Blurring the Boundaries or Re-imagining Youth Work? A discussion write-up from the IDYW 2016 Conference

 

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Where ‘In Defence’ are up to…

In Defence of Youth Work (IDYW) hosted the conference for what is clearly a large supporter base; 70+ of us were welcomed by Tony Taylor, who opened by updating on recent activities, thoughts and considerations of the IDYW group:

  • The numbers of supporters engaging online remain very good
  • There is a need for greater capacity and fresh blood on the steering group – plurality is welcomed
  • IDYW is transitioning from being a campaign group towards being a force for critical engagement with youth work theory and practice
  • Storytelling work is going strong and has now been translated into several languages
  • There is scope to increase the number and variety of posts made to the website, Facebook, Twitter etc

‘Voluntary’ vs ‘meaningfully engaged’

Bernard Davies introduced a presentation from Annette Coburn and Sinead Gormally that had been developed from ideas  that came out of a chapter titled ‘Youth Work in Schools’ in the recent Graham Bright book .  It challenges the ‘voluntary participation’ principle that, over the years, has become somewhat enshrined in youth work lore.  The argument centred around the notion that young people may be within a non-voluntary space (such as a school, prison or hospital) and still be engaged in youth work if the focus of the work is young person centred, emancipatory, the relationship with the youth worker is able to be negotiated and if there is capacity to meaningfully engage.

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Annette Coburn presenting at the IDYW National Conference, 30th September 2016

Annette and Sinead argued that should this new paradigm be accepted it may represent a ‘threshold concept’ for youth work that allows us, with a new perspective, to move forwards with youth work representing ‘an educational methodology’ rather than a profession per se, that could help us to explore new theoretical landscapes.

threshold-concepts-quote

Tania de St. Croix offered a contrasting response that the voluntary component is fundamental to our practice, especially in settings where sanctions can be imposed for non-compliance or non-attendance.  The point was made that there remain so few spaces for young people to choose to come and go and youth work represents a bastion of the principle that this is absolutely necessary.

There was a helpful acknowledgement that power and choice are complicated issues – the ‘choice’ to be at a youth club may be because your mum kicks you out of the house each night and you have nowhere else to go.  The power presents itself in different guises, for example, the Hitler Youth espoused principles of voluntary engagement…

The discussion

The presentations precipitated some interesting reflections from the group at large; deliberately avoiding naming people I have tried to capture some below:

  • Student placements can’t be refused to those working in non-voluntary settings.
  • Reassuringly, graduates are going into non-voluntary settings and, with an appreciation for youth work ethics and values, are subverting the practices and creating ‘spaces for youth work’.
  • There are ‘open-access’ youth clubs that don’t look like they are doing youth work – the power imbalances are left completely unchecked (between genders for example). Conversely some excellent practice exists in school/college settings.
  • Youth workers have colluded with the “give us a job, I can do that” mentality to keep funding. Has this been corrupting?
  • Is it helpful to consider youth work as separate from youth work skills so that we can ‘set out our stall’ with clarity?
  • An interesting Chinese perspective was added by one delegate who told of how youth work does not exist in and of itself in China. Those that work with teens outside of school are also known as teachers and the practice of gathering young people in their leisure time bears little significance/meaning in the ways we consider it does – until, that is, individuals take it upon themselves to apply youth work theory.  But it’s certainly not permeated social policy at any level in this delegate’s experience.
  • Others felt that these discussions were quite self-centred on us as professionals; Young people must remain the focus of the discussion as the subject and the object of our work.
  • Starting where young people are at is key. Back in the day there was nothing else to do but go to the youth club.  In this, workers actually had quite a lot of power.  We now have to go where young people are at – it represents a new, necessary nature of youth work.
  • Many new youth workers have their own instincts about being a force for regulation and control and often, only after studying, bring a new emancipatory angle to their work – at the same time as their management try to enforce more control and regulation.
  • Changing the definition of youth work is the wrong starting place – we have to consider what we feel and know to be good practice (whilst recognising constraints).
  • We want to train a community of ‘critical pedagogues’ – we then practice youth work in a distinctive setting – after all, a teacher tries to ‘meaningfully engage’ young people…
  • The critical spaces to iron out these ideas have been in decline.
  • The setting is less important. Perhaps ‘voluntary’ relationships is a misnomer and an umbrella term should be found to encompass the complexities and multi-faceted nature of this notion?
  • Yes, youth workers have been guilty of hitting targets or acquiring funding by moving into schools etc – but isn’t it better that youth workers do this than PCSOs or Counsellors?
  • An interesting exercise may be to conduct an examination of how settings do influence practice.
  • Are these values shared across the UK? Other countries didn’t have an Albemarle watershed…

