The Future of In Defence of Youth Work – steering group discussion, June 15

 

As most readers/supporters will recognise IDYW is very much a voluntary venture.  It relies on a few souls to maintain its organisational presence on the youth work scene. Without wanting to exaggerate my significance I have reached a moment when for personal reasons, I need to withdraw from my role as the IDYW coordinator. With this in mind, the IDYW steering group is meeting on Friday, June 15 in Manchester to explore the consequences of my decision, which has not been taken lightly.

For information, you will find below my report circulated to the steering group, which will be used to open the discussion. Obviously, we will report back to you on the outcome of our musings.

My experience of being the IDYW Coordinator

In the end, I’ve failed to quantify the privilege/burden of being the IDYW Coordinator across almost a decade. In addition, a couple of previous efforts to provide something useful for our discussion in Manchester on June 15 have foundered on my indulgent guilt about letting the side down by withdrawing from the role.

Before dealing with the three main areas – the website, social media and administration – it’s important to say something about the issues of time, capacity and energy, which govern how much any person[s] can give to the role. To offer but two examples from my experience.

  • Given I no longer sell my labour I have finished up in a position, whereby almost the first thing I do every day involves IDYW – switching on the computer, going to Gmail, Facebook, checking links etc.
  • I read rapidly, voraciously and, some might say, superficially. I write laboriously and, some might say, pretentiously, giving more weight to my words than they deserve, all the while typing with one finger!

Someone else might well be much more organised, efficient and innovative, provided circumstances allow.

The IDYW website

According to the statistics, in 2017 there were 24,000 visits and 48,928 views. Significantly many visitors found their way via search engines, where IDYW is prominent, because of the level of its activity. Facebook and Twitter are also prominent in guiding people to the site. Whilst the UK boasts the most views at roughly 75%, almost 20% emanate from the USA, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Belgium.

I think this data indicates the importance of posting regularly and interestingly to the website. Hence I have seen this as a priority, but, with the above caveats in mind, this is time-consuming.

The website has never generated ongoing debate through its Comments facility.

The Social Media [Facebook and Twitter]

As of May 27, the IDYW FB page has 3,677 members. Over the years it has grown to be, I believe, the most active and wide-ranging UK youth work discussion forum. Thus I feel obliged to enter its portals more or less every day – checking for new member requests, moderating [very rarely] posts, cross-referencing with the website, picking upon links posted by members and intervening myself in discussion threads.

This last point poses a contradiction. The FB page represents our best opportunity for a continuing dialogue with our readers/supporters, yet I have chastised the Steering Group [SG] with honourable exceptions for failing to grasp this opening. However, I suspect, the FB page would survive a lack of intervention from ourselves as it has morphed increasingly into being the place to go for advice on practice, to advertise projects and jobs etc. Our dilemma is that this pluralist shift risks the forum losing its grounding in the IDYW cornerstones, especially if the website was reduced in importance.

As a matter, of course, I link all website posts to Twitter, which, as we have seen, does generate traffic, but I only visit there a couple of times a week.

General Administration

This area of responsibility has fluctuated over the years and at the meeting we should visit our attempted division of labour to see how successful it has been. Without going into detail it has confirmed my sense that we need a named person, who retains an overview of what’s going on. In the past, I think my efforts to summarise where we’ve seemed up to ahead of SG meetings have been valuable.

As things stand I’m still the first port of call via email for anyone wanting to get in touch with IDYW. To repeat this very ordinary demand leads to the daily pressure to think about IDYW.

More broadly my identification as the IDYW coordinator has led to invitations to contribute in that role at national and International gatherings, for example, the forthcoming Transformative Youth Work conference in Plymouth. So too it has meant that I’ve scribbled with this head on, both individually and collaboratively over recent years, for example, the chapter, ‘The Impact of Neoliberalism upon the Character and Purpose of English Youth Work and Beyond’, written with Paula Connaughton, Tania de St Croix, Bernard Davies and Pauline Grace, to appear shortly in the Sage Handbook of Youth Work Practice.

For the moment I’ll circulate these thoughts as a first provisional assay into our debate. I would welcome questions, criticisms.

Tony Taylor

CYP Now launches on Facebook | Children & Young People Now

Like the FB page and you’ll get updates.

Latest news about the children and young people sector is now available on Facebook, after CYP Now launched a dedicated page on the social media site.

Source: CYP Now launches on Facebook | Children & Young People Now

OUR 2014 DAMNED STATISTICS : 17, 503 VISITORS FROM 144 COUNTRIES

Ta to neveryetmelted.com

Ta to neveryetmelted.com

All statistics need taking with pinch of salt. For what it’s worth though our site ‘boasted’:

183 POSTS IN THE YEAR

17, 503 VISITORS FROM 144 COUNTRIES, MAINLY UK, USA, IRELAND, AUSTRALIA, BRAZIL, CANADA and BELGIUM

38,881 VIEWS

Whilst over on FACEBOOK we have 1, 674 Followers.

