Youth work beyond the measurement imperative? Tania de St Croix reflects on Youth Investment funding and the associated Learning Project

Youth work beyond the measurement imperative? Reflections on the Youth Investment Fund Learning Project from a critical friend

 

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Tania

 

In this blog, which appears on the Centre for Youth Impact website, Tania de St Croix, Lecturer in the Sociology of Youth and Childhood at King’s College London and member of the IDYW Steering Group, offers her critical thoughts on the Youth Investment Fund Learning Project, which the Centre is leading with New Philanthropy Capital and others. You can find out more information on the YIF Learning Project at https://yiflearning.org.

Tania begins:

Many involved in the youth work field are critical of the youth impact agenda, particularly its emphasis on the quantitative measurement of outcomes for individuals, and its neglect of process, group work, and structural inequalities. Those of us involved in ‘In Defence of Youth Work’ have argued that the contemporary emphasis on impact and outcomes cannot be separated from its context, the neoliberal ‘desire to financialise human existence’, and its consequences for which practices are valued and who gets to decide. We have claimed that open access youth work is particularly unsuited to outcomes-based management and that open youth work’s future existence is undermined by an emphasis on impact measurement.

She ends:

So what? And what next?
The current approach to evaluating the Youth Investment Fund demonstrates thoughtfulness and attention to the special characteristics and challenges of open access youth work. As a result, the experiences of young people and youth workers funded by this scheme will be more meaningful and less onerous than they would have been under a more prescriptive top-down approach. The YIF Learning Project goes some way towards challenging dominant approaches to impact measurement. Yet in other ways it is reinforcing the status quo: continuing to prioritise the measurement of individual change, converting qualitative elements of youth work (its quality and young people’s experiences) into statistics, and aiming towards a financialised ‘value for money’ analysis.

Ultimately, without questioning the broader context – the basis on which measurement is still preferred by most funders and governments, as a neoliberal tool of governance and control – many of these problems remain intractable. Moving beyond such dilemmas, then, is not merely a matter of creating more congruent impact tools, reducing the data burden, and involving young people and practitioners in the process (important though all of these things are). It requires imagining meaningful evaluation beyond a focus on outcomes and measurement, thinking seriously about the social and political purpose of youth work, and the role of young people in creating change. It involves working with others – beyond the youth sector and beyond our national and regional borders – to challenge the global dominance of finance and investment logic in activities that hold to a different version of ‘value’. While such aspirations may seem momentous, there is nothing to stop us dreaming of a different world, and doing what we can to make it real in our everyday lives.

We hope very much you will read this important response in its entirety.

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What is the Youth Investment Fund? – taken from the website with our link to the identity of the grantees being our only addition or comment.
The Youth Investment Fund is providing new opportunities for young people to get involved in their communities, support their personal development and get the skills and confidence they need to enter the workplace.

The fund is made up of £40 million of government and National Lottery funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Big Lottery Fund.

Funding has been awarded to 86 charity, voluntary and social enterprise groups in East London, Liverpool City Region, West Midlands, Tees Valley and Sunderland, Bristol & Somerset and Eastern Counties over the next three years – find here the names of those granted support.

It will create new youth clubs in rural areas, expand sports projects to build the confidence of young people encouraging them to get active and increase services providing support and guidance to young people.

The Youth Investment Learning Project will:
Design, pilot and implement new data collection approaches for open access youth provision

Develop a shared measurement framework and pilot associated outcomes measures.

Collect and collate data from the grantee organisations

Share learning and methodology

Report findings on ‘what works’ and the impact of open access youth services, including a process evaluation in years 2 and 3

Test the feasibility of approaches to understanding value for money in open access provision?

Provide tailored support and capacity building training to grantees in order to embed impact evaluation within ongoing youth work practice.

The names of the partners to CYI and NPC in the project can be found here.

 

CREATING A STATUTORY YOUTH SERVICE – ROUND TABLE EVENT, APRIL 23

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This is the first notice of the forthcoming ChooseYouth event announced at the IDYW conference on March 9.

