S.O.S. Voice of Youth will close… unless you can step up and take it on?

Voice of Youth is circulating the following plea, which gives also a revealing insight into the joys and tensions of organising ‘horizontally’, alongside challenging the target and outcomes culture embraced by so much of the youth ‘sector’.

S.O.S. Voice of Youth

Hackney youth workers’ cooperative VOY will close…
unless you can step up and take it on?

After six wonderful years of cooperative youth work in Hackney, we are now looking for the right team of youth workers to take Voice of Youth forward.

What is Voice of Youth (VOY)?
Voice of Youth is a special organisation. We do things differently: we work co-operatively without bosses, we are inspired by radical and anti-oppressive practice, our work is rooted in young people’s needs and wishes, and we avoid funding that involves meeting targets or defining young people as problems. We were set up in 2011 by local young people and youth workers, and have been doing estate-based youth work, detached youth work, and projects on social issues. Our recent work in Upper Clapton, Hackney, has had around 30 fantastic young people aged 8-18 taking part each week (over 100 each year). We have received funding from a variety of sources, have a good track record in managing our funding and running projects, and currently have around £16,000 available for a project using creative activities to get young people talking about social issues. Our overheads are very low, so even when our income is low, we are still reasonably financially stable.

So, why would VOY need to close?
We have always had a committed group of co-operative members (some paid as part-time sessional workers where funding allows) and volunteers, who run the organisation cooperatively. Sadly, the current workers and volunteers (apart from one of us) will need to move on over the next few months, for a variety of work-related and personal reasons. We all still love VOY and working together, and we are all sad to leave, but we will need to plan for closure unless we can find a new group. We are keen and happy to hand over to you and help you get started – and then it’s all yours!

What we can offer a new group:
– Funding for a 6 month youth project, including sessional paid work for three workers, using creative methods to discuss and challenge inequality.
– Current co-op members will hand over and provide support to the new group over the next few months. One of us – a young woman from the local area who is an experienced youth worker – plans to stay on long-term as part of the co-op.
– Several years of relationships with young people, parents and carers, and organisations in the area.
– All legal documentation, policies, working procedures, financial records, financial procedures, a website. You can choose to amend these, but at least you’re not starting from scratch! We are registered as a non-profit company and workers’ cooperative, and have developed a widely respected ‘How we Work’ pack for our volunteers and co-op members.
– Established processes for insurance and DBS (criminal record checks) – these are currently paused while our work is paused, and will need to be reinstated before starting face-to-face work. Access to free community venues. Freedom to work together to take the organisation in new directions – once you get up and running, there are few restrictions on what you can do.

What does it mean to be a co-op member?
Co-op members work together without bosses to run the organisation. The idea is that those working with young people make the decisions about how the organisation is run. Between them, they share out all the tasks such as working with young people, organising activities, buying resources, supervising and supporting each other, keeping financial records (one member needs to be the treasurer), and ensuring meetings happen and conform to certain procedures (one member needs to be the secretary). All the co-op members also share legal responsibilities – including for safeguarding, financial management, and accountability to funders. Have a look at our website to find out more about our work and our principles: www.voice-of-youth.org. So far, some of our co-op members have been unpaid, and others have been contracted sessionally as self-employees. We don’t yet have long-term funding or PAYE systems – the new coop could, of course, choose to change all of that.

Who can be a VOY co-op member?
Anyone who supports and commits to working towards our principles and policies! Our work relies on trusting relationships with young people and within the staff team, so we ask you to commit to 6 to 12 months if at all possible, and to working well with others and sharing tasks and responsibilities. Anyone aged 16+ can join the co-op (you need to be 18 to be officially on the committee, but we will still involve 16-17 year olds in all decisions). We aim to reflect the community we work in, and we particularly welcome Black and Minority Ethnic people, local people, and EVERYONE of ANY background and identity who is keen to work with young people on their terms, valuing their views and perspectives. All co-op members and volunteers will need a DBS (criminal record) check – an unrelated criminal record is no problem, but please discuss this with us in advance. Travel expenses may be available, ask for details.

Come to an open meeting to find out more: 6pm Monday 5th March (venue tbc).
Contact voyhackney@gmail.com by 19th Feb to let us know you’re coming.