CUE FOR A FANFARE

 

What does all this mean? We’re cautious, but we think it shows that there is a significant and critically supportive audience for our IDYW cornerstones and philosophy. Certainly it inspires us to continue the struggle!

On Spam, Spam and Spam and it's not even fried on a buttie!

This not exactly a fascinating post, but bear with me. For over three months I’ve been inundated by spam efforts to register on the site, hoping I presume to gain access to our mailing list.  Hence, given I’ve not had the energy to trawl through the avalanche, I’ve done no general mailings for fear of contaminating your in-box. As things stand I have to manually approve additions to our mailing list, which is some sort of security.

However in the next few weeks I’m hoping to sort this. In the interim I have removed the Register facility from the site. I’m in the process of checking diligently the addresses on our mailing list.

Thus I hope soon to begin again regular mailings, whilst reviewing the way in which we pull together an authentic list of supporters.

In the interim just to say that our Facebook page has over a thousand supporters and is the place where the most interaction takes place. Worth signing up to at https://www.facebook.com/groups/90307668820/

Boring post terminated.

PS I used to love fried Spam. Am I alone in this fetish?

Looking Ahead: Some Scattered Thoughts

In the last few weeks both the North-East and South-East steering groups have been discussing ‘where things are up to’ and ‘where things might be going’. In particular they have focused on issues of representation from the regions and a timetable leading to a possible national In Defence of Youth Work conference. Parallel conversations have also taken place between individual supporters across the country. The following is my attempt to summarise the present situation and sketch a possible timetable for the next six months or so.

Whilst the North-East and South-East have held regional meetings and established steering groups, other areas are still in their infancy. Thus the West Midlands, Leeds/Humberside and South Yorkshire held their first open meetings only recently in July and in other areas we have isolated supporters. The North-West has not got a steering group, but hopes to hold a second regional in the Autumn. The West Midlands steering group met a few days ago, whereas South Yorkshire have identified a Steering Group coordinator, but no more. The Leeds meeting did not identify an organising group, but is committed to a future In Defence event. In addition supportive noises have been made by individuals in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland , but these have yet to take on any organisational form. Inevitably we are in a state of uneven development. Becoming more organised is bedevilled too at this moment by the holiday period.

This said there is pressure to bring together regional representatives and to collectivise further the campaign. Indeed the North-East have suggested using our presence at the Social Work Action Network conference, September 10/11 in Bath as the basis for an initial meeting to look at progress. This will be worth doing, but I think we need to recognise that most regions need more time to find their feet. Also, in my opinion, all meetings should remain open to any supporters sufficiently galvanised to make the effort.

A Rough Timetable for Discussion [including meetings already planned]

September 9 : Third London and South-East Regional Meeting at Goldsmiths.

September 10/11: In Defence workshop being presented to the SWAN conference at Bath University at the time of writing by Tony Taylor, Tania de st Croix[South-East] and Don Jenkins [North-East] – on the Thursday afternoon. Other In Defence supporters are attending, so at the very least an informal discussion can take place. Please get in touch with Tony if you feel you can get to Bath to participate in this initial chat. Given the conference timetable the Thursday evening might be the best time.

September 21: Second North-East Regional meeting in Newcastle.

Early October: would it be practical and feasible to hold at this time a somewhat more formal meeting for regional representatives and others or is it still too precipitate? Day? Venue?

November 13/14/15: National Federation of Detached Youth Work conference in Wigan. The suggestion is that in conjunction we aim for a national In Defence organising meeting, perhaps on Friday, 13 November, hoping that by this time more regions will be represented. The principal task would be to talk through the case for a national conference and organise the arrangements if this seems the right way forward. The North-East group are concerned that as yet we lack a Manifesto or a list of Campaign demands. In this sense we are but an emerging force with a critique.

During the period sketched we need to make the maximum use of the In Defence blog, the Google mail group and social networking sites such as Facebook in encouraging the widest debate and in involving seriously supporters outside of the developing regional structure.

As ever your thoughts and criticisms appreciated. I’m conscious there is a NE steering group on August 4 so it would be good to get their collective response.

Tony Taylor

Facebook and Google Mail

Thanks to the initiative of Wendy Podd from Sunderland there is now a Facebook group, In Defence of Youth Work, which boasts already 111 members. In parallel we are in the midst of creating a Googlemail group by sending out invitations to all our contacts and supporters. We would encourage you to join as this is intended to be the Campaign’s mailing list. Its principal advantage when set up is that any member can communicate with everyone on the list by sending a message to the group’s designated e-mail address. We will endeavour to send regular briefings through this channel, whilst encouraging comment and criticism across the board. This ought to support openness and democracy within the campaign.

As ever your thoughts appreciated.