Sue Atkins shared a funny anecdote about a cleaner at an art college she once knew.  One student’s installation had been quite ‘casual’ and this cleaner lady had accidentally cleaned it away overnight.  Once, she’d been informed of what she’d done she would go around pointing at rubbish asking ‘is this art?’, ‘is this art?’.  There may be parallels now with us wandering confused, asking ‘is this youth work?’

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So, perhaps more questions than answers, but I would reflect that delegates seemed to very much value the space provided on the day to thrash these ideas about together – I certainly did.

Thanks to the IDYW team, in my opinion no one creates these spaces better.  I look forward to cultivating cooperation with the Institute for Youth Work as we move forwards in solving some of our puzzles!

Notes from the rest of the day may inform a forthcoming post.

Disclaimer – written in this post is my interpretation of people’s meaning and inference at this conference.  Please contact me if you would like to challenge any points you recognise as your own that I have misinterpreted. 

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What does it mean to be professional in 2016?

I was honoured to be invited to speak at an event hosted by IDYW to discuss what it means to be professional in 2016. Given the wealth of experience and knowledge in the room I was expecting a thorough and informed discussion and I wasn’t disappointed.

What was…

Bernard Daviesbernard-davies

The day kicked off with Bernard Davies and Sue Atkins discussing the history of the seminar’s subject.  Bernard usefully started by distinguishing practicing professionally from being a professional. Having himself been involved in the post-Albemarle struggles to get a JNC for workers’ terms and conditions with the trade union he talked about seeing the arguments for the case of constructing ‘the profession’ but rightly worries about the power dynamics between the inherent structures and the practitioners.  In particular youth work is a profession that relies heavily on volunteers as a large part of the workforce and how structures can exist that are exclusive of them and their needs.

There is a real strength in the voluntary foundations of our work and we should take pride in the way services capture the enthusiasm of youth work volunteers whilst maximising value for money by doing so.  But the tensions have been recurrent as far as situating them congruently in the structures of the profession.  The example that was talked about was that of the National College for the Training of Youth Leaders when it began, again post-Albemarle; once people had started to gain their qualifications from the College, youth leaders would return to their work places ‘outranking’ the rest of the extremely dedicated workforce who had previously been at the heart of services.

Bernard did posit an important question that had been offered up by a supporter in early 2014 on the In Defence of Youth Work Facebook page: Where is the evidence that professionalisation has brought improved outcomes for young people?

Back on the history, 1972 in ‘Youth Review’ the then quarterly journal, an article pleaded “Don’t join the professionals! That would kill youth work”.  It was believed that workers would start siding with the powerful and abandon the weak in exchange for money and power.  It was suggested that prescribing to a uniform set of ‘professional’ values would narrow the view and scope of youth work as this had happened in other professions.

In 1983 the workers’ professional association (the CYSA) turned into a union (the CYWU).  Many were against becoming a trade union and hostile to the radical politics emerging e.g. the feminism of the Women’s Caucus. Bernard was elected as President to try to smooth the waters.

My feeling on the back of the discussion is that a commitment to practicing professionally is entirely welcome.  When these things develop into professional frameworks and structures they inherently create hierarchical power dynamics – of this we need to be very careful.  People are right to be cautious.

Susan Atkins

Sue-AtkinsSue brought incredible stories of being amongst the first cohorts at the National College for the Training of Youth Leaders.  A prerequisite of joining was that you had to be at least 23 years old and, if it was targeted or otherwise, the courses attracted mainly working class men – famously dubbed ‘Albemarle’s boys’.  In fact, in Sue’s cohort, out of 147 students only 17 were women.  The yearlong residential training was a massive commitment and strain with lots of burn out.  This naturally gave those who did complete it a strong sense of achievement and they felt a significant change through gaining heir professional status.  Yet it still wasn’t on a par with teachers whose two year course carried more kudos.

