Recently I have been challenged to come up with a definition for/explanation of ‘community development with young people’ that helps people involved in ‘straight-up’ youth work how it differs as a practice, if indeed it does.
There is quite a lot of theory out there on community development and just as much on youth work but finding something that explicitly talks to both things was a bit of a challenge. I didn’t immediately think that the terms ‘community development worker’ and ‘youth worker’ were entirely interchangeable, but perhaps they are when the ‘community’ is ‘young people’.
I ended up writing something new and wanted to see whether it resonated with others; so here it is:
Community Development with Young People
Fundamentally, community development uses an asset-based approach to support communities around issues they identify for themselves with value bases in equality and justice.
It does this by:
- Bringing people together to address issues of common concern and to develop the skills, confidence and resources to tackle their problems.
- Changing the relationships between people in communities and the institutions that shape their lives through participatory and emancipatory practices.
Often the issues being presented by communities of young people necessitate the kinds of interventions that youth work traditionally supplies, such as:
- youth clubs
- activities work
- social action projects
A community development youth work approach asserts that the young people make it happen for themselves; activities should be co-produced with workers. In doing this young people develop the skills, confidence and resources to tackle their current and future problems.
It is the role of a community development youth worker to network themselves within a given community in order to catalyse project development through linking volunteers, groups and services to produce more sustainable, community-owned, partnership projects.