and evaluation. I’ll hand over to Bernard Davies, who coordinates our work on Story-Telling, to continue the tale.

Finnish

Studying the Impact of International Youth Work – Towards developing an evaluation tool for youth centres reports on a research project funded by the European Erasmus + programme and carried out in Finland, Estonia and Slovenia. Written by Anu Gretschel, the senior researcher, in co-operation with academic and practitioner colleagues from all three of the participating countries, it has been published by the Helsinki: Finnish Youth Centres Association, the Finnish Youth Research Society and the Finnish Youth Research Network.

Particularly significant – and encouraging – for IDYW is the project’s development of the IDYW youth work story-telling process as one of its main research methods. To analyse the evidence coming out of the stories this generated, it then used a version of the IDYW Cornerstones of youth work practice which we subsequently revised to highlight the importance of giving attention to young people’s class, gender, race, sexuality, disability and faith. The report also includes references to our This is Youth Work stories book (now supplemented by the booklet of youth work stories produced by Warwickshire youth workers) and to the IDYW story-telling web resource.

For demonstrating open access youth work’s ‘impacts’ and ‘outcomes’, this international recognition of a qualitative ‘methodology’ like youth work story-telling and ‘measures’ such as the IDYW Cornerstones is welcome and indeed overdue. Statistical ‘tick boxing’, certainly in England, continues to obsess politicians, policy-makers and also many academics to the point where not only have their demands distorted how the practice is understood, but also how it is actually implemented. Those controlling the purse strings have ended up concluding that this practice cannot be supported because, against their narrowly defined criteria, it can’t prove its effectiveness.

Indeed, by using youth work story-telling in these ways, our European colleagues have done something which in IDYW we have talked about from time to time but not actually followed through in a systematic way. My experience has been that our primary focus in workshop groups has been to ‘unpack’ a story and the youth work process it exemplifies in order to prompt practitioners and students to identify what is distinctive about their practice. This, we hope, will help strengthen their identity as youth workers and enable them to become clearer and more robust in communicating its defining (and effective) features to significant audiences – not least those sceptical policy-makers. Though story-telling’s potential for demonstrating how the practice touches young people’s lives often becomes clear as a by-product, this has not been our priority – which for us gives this new report even greater significance.

Given how the researchers defined and applied some of the IDYW Cornerstones, the report also offers some challenging prompts for further discussion and debate within IDYW networks and indeed beyond on how we have been understanding and explaining these crucial signifiers of our practice.

Bernard Davies

The research is available as an e-book at http://www.snk.fi/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Studying-the-impact-of-international-youth-work.pdf

I’m sure both our Finnish friends and ourselves would welcome comments and criticism.

Doug Nicholls on reviving trade union and popular education

We have pleasure in posting Doug’s thoughts on trade union education as a guest blog, accompanied by an advert for an enticing job opportunity with the General Federation of Trade Unions [GFTU] as an Education Officer and the Education for Action programme.

gftu

eors-job-advert-education-officer-pdf – the advertisement

jd-education-officer – the job description

gftu-education-in-action-bklt-8-32629 – the programme

Doug Nicholls

TRADE UNION EDUCATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE – join the discussion
Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Union, believes that trade union education urgently needs a revitalised content and a new method of delivery.
In an article in the Morning Star Dr John Fisher reminded us of the effect of years of state funding for trade union education. He who pays the piper calls the tune. A generation of trade union learners have had the political content stripped from their learning. I argue also that the form of training delivery has mirrored the neutralised content and helped to teach ignorance and obedience.
The Establishment teach their children to rule from an early age, prep school to public school to Oxbridge. At heart they learn the arrogant and confident mannerisms of rulers, an ability to talk about anything as if they know something about it.
They learn some concepts and history; this is why they focus on politics, philosophy and economics (PPE).
Once upon a time the best unions would engage workers in these subjects too. Courses would commence with discussions about the world we wanted to live in and the laws that underpin capitalist economics and a socialist alternative. This was done to develop understandings and convictions that would build our organisations and provide the motivation for learning the skills necessary to win for our members and transform the political scene.
This tradition was then turned on its head. Trade union training got locked into considerations of a very narrow range of technical and vocational areas, tutors became purveyors of information and facts, classes looked more like school rooms than workers discussion circles, qualification replaced empowerment, learners were told what to learn instead of encouraged to learn from their experience, rigid curricula stifled debate. As state-funded adult education disappeared, so elements of trade union training became a poor substitute, signposting learners to dwindling vocational opportunities while the market let rip.