Interestingly (albeit unsurprisingly), the body of knowledge on youth work at the time was extremely thin on the ground – “a page from this book and a chapter from that” as Sue put it.  It wasn’t really until the 70’s that the written knowledge started to be created in greater volume, and mostly as a result of the debates and discussions that were happening at the time.  The feminist voice was added to this and continued throughout the 80’s.  By the sounds of it this was a marked improvement on the old ‘stale, male and pale’ set up of the preceding years as far as make-up of overseeing bodies in youth work went.

Throughout, it would seem, the external perception of youth work has been that it exists to tackle the problem of youth crime, or of youth delinquency, for example.  Whilst they can be outcomes, Sue notes, those things are never the purpose of youth work.

Contradictions…

Nigel PimlottFYT-Nigel-Pimlott

Nigel’s Christian youth work background offered an extremely useful view of the professionalisation agenda in light of the fact that the majority of people doing youth work in the faith sector are volunteers or unqualified; a workforce that is “proud, but rarely described as professional”.

It’s within this context that we heard, not dissimilar to Bernard’s points, the faith sector is suspicious of professional frameworks.  In part this may be because they have largely been excluded from the discussions regarding professionalisation.

The phrase popularised by the eponymous 1985 book “Voluntary But Not Amateur” seems to resonate here although people’s understanding of work in the voluntary and faith sectors didn’t preclude the popular discourse surrounding the Statutory sector being ‘the professional sector’.  Seemingly, ‘professional’ has been more about who you work for and with.  This certainly runs contrary to messages in Nigel’s own book, ‘Embracing the Passion: Christian Youthwork and Politics’.

We were given a very interesting anecdote from Nigel’s own experience of a young man who wouldn’t use the local authority-run youth centre, instead choosing to only frequent the volunteer-run service further down the road.  His reasoning being that “those youth workers are paid to like young people, these ones are here because they actually care”.

To conclude it was discussed how often faith priorities can actually be quite different to other youth workers, which has in some cases led to active resistance against and deviation from professionalisation.  After all, professionalism doesn’t equal increased funding…

Helen Gatenby

Helen GatenbyFor Helen, being professional means being the best youth worker she can but she also recognised how one’s sense of professionalism is often tied up with others’ perceptions of you.

She also astutely noted that youth work is a highly political activity and as such will jar with professionalisation.  Her observation of the current state of play attests to this in that youth work has proved to be safest outside of the bureaucratic, ‘professionalised’ spaces.

On another level, Helen recognised that the personal values she lives by that inform her vocational experience of her youth work can’t be divorced from the work.  A practical example that I felt it interesting to capture was when Helen was approached by an organisation working with an isolated, pregnant young woman who had no birthing partner.  The service the young woman had been working with wasn’t in a position to support her; their working hours were proving prohibitive.  What did Helen do?  Bent the rules and made it happen.  Does that make her more or less professional than the other service?  The challenge put to the group was that we have to choose where we stand as professionals; it’s our duty to ensure that remains with young people.

Helen concluded by highlighting where there have been warnings around investing too much stock in education and professionalisation, notably with Mark Smith’s quote from ‘Developing Youth Work‘ (1988) below:

A particular danger here is that people may be encouraged to take on ways of working that serve neither their interests, nor those they work with.  This can happen as people adopt what are apparently the technical concerns of the profession without directly addressing what the cultural and political implications of these may be.

Helen’s parting argument was for education, and not necessarily formal education of the youth workforce. What may be required is the development of ‘organic intellectuals’, to borrow a term from Gramsci.

Discussion

On the back of the discussion about contradictions, some interesting points were raised to add a little flavour to what had come before:

Tony Taylor offered values such as a commitment to Social Justice, Equality,Diversity etc.. or pedagogical or communication skills are in no sense the property of youth work. He argued that we pursue those values and practice those skills in a distinctive setting. It is the setting, the voluntary encounter that makes us qualitatively different. I would be interested in exploring this further.

Mark Price from the University of Brighton offered an interesting parallel with professionalism and being paid, in so much as that he himself took the paid positions because it allowed him to do more of what he loved.  Amusingly, the switch for him from teaching to youth work (going back a few years) saw his salary jump from £6,000 a year to £9,000!

