Tim Caley reviews ‘Grassroots Youth Work – policy, passion and resistance in practice’

The latest Youth & Policy features Tim Caley’s generous review of Tania de St Croix’s book, ‘Grassroots Youth Work – policy, passion and resistance in practice’ 

grassroots

Invoking from the 1960’s the literary critic, Richard Hoggart and the ‘on the side of the underdog’ youth worker, Ray Gosling he argues that ‘the critical achievement of her writing is that it gets to the heart of good youth work practice, it digs deep into how practitioners – especially the part-timers – feel about teenagers, how strongly they love their work and how resilient they are proving in the face of political and financial adversity. Based on three years of research and two years of writing, she weaves together the voices of part-time youth workers and young people with a concise (yet coruscating) analysis of the corrosive impact of government policies on youth work and youth services in the last ten years. What’s more, she does it with an eloquent passion and resistance of her own, reflecting the book’s primary themes’.

Nevertheless, he chides Tania for sometimes being overzealously simplistic in her critique. Somewhat defensively he points out that even in the midst of neoliberal constraint there are empathetic managers.  I suppose I’d like to think so too, given I was once mistakenly a Chief Youth Officer. More problematically, in my opinion, he suggests that OFSTED inspections were an accurate arbiter of what constitute the highest standards of youth work practice. He suggests rightly that we should treat seriously the efforts of some charities to chart a positive course through the troubled waters of a shifting economy of youth work. Less persuasively he repeats the tired charge that youth workers fail to provide evidence to funders. From my conversations with workers, they feel they do little else nowadays except furnish data upon data to their bosses. And as for Tania, having devoured its contents, my sense is that her coverage of these issues is nuanced rather than naive.

No matter, books and book reviews, such as Tim’s, ought to stimulate argument and debate. As it is I find myself close to agreeing with the fulsome praise, with which he concludes.

Tania de St Croix has written the best book on youth work since Mark K. Smith’s seminal Creators not Consumers, published in 1980′.

Read Tim’s review in full and, do yourself a favour, beg, steal, borrow, even buy the book itself.  There are few books in the youth work canon that can be said to be a bloody good read. Tania’s is the exception.

 

The formal vs informal clash: the challenges of ethnographic research with young people in a youth drop-in context

Latest from Youth & Policy

ethnography

Reflecting on experiences in a current ethnographic research project, Phoebe Hill discusses the particular challenges around consent and ethics when undertaking research in informal youth settings.

The formal vs informal clash: the challenges of ethnographic research with young people in a youth drop-in context

Just an extract from this excellent, self-critical piece,

One final challenge of carrying out ethnographic research in a youth drop-in environment is around your role as researcher. Although young people may know that you are a researcher, they may relate to you as they do to all other adults in the drop-in space: as a youth worker. This creates ‘ethical speedbumps’(Weis and Fine 2000) which catch you off guard in the field, and throw you into quandaries about how and who to be in moments that you aren’t expecting.

Take the following example. I was sat with Charlotte in the quiet room at the drop-in. We were talking about life, and she mentioned that she was being bullied at school. I asked her what was going on, and she shared that she was receiving constant messages on her phone throughout the day and night from the people bullying her. She concluded by saying, ‘No one loves me. No one wants me here. I wish I wasn’t here.’ Without thinking about it or being able to ponder the ethics and intricacies of what I ‘should do’ in this moment, my researcher ‘hat’ was tossed aside and the youth worker and human part of me leapt to the foreground, blurting out: ‘I love you! I want you here!’. Charlotte smiled and said thanks, and the conversation moved on. I’ve reflected on this moment many times since. What should I have done? Not offered any sort of personal opinion or in any way ‘disrupted’ the environment? Charlotte was clearly inviting more from me in that moment than to be a researcher. She was crying out for help. She was asking me to be a youth leader, a human being. I don’t know if I made the right call. This is another of the challenges of being ‘in deep’ in the field with young people, because in actual fact they don’t care who you are – researcher, youth leader. In those moments, they simply want somebody, anybody, willing to listen.

 

 

Queer Politics and the contribution of Youth Work – remembering Clause 28

Fifty years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality the papers today are carrying a range of articles covering its significance – see, for instance, Queer politics has been a force for change; celebrate how far we’ve come by Jeanette Winterson. Within her piece, she remembers the infamous Clause 28.