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CREATING A STATUTORY YOUTH SERVICE – ROUND TABLE EVENT

DATE AND TIME

Mon 23 April 2018 16:00 – 18:00 BST

LOCATION

Palace of Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA

 

Following the successful parliamentary event earlier this year, we are pleased to announce a roundtable discussion on the importance of youth services and creation of a statutory youth service.

Youth services are an essential part of a lifelong learning and civil society and act as the bedrock of many young peoples lives. Over recent years we’ve seen youth service provision decline across the country with parts going completely without.

ChooseYouth which represents over 30 voluntary youth sector organisations has long championed a universal, open access statutory youth service and now in partnership with MP’s in parliament we plan to introduce a bill to create such a service.

This roundtable event in parliament will act as the beginning of that legislative process, bringing together key stakeholders to give their input, not only on the current state of youth services but how best we can advance the cause of a statutory service.

REGISTER FREE at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/creating-a-statutory-youth-service-round-table-event-tickets-44326672270

Putting Relationships at the heart of public policy – a conversation

The R Word is a conversation bringing together policy wonks, scientists, practitioners, philosophers, philanthropists, innovators, people facing down disadvantage, and others who will engage in a series of discussions that put relationships at the heart of public policy.

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Over the last few weeks David Thompson, a community worker, has posted a series of blogs exploring the task of renewing our commitment to the building of what he terms ‘deep value’ relationships.

The first ‘Connecting Well’ argues:

Connecting well is not the same as being “well connected”. It is not about the size of our address book. It is about the quality of our relationships and, whilst we may now network and transact more than ever, meaningful time together has been, and is being, systematically displaced by fast and shallow connections. We are becoming more atomised and automated, more comfortable with technology but less close to one another.

Aggressive self-interest has triumphed over mutual support as the neoliberal economy has invaded every corner of our lives.

In the tenth of the series, What have we learnt and now what?, he ventures ten tentative headlines, amongst which are:

Responding only to loneliness would be the Food Bank solution — a humane reaction to symptoms and consequences and a necessary response to a crisis but not an attack on the cause. We need also to dig deeper, act earlier.

The future is beyond our current frame of reference, that’s why it is the future. Too often social innovators, especially in the third sector, reduce the scale of an issue to the dimensions of the funding programme. The world doesn’t need a new charity in this field, maybe not even a new app but a different kind of entity helping us all to reimagine and rebuild, generating momentum and catalysing mass. More Airbnb than Travel Lodge, more Lego than Airfix, more MeToo than Trade Union.

There is much to argue about within this exploration, which I’m sure David would welcome, but it points to the continuing need for youth work to allow that its principles and concerns are an expression of the wider struggle to create a just and democratic society.

 

Learning from Practice – the new International Journal of Open Youth Work

A cordial greeting to the second edition of the International Journal of Open Youth Work, ‘Learning from Practice’ – available by this link as a pdf. Its contents have already got me reaching for my critical pen, which can only mean one thing. Like all properly challenging texts, a raw nerve has been touched. Thanks for the stimulus.

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Contents

01 The good practice of Young meet young
Mårten Jönsson and Marie Larneby
02 Open youth work in a closed setting:
Applying key elements of Youth Work in a school
Luke Blackham and Jessica Smith
03 PLOUTOS – Pedagogical learning through the
Operation and Urging of Teams for Overcoming
Social exclusion
Angela Passa, Georgia Drosopoulou
and Dr. Vassilis Passas
04 Finding common ground without losing your own.
Results of the project ‘Mapping Professional Open
Youth Work in Europe’
Manfred Zentner and Alexandra Beweis
05 Key competences of non-formal
learning in youth work: based on the example of
Estonian open youth centres
Ilona-Evelyn Rannala and Anu Allekand

 

The first article is a best practice example about how youth workers can
create dialogue between young Swedes and young arriving refugees. The
second article addresses an important discussion about how open youth
work perspectives can be adapted and used in a formal school setting.
The third article brings us to the Greek town of Patras and an examination
of the methodologies used in the project PLOUTOS. Erasmus + grants are
important for the field of youth work; the fourth article examines and
investigates a strategic partnership within the Erasmus + Programme, and
gives important insight into successes and challenges in such projects.
The last article in this issue problematizes the key competencies of nonformal
learning in youth work in an Estonian context.