Mark also offered the term ‘professionality’ as a useful way to posit the discussions about people’s own sense of professionalism.  He suggested that a large part of a person being deemed professional, for him, was linked to their ability to be autonomous.

I asked a question about where the ‘Four Cornerstones of Youth Work’ had originally come from seeing as I’d found it difficult to hunt down their origins.  The conversation led us in a few directions but ultimately to acknowledging that often the body of work relating to our profession trickles into common knowledge and practice rather that finding explicit footing at the behest of the majority.

The state of things…

Adam MuirheadAdam-Muirhead

Representing the Institute for Youth Work (IYW) and acknowledging parts of its raison d’etre were around professionalisation I had the job of talking to how the Institute has been linked with the license to practice and qualifications amongst other things, such as the Code of Ethics ‘housed’ within the IYW.  Following a potted history of the Institute’s inception I offered up the pro’s and the cons surrounding a license to practice for youth workers.  In spite of a 2014 Children and Young People Now survey reporting that the majority of the workforce was in favour, recent experience with similar strategies, such as the ill-fated Youth Professional Status, showed that actually there just isn’t the appetite for such a thing; not least when the bill would be footed by individuals. There are interested parties out there but their arguments will need to be much better articulated to convince the current IYW membership, who seem to afford it a quite a low priority.

What now happens with the JNC was one of the issues that precipitated the seminar today.  Speaking on behalf of those members who responded to the IYW’s quick consultation on the subject, I recounted feelings of disappointment but resignation.  I will be very surprised (and happy!) should we win the battle to retain the JNC’s terms and conditions, but I don’t hold out huge hope.  Either way I would be up for a fight – there are ways to lose fights – that shouldn’t be overlooked.

I discussed the fact that we still have our professionally qualified status and that there are ways to develop this in collaboration to ensure, going forwards, it is fit for purpose.

On another point, public perception and the perception of our non-youth work colleagues has an understandable impact on our own perceived value and self-worth as professionals.  Maybe being professional is more tied up with the recognition from others than our egos would care to admit sometimes.

My parting thoughts were for the ability of the IYW to be a home for youth work and youth workers. The home that the NYA was never mandated to be.  We can run public-facing campaigns that address the above point – altering the public perception of youth work might assist us in our quest;

Youth workers as the teachers at the school of hard knocks and the professors at the University of Life.

If the public could relate to those messages, the profession and the professionals within it might be more resilient.

More discussion…

The general feeling in the room seemed to be that the building of professional structures including codes of ethics can have the effect of constricting and girding and narrowing the focus of youth work.  Our abilities to be autonomous and responsive can be limited and the inherent accountability to some higher authority feels at odds with our political/radical sensibilities.  I tend to agree with the sentiment and will commit now to vigilance around the IYW assuming power and maintaining accountability.

The future…

Janet Batsleer

Janet-BatsleerJanet offered some concise points in order to promote discussion on what we need to consider for the future.  Many concepts linked with ‘how to affirm a practice’.

To mention these succinctly I’ve bullet pointed them:

* We need alliances and we need active young people

* It would be beneficial to enlist digital industries, film, social media etc that help us to create new narratives

* We’ve already handed over too much to the funders who would lead us away from the core tenets of our practice and towards the common misconceptions that youth work’s purpose is to counter gangs/drugs/etc.

* We need to develop a language about our practice that is worth shouting about and fighting for.

* Janet was keen to promote the theatres where theory of practice can be played out with an acknowledgement that the IDYW storytelling workshops do provide this.  We’d like to see more.

Tony Taylor suggested that a significant number within youth work – but far from all – have welcomed the imposition of order upon the unruly world of informal practice with things like Every Child Matters.

* Janet continued by explaining her theory that workers need to be secure in themselves and have a solid experience of being loved in order to actually be disruptive.  It’s a much more secure platform to launch radicalist activity from.

