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.

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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

Latest from Y&P – Brian Belton on Colonised Youth

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Brian Belton

Colonised youth

Brian Belton’s provocative paper looks at youth identity, and how responses to young people tend to undermine understanding of this group’s economic and political position.

The ethnic discourses that have been the basis for apartheid and genocide have been effectively reinterpreted by ‘enlightened’ benefactors, helpers, professionals, activists and academics as the supposed means of addressing what are essentially economic, social and/or political causation. Standing back it is hard not to understand the attempts of these well-meaning groups to ameliorate structures fundamental to the economic formation via an ethnic or racial discourse. It is difficult not to feel that this is a bit like trying to stop a leak in the roof by a change of attitude – the application of subtle psychological tactics and the preaching of moral imperatives to solve hard practical defects. Essentially this saves on tools and replacement materials, but it will not stop the leak; it’ll just get worse. Not quite like buying second-hand water cannon to address potential rebellion of disaffected youth in the hot days of August but about as pointless.

It is perhaps by now redundant to point out how this chimes with the professional and rights-conscious responses to youth that fail to do much more than perpetuate the deficit position of the young by way of moral placebo and calls for adult ethics to be enacted. This is deeply colonial; the social agenda with regard to youth is thus founded on assumed deficiency of age, and so subject to a form of colonial oppression.

I suspect it’s not at all redundant.

 

 

‘Inspiring young people to create their social change’- Institute of Youth Work conference, May 20 in Sheffield

Message from Adam Muirhead, Chair of the Institute of Youth Work

 

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Adam Muirhead – ta to Justin Wyllie for the image

 

The 2nd Institute of Youth Work Conference and AGM, in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, Youth Work Unit Yorkshire & Humber and YASY.

Saturday, May 20 at Sheffield Hallam University

 

We are coming together for our second ever ‘In the Service of Youth’ conference to explore this year’s theme ‘Inspiring young people to create their social change’. The cost ranges from £15 to £30 depending on IYW membership status (so for some it may be worth joining ahead of buying conference tickets).

More information on the programme workshops etc are being added soon but confirmed speakers include youth work writer Brian Belton, author of ‘Radical Youth Work’, and Pegah Moulana, UK Young Ambassador for BYC at the European Youth Forum.

We have moved the conference to Sheffield this year to try to meet those who may struggle to travel to London easily and acknowledge that our youth work world is not London-centric!

For more info and to register, go to In Service of Youth