In 1988 the Thatcher regime passed into law clause 28 of the Local Government Act, making it an offence to “promote” homosexuality in schools. Nobody really knew what this meant, with its malign claims of “pretend” family relationships; all teachers knew was that they couldn’t be positive about any sexual identity other than straight. For me, also 28 at the time, it felt like legalised hatred.

clause 28

Led by lesbian youth workers, in particular, many of us refused to abide by this deeply prejudiced legislation. Ironically, I’ve just been trawling the Youth & Policy archive, now online in its entirety, and there you can find evidence of this resistance in two articles from the time –  Mike Heathfield’s ‘The Youth Work response to lesbian and gay youth’ in Youth and Policy 23, Winter 1987/88  and Peter Kent-Baguley’s fierce polemic,’One Too Many’ in Youth & Policy 24, Spring 1988.

This is a bit rushed. Other folk of the time might have links to other materials.

But for a living example of where the struggle is up to in 2017 and the strides made, see, for example,  the Proud Trust – home of LGBT+ youth

proud trust

Celebrating Youth & Policy 4 – Positive for Youth: Is policy meeting practice? Pat Kielty explores.

Y&P

In the last of the first four pieces on the revamped Y&P website, with a new youth policy evidently in the offing, Pat Kielty subjects the past Coalition’s ‘Positive for Youth’ rhetoric to critical scrutiny.

posfor youth

Beginning:

As we await the release of a new youth policy, this article considers Positive for Youth and explores how political rhetoric relates to practice. This is done by considering three key policy concepts; respect, empowerment and belonging. These notions are complex, contested and clearly not restricted to the field of youth work. As such, a complete analysis is beyond the scope of the piece but there will be a commitment to view them from the paradigm of youth work and young people.

All quotes within this article are taken directly from current youth policy or from young people. Focus group research was conducted with members of the Thurrock Youth Cabinet (TYC) and Riverside Youth Club (RYC) in Tilbury. Research participants were asked to consider the identified notions in the context of their lives and the youth work provision they attend.

Concluding:

This article aims to give some critical consideration to a selection of values contained within youth policy. It was suggested earlier, there is a discourse in Positive for Youth around the young person undergoing individual transformation. As such, they are to become ‘empowered’, to develop and receive ‘respect’ and obtain a ‘sense of belonging’. The fundamental concern here is the lack of attention given to these complex notions. Policy does also not take account of the wider political and social factors, the environment of the young person and the understated role of association.

From a practical perspective, I would support the view that respect, empowerment and belonging do have relevance to youth work. However, I believe these need careful deliberation, exploration and application both from the worker and the young person. Claims without dialogue and rhetoric based on assumption need to be avoided. Freire (1972) states that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting on another, but rather people working with each other. Youth policy appears to place a number of requests on young people, but perhaps policy makers should reflect on a simple but powerful message:

They should listen to us more. (Member RYC)

Celebrating a new look Youth & Policy 1 – Tom Wylie on the Election

Y&P

Welcome news! After a hiatus, Youth & Policy returns in a new format to prompt us into reflection and to challenge what often appears to be our aversion to critical analysis.

The editorial group write:

Dear friends,

We are writing to announce the launch of the ‘new format’ Youth and Policy at http://www.youthandpolicy.org/

The new Youth and Policy will continue to be free, open access and online, yet rather than having ‘issues’ we will now publish individual articles, which can be published as soon as they have been prepared. Most of these articles will be much shorter – around 2000 words in length. This enables us to be more responsive to events as they occur, and provides an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to share work in a timely manner and concise format with an international audience. Back issues will remain available free on the website.

Since 1982, Youth and Policy has published articles which provide a critical analysis of policy issues as they affect young people. We have been free, open access and online since 2010. Our new, more responsive format is launched today in response to changes in the fields of youth work, youth research and publishing, and we hope it will continue to contribute for many years to come.
We will be publishing new articles throughout the summer and beyond; subscribe on our website (‘newsletter sign-up’) to be informed of new articles as they appear, and/or follow us on Twitter @youthandpolicy, or on Facebook.

Call for papers:
We are seeking original and concise articles that provide a critical analysis of policy issues affecting young people. We are keen to publish papers on a wide range of themes in relation to young people and policy: youth work, youth services, education, employment, justice, health, identity, equality, media, campaigning, leisure and more. We welcome articles by researchers, lecturers, practitioners and policy makers. See our guidelines for submission on the website for more details.