 

 

It was all very interesting knowing the detail of redundancy and health and safety legislation, but all very irrelevant if the workplace was closing down as if because of forces of nature or fate. Education proved a thin shield as the post-war social democratic consensus and manufacturing based economy were being transformed into today’s neoliberal nightmare.
While most people feel that austerity is wrong, very few can articulate why it has come about and the political and economic alternative to it. In reality the popular consensus has bought into the whacky idea that the debt and deficit are the cause of our problems.
When bankers say they create wealth, few union reps seem able these days to counter this joke with an assertion of the labour theory of value and remind them that everything in their marble vaults comes from us. The effect of falling rate of profit has been forgotten and our problems attributed superficially to ‘greedy bankers.’
Worse still workers are being decapitated from the body of knowledge of our history of struggle as a Movement. We have to re-construct a living appreciation of our past to accelerate a better future.
There is clearly a desperate need to revive political, philosophical, historical and economic inquiry as the basis for trade union education.
Equally there is a need to modernise the methods of learning delivery to make it inspirational and life changing. A very peculiar thing has happened in Britain in this regard. The progressive debate on how workers learn best and what techniques really inspire them has almost completely bypassed trade union education circles and has been advanced instead in youth and community work, adult education and some school based traditions or radical pedagogy.
This is not the case in many other Labour Movements. They have embraced radical learning theories and methods that enhance the development of progressive politics and solid organisation. At the GFTU we have been looking at some of their work in Latin America, but look too at a book called Education for Changing Unions about the Canadian experience. Consider the work of Paulo Freire or Antonio Gramsci.
The way learning is delivered is as important as what is delivered, sometimes more so. Progressive learning techniques are linked to democratic practice and social change and have a long tradition in Britain going back to the Medieval ‘conventicles’ which argued that the Bible should be translated in English so that ‘the merest ploughboy could read the word of God’. Ultimately their work led to the collapse of the authority of the dominant Latin speaking Catholic Church and the aristocracy it propped up.
It continued through the dissenting churches whose ideas very much aided the birth of the unions, many Sunday schools were in fact very socialist. It flourished in Britain when many women trade unionists developed theories of youth engagement and community work to involve workers outside the workplace in the struggle for reforms. The richness of this tradition around the world can be explored on the fantastic website http://www.infed.org.uk.
The new priesthood of neoliberal pundits and politicians and the crowds of dilettante ‘economists’ who seek ultimately to persuade us that we are too stupid to run society in the interests of the majority, should be replaced by a new generation of deeply educated union activists able to see through the myths and compel us in another direction.
At the GFTU we have opened a forum on our website for all those interested in a progressive future for trade union education to swap notes, share details of good resources and examples and sharpen our minds. Please join the debate there http://www.gftu.org.uk. We are also looking for new partners and tutors to join our work delivering the highest quality independent working class education. Let’s change the content and form of trade union education and base it on participative, collective learning to demonstrate another world is possible with a new kind of PPE student in control of our country.

 

POSTSCRIPT

Ironically on the day we post Doug’s piece, there’s a long Guardian read, PPE: the Oxford degree that runs Britain

 

Building Bridges Not Walls – Events from London via Teeside to Chania

At a time when we need dialogue and solidarity across borders, the following events/conferences hold out hope.

NCIA logo

One year on – ‘witness seminar’
Friday 10th March 1-5pm, London Welsh Centre,
157-163 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8UE

NCIA has closed! But long live the spirit of NCIA present! As promised we are having a ‘one year on’ witness seminar to see where the issues we have been fighting so hard for have now got to. It’s on Friday 10th March 2017, 1.00 – 5pm at the London Welsh Centre in London. The event is free at the point of delivery! As usual we will have a bit of social time afterwards.

If you, colleagues or collaborators would like to come to the event, put the date in your diary now and drop an email here ausgesucht@yahoo.co.uk – saying ‘yes I am coming’ with your name, organisation/group’. We’ll send you a full programme in the middle of February.

Also if you would like to contribute (a) short slot (5 minutes) on your perspective on independent voluntary action’ in March 2017 – also drop a line to the above email address. If you want a longer slot and you haven’t already been in contact, let me know a title and three sentences. We’ll have an opportunity to swap ideas like this on the day.

 

swan
‘DEFENDING WELFARE, WELCOMING REFUGEES: ANOTHER SOCIAL WORK IS POSSIBLE’

The SWAN conference is the largest annual radical and critical Social Work conference in Europe with over a decade of bringing together educators, service users, practitioners and all those concerned with social work and social justice. The conference will be held at the School of Health and Social Care at Teesside University, Middlesborough, April 8/9, 2017.

We welcome presentations (20 mins) or more interactive workshops (60 mins) from ALL, including practitioners, service user and social justice organisations, students, educators and trade unionists. Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to swanconference2017@gmail.com. All proposals will be responded to by 12 March 2017 or sooner. See you in Teeside!