IDYW 9th Conference – ‘buzzy’, critical and collaborative

 

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Bernard Davies had sent this report on Friday’s conference in Birmingham, bashed out in his own words to give a flavour of what one Facebook message called a ‘buzzy’ experience.

 

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Matthew Hill, Centre for Youth Impact in full flow

 

Though it mostly it felt a good news day, the bad news was that not only could Tony Taylor not be with us at the conference because of his broken foot. Even the advanced tech skills of two of our most ‘tecky’ Steering Group members couldn’t quite connect him to us via Skype. A great disappointment given how much work he’d put into the 16-point draft position paper, which acted as the main focus for the day and the other preparation he’d done.

 

Quite a lot of more positive news did seem to come out of the day, however – attended by 50+ people. As a much-needed reminder that youth work can and does have a future, these included a group of ‘Young Ambassadors’ from the Wakefield Youth Association and a number of current youth and community work students, together with their tutors.

 

The day began with a minute’s silence to honour three highly respected colleagues who have died recently, namely Peter Duke, John Parr and Kevin Morris. Poignantly Kevin’s funeral was taking place at the very same moment.  The conference proceeded with a brief input setting out the background and development so far of the IDYW ‘Is the Tide Turning?’ initiative since it was launched in the aftermath of last year’s General Election. Work throughout the day took place then in five groups, chosen initially by people for its focus in the first session on one of five more specific issues running through the position paper’s 16 bullet points: outcomes; practice; purposes and values; structuring and funding provision; and training and employment. The lively and indeed often clearly passionate discussions generated many sheets of paper recording key points for IDYW to take away and use in any future work on the paper.

 

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Leigh Middleton, NYA, responds to the debate

 

The two panel sessions which followed allowed brief inputs from organisations which are pretty key at this point in the youth work struggle – the Centre for Youth Impact, the Institute for Youth Work, NYA, the Training Agencies Group, Unison and Unite. These again prompted exchanges within the groups as well as with some of the speakers directly. A final session in groups and plenary gave people a chance to give voice to some of the main messages to IDYW from the groups – some strongly supportive of points on the draft paper, others pointing to need for further thinking, such as the need not to be defensive in our struggle for youth work but to make the case positively on the basis of its strengths and potential.

 

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Paul Fenton, PALYCW,  puts in his pennyworth

 

Amidst all this hard work, the café-style arrangement, the availability throughout the day of drinks and bits to snack on and the regular brief breaks clearly opened the way not just for many other searching (if unrecorded) informal discussion and exchanges but also for much personal catching-up and for new encounters.

 

One individual feedback comment at the end of the day: ‘This is my first time at an IDYW event and I found it really interesting and stimulating’. And on Facebook: ‘an…excellent conference … both informative and inspiring and great to catch up with people that I don’t bump into very often’ – prompting a ‘Hear, hear’ response from someone else.

 

All very gratifying, though still leaving lots of thinking to do about where next to take all the day’s interest, debates and energy – so further reactions and comments certainly welcome.

Thanks to Kevin Jones for the photos.

 

In Praise of International Women’s Day

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International Women’s Day 2018 campaign theme:
#PressforProgress

With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away – there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo#TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.

And while we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.

So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

International Women’s Day is not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.

 

Why we’re striking for women’s rights today

Protests are taking place across the world to mark International Women’s Day. Four UK campaigners explain what they’re standing up for.

Solidarity with the launch of the Irish Youth Workers Association, March 14

We are pleased to publicise in solidarity the launch meeting of the Irish Youth Workers Association.

The Irish Youth Workers Association is proud to announce on Wednesday the 14th of March, IYWA will launch for membership.

📌 Get an overview and insight into IYWA
📌 Meet the committee
📌 Get involved with the discussion
📌 Network with other Youth Workers
📌 Sign up for more information on the day
📌 Q&A

Please spread the word to your youth work colleagues –  contact at irishyouthworkersassociation@gmail.com

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