Yours,

Paula Connaughton, Tania de St Croix, Tony Jeffs, Tina Salter, Naomi Thompson (The editorial group)

During this week we will draw your attention to each of the four new pieces now available.

Given our latest post on the post-Election implication for ourselves, Awakening from the deep slumber of decided opinion,  it’s good to get Tom Wylie’s sense of affairs in his The (young) people have spoken: reflections on the general election.

 

Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie

 

‘And so it came to pass in the dawn’s early light on June 9th that not only had a hubristic May lost her majority but the ideology of neoliberal economics, with added austerity, was badly shaken if not toppled. The result holds out the possibility – nothing stronger – that the years ahead may see some repairs to the institutions which support young people; that there could be an end to the hollowing out of public services; that inequality would cease to rise so remorselessly; that Brexit may unfold more benignly.’

Youth & Policy is taking a deep breath and Jean Spence is bidding farewell

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Thanks to Marcia Furman

We’ve received the following note from the Editorial Group of Youth & Policy, the pioneering and long-standing academic journal.

Dear All,
Please note that Youth and Policy journal is not currently accepting submissions of new articles whilst we take some time to review our purpose and model. We will publish issue 116 in the current format and will decide on and adopt a new model from the Autumn this year.
Thanks for all your support,
Youth and Policy editorial group.

It’s worth remembering the following:

Youth & Policy Journal was founded in 1982 to offer a critical space for the discussion of youth policy and youth work theory and practice.

The editorial group have subsequently expanded activities to include the organisation of related conferences, research and book publication. Regular activities include the biannual ‘History of Community and Youth Work’ and the ‘Thinking Seriously’ conferences.

The Youth & Policy editorial group works in partnership with a range of local and national voluntary and statutory organisations who have complementary purposes. These have included UK Youth, YMCA, Muslim Youth Council and Durham University.

All members of the Youth & Policy editorial group are involved in education, professional practice and research in the field of informal education, community work and youth work.

The journal is run on a not-for-profit basis. Editors and Associate Editors all work in a voluntary and unpaid capacity.

Jean Spence

Jean at her farewell with Tom Wylie looking on

The incredible passion and devotion that has kept the journal alive for 35 years is exemplified in the person of Jean Spence, who is retiring from the editorial group. Across this period Jean has selflessly edited an endless supply of scripts, coaxing and cajoling their writers into improvements they’d never even thought of. Throughout her career she has challenged youth work’s tendency to be anti-theoretical and anti-intellectual with her own feet always planted firmly and emotionally in an affective practice. This commitment is captured in this eloquent piece from 2008 published in Youth Studies Ireland, What Do Youth Workers Do? Try to find time to read it. It retains all its relevance. Thanks Jean for your inspiration and bloody hard graft across the decades.

100 YEARS OF YOUTH AND COMMUNITY WORK EDUCATION – Adam Muirhead reflects

Thanks to Adam Muirhead for this  immediate and enlightening report on the recent celebratory event held at YMCA George Williams College. You must read it in full on his blog. My snippets will surely whet your appetite.

Mark Smith

100 YEARS OF YOUTH AND COMMUNITY WORK EDUCATION – 8TH OCTOBER 2015

He begins:

I recently attended the ‘100 Years of Youth and Community Work Education’ event hosted by the YMCA George Williams College and supported by Youth & Policy, UKYouth and TAG/PALYCW. The event came about off the back of Tony Jeffs recognising that on the 8th October 100 years ago, what he (and others) recognise as the first proper youth & community training programme came into being. For someone like me who enjoys a bit of Youth Work celebrity spotting this was a star-studded event! The great and the good of our profession and people I’ve been reading and quoting for years were present and ready to divulge their experience.

As well as Tony amongst the great and good contributing were such notables as Alan Gibson Tom Wylie, Marg Mayo and Mark Smith, the latter proclaiming evidently the death of youth work.

According to Adam, Mark went as far as to say that the key texts he developed for the profession under the umbrella of ‘Youth Work’ had been the equivalent of flogging a dead horse. So you can see why some people felt peeved.

Unbowed Adam ends by drinking a toast to the next 100 years of Youth and Community Work Education!