Full details at SWAN 2017 Conference

 

harbour-mosque-thomson

Interdisciplinary Conference
Building Bridges in a Complex World

CHANIA, CRETE, GREECE | 6-8 July 2017

A Radically Different Kind of Conference

We are a network of academics and practitioners motivated by our work experiences inside and outside of Europe. With this being the first conference, we are hoping to turn this into an annual gathering to build bridges on three different levels: between theorists and practitioners, between people from different disciplines and between people from different parts of the world.

Our personal experiences in education and the general job market are that job insecurity, isolation and competitiveness –through constant evaluations, satisfaction surveys, pressure to secure funding and ultimately generate income– create a culture that encourages cut-throat encounters. On a political and professional level, it leads to a lack of collaboration and solidarity between groups and professions. On a personal level, it makes us feel alienated, which obviously affects our life satisfaction and mental health.

This is an interdisciplinary, inquiry-driven gathering with the main focus on bringing people together to share ideas in a convivial environment. We hope to explore what kind of alternative questions, concepts, methods and practices are necessary to address these complex challenges of our time.

It is in this spirit that we invite contributions from practitioners and researchers to share your insights, practices and experiences relating to programmes, policies and studies that address issues of social (in)justice and (in)equality locally and internationally.

For more information, see Building Bridges

 

 

First International Journal of Open Youth Work online. What about contributing to the Second?

A few weeks ago in Lithuania, a group of us had the pleasure [and pain]  of running a session on the impact of neoliberalism on English youth work. Our argument did strike a chord with a mixed European audience. The occasion was the first conference of the European Research Network of Open Youth Work, entitled ‘Theory and Practice: Understanding Youth Work’, at which the International Journal of Open Youth Work was launched.

 

idyw-vilnius

Tony Taylor looks perplexed, whilst Malcolm Ball and Pauline Grace try to pretend they’ve not met him before!

 

The Journal, whose Chief Editor is our own Pauline Grace [Newman University] “aims to privilege the narrative of youth work practice, methodology and reality. It is a peer-reviewed journal providing research and practice-based investigation, provocative discussion and analysis on issues affecting youth work globally. The Journal will present youth work issues and research in a way that is accessible and reader-friendly, but which retains scholarly integrity.”

In a call to both academics and practitioners the Journal’s editorial group’s “commitment to the co-writing process means that they are taking seriously the notion of practice informed by theory and theory based on practice. The community of practice that is open youth work does not operate in isolation: alliances are formed with other professionals and agencies, often through cross-sectorial work, to ensure that the rights of young people are protected and advanced.”

They conclude:

“In the European context, it is easy to become consumed by our domestic crises: shifting political allegiances; an increase in militarism; ongoing financial restructuring; large-scale youth unemployment; reorganization of public sector services; and a seeming impasse over migration policy. All of these issues impact on the lives of young people and demand skilful youth work interventions. Open youth work is a worldwide endeavour and we hope you will be inspired to tell everyone your stories. We hope you agree that the result is a unique resource presenting thoughtful, multifaceted approaches to youth work, which it is hoped can be better understood and recognised.”

The first edition can be found at International Journal of Open Youth Work

It contains the following chapters, which get the initiative off to an impressive and accessible start.

1. Youth work and mental health: A case study of how digital storytelling can be used to support advocacy – Mariell Berg Huse and Anna Opland Stenersen.

2. Managing hybrid agendas for youth work – Mike Seal and Åsa Andersson.

3. The preventive role of open youth work in radicalisation and extremism – Werner Prinzjakowitsch.

4. The high-tech society, youth work and popular education – Professor Ivar Frønes, University of Oslo.

5. Can youth work be described as a therapeutic process? – Luke Blackham and Pauline Grace.

6. Open youth work in a closed environment – The case of the youth club Liquid – Lars Lagergren and Emma Gustava Nilsson.

7. Group work as a method in open youth work in Icelandic youth centres – Árni Guðmundsson.

8. What can youth workers learn from the ethnographic approaches used by Paul Willis and Howard S. Becker? – Willy Aagre.

Information and guidelines here on How to Contribute in detail.

Contributions to the journal could come from, academic researchers/scholars, youth workers and stakeholders whom is active and/or have a professional or political interest in youth work. The journal encourages joint ventures among them with academic researcher/scholars as one part. The journal consequently opens up for various forms of co-writing where scholars write together with practitioners.

Certainly we would encourage  IDYW readers/supporters to consider seriously telling their stories via this stimulating international project.

Contact Tony at tonymtaylor@gmail.com if you want to check anything out.