Voice of Youth co-op looking for volunteers

Message from Tania de St Croix

Hello friends,
We need some new volunteers for our fantastic youth workers’ co-op in Hackney, London. We are writing to you because we think you might be interested yourself or know somebody who might be interested – if so, please see below, forward this email to anyone who might be interested, and put up the attached PDF or Word poster version if you have anywhere to put it. Ideally we would love to hear back before mid-August as we would like to organise a volunteer induction session before the autumn.
Thanks so much!

voy-logo

S.O.S. Voice of Youth!!!
Volunteers needed for youth work co-op in Hackney

Be part of something amazing!
No bosses, great mutually supportive team including local young people – experience genuine co-operative working!
We are looking for experienced youth workers who want to support our way of working…
… and for people who want to gain experience in open-access youth work!

Voice of Youth is a special organisation. We do things differently: we work cooperatively, our work is rooted in young people’s needs and wishes, and we avoid funding that involves meeting targets or defining young people as problems. We were set up in 2011 by local young people and youth workers. We are a committed group of volunteers, we have around 30 fantastic young people aged 8-18 taking part each week, and funding for a project using creative activities to get young people talking about social issues. But we need more volunteers to help us stay open!

Interested? You would need to be available all or most Wednesday evenings, 5:30-9:30 pm, term-time from Autumn 2017. Our work relies on trusting relationships with young people and within the staff team, so we ask you to commit to 6 to 12 months if at all possible. Have a look at our website to find out more about us: http://www.voice-of-youth.org

Still interested? Send us an email and we’ll have an informal chat and tell you more! Please contact tania1.voy@gmail.com or any VOY volunteers or youth workers you know, preferably by mid-August ‘17.

Who can be a VOY volunteer? Anyone aged 16+. We aim to reflect the community we work in, and we particularly welcome Black and Minority Ethnic applicants, local young people, and EVERYONE of ANY background who is keen to work with young people on their terms, valuing their views and perspectives. All volunteers need a DBS (criminal record) check – an unrelated criminal record is no problem, but please discuss this with us in advance. Travel expenses available, please ask for details.

‘I Can’t Breathe’- Voice of Youth young people take up the challenge because black lives matter

Latest news from the Voice of Youth Project in Hackney. The young people are asking other young people’s groups to take up the ‘I can’t breathe’ challenge

I can’t breathe

December 30, 2014

Manor youth group sings the ‘I can’t breathe’ challenge set by actor Samuel L Jackson, in solidarity with struggles against violent racist policing.

“The “Pulp Fiction” actor is the latest to use his celebrity to draw attention to the death of Eric Garner, whose last words were “I can’t breathe” after New York police officers wrestled him to the ground, with one of the officers wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck” (CNN)

Manor youth group challenges Lea View group and other young people’s groups to do the ‘I can’t breathe’ challenge!

“I can hear my neighbor cryin’ ‘I can’t breathe’/Now I’m in the struggle and I can’t leave/Calling out the violence of the racist police/We ain’t gonna stop ’til people are free/We ain’t gonna stop ’til people are free.”

#Blacklivesmatter

Do schools respect human rights?

YOUTH WORK PRACTICE – EVENTS and CONFERENCES

On Saturday, March 1 we contributed to a stimulating conference on ‘The State of Education’ organised by the Radical Education Forum and Libertarian Education. Malcolm Ball led a workshop on ‘Critically Chatting with Young People’, whilst Tania de St Croix was there with a group from the Voice of Youth project. These young people ran a session focused on their often suffocating experience of being at school. The following report from their blog includes a challenging ‘mockumentary’ – to be recommended highly.

Living Our Values, Working Our Values : Critical Reflections on being a Youth Work Cooperative

 

 

As something of a welcome antidote to the persistent propaganda about commissioning/competition in the world of youth work, here’s a chance to hear another side of the story.

Fionn Gregg of Voice of Youth gets in touch to say:

I am emailing you as I think you may be interested, or at least know others who are interested in this event and our workers co-operative. We are a youth workers co-op based in Hackney, East London. We run two youth clubs and do detached work, much like any other youth organisation… however, we are set up and run differently – as a co-operative! We believe in the following principles:
1. Young people choose whether and how to become involved with our groups and work.
2. Our work starts from the needs and wishes of young people in Hackney
 and all funding bids will reflect this.

3. We involve young people in taking action to improve their own lives
 and the lives of their communities;

4. We promote equality and challenge oppressive structures in society,
 institutions, groups and individuals, including in our own organisation.

5. We promote co-operative decision making in our own work, in our
 youth groups and in the communities where we work.
 …and that to work in this way with young people, it is important to work in a co-operative, equal manner as an organisational structure. Hence the co-operative!