We ended on the point that in education settings, current available placements aren’t reflecting the types of work that is being lectured on.  We had examples of where one worker was not allowed to do 1:2:1 work in their placement as it was “a child protection risk”…

 

All in all a very interesting and insightful day.  Thanks to In Defence for hosting and I look forward to the annual conference on 8th April.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Youth Work Week 2015

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE INSTITUTE FOR YOUTH WORK SITE HERE

This year, Youth Work Week has given me a chance to reflect and take stock on our profession, on its past, present and future.

Youth Work has a rich history, dating back well over 100 years and its endurance is not only testament to those people who have kept the torch burning over the years but also to its necessity as an educational practice.  Often misunderstood and misrepresented, Youth Work only gained solid professional footing following the Albemarle Report in 1960 which led to new youth club buildings, mass professional training programmes and the foundation for local authority-run Youth Services up and down the land.

Successive neglectful social policy decisions and a lack of purchase to statutory duties is what many would agree has meant that through this drastic programme of austerity Youth Work has suffered. However, some amazing developments have come out of this adversity; publications on Valuing Youth Work from the NYA, the Benefits of Youth Work from Unite the Union, the Youth Manifesto from Choose Youth and ‘This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice’ by In Defence of Youth Work, and more recently, ‘A Real and Present Danger: The Youth Service Crisis’ by Pete Sims, to name a few.  We’ve also seen huge lobbies of parliament and London Rallies organised through Choose Youth.  We’ve attempted to make the necessary changes to legislation through the tabling of an Early Day Motion that was supported by 66 MPs, an online petition that gathered over 6 and a half thousand signatures and even proposed a Youth Services Bill.  We now also have a Centre for Youth Impact, initially funded by the Cabinet Office in order to help the youth sector shout loud and proud about who we are and what we do.

In the middle of these difficult times we also started a national Institute for Youth Work, a membership body for those who use Youth Work in their work or volunteering or simply support Youth Work and want to contribute their knowledge and experience to the professional discussions surrounding the profession.  Some said this would be the worst time to start such a body because so many youth workers are losing their jobs.  Others said this is exactly why it’s the best time to launch an Institute for Youth Work – to show solidarity, galvanise our identity and organise!

As a membership body the IYW needs its members to be the driving force behind discussions and action – it is currently run by an elected Council from the membership who are all volunteering their time and energy for the benefit of the wider members.  It is in this spirit that we ask Youth Workers around the country (and indeed the world!) to take up the challenge that is spreading the word about who we are and what we are doing in spite of our challenges.  It is using the #YWW15 hashtag, posting films and writing blogs that help us to assert our worth to the rest of the world.  We can’t forget the desperate needs of those in our society that are underdogs and need our support to achieve all that they can with their lives.  We need to remember the first youth workers we may have met as youths ourselves and talk about what they did for us; we need to hold up best practice and shout about successes.

It is a time to remember that youth work was born out of social action and that inside of all great Youth Workers is a rebel that is ready to get radical if needs be in order to protect a profession that they know is needed.  We need to create the future for ourselves.

With that, do enjoy your Youth Work Week 2015 but please, please use your Youth Work Week 2015!

 

Adam Muirhead

Vice Chair

Institute for Youth Work

Data with Soul: Story-telling in Youth Work

Just a few months ago a new website was launched by the team at ‘In Defence of Youth Work’ which seeks to support the “capturing of our practice through a thought-out methodical approach” called ‘Storytelling in Youth Work’.

logo-idywThe initial idea of promoting storytelling for youth work came from a national IDYW conference in 2010 where the storytelling workshops prompted the book, ‘This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice’.  The website has now been primarily developed as a resource for sharing the experience that has come from the workshops that the IDYW team have run.

The site gives a strong account of the benefits of using storytelling and for anyone interested in using their tried and tested workshops it offers support to replicate sessions, or indeed translate them for use in the work setting.  They suggest it could be used in:

  • direct work with young people, including with young volunteers;
  • organisational development through staff training, supervision and monitoring;
  • the teaching and assessment of youth and community work students in higher education;
  • and project evaluation.

It is great to see the extolling of the benefits that come with developing strong narratives around youth work.  It surely has a role to play in making the profession more robust in the face of the testing times that the austerity agenda has forced upon us.

Stories from our practice book

There is an admission that the term ‘storytelling’ lends itself to a more quaint notion of fun anecdotes or to only capturing the best bits, to “uncritically embellish a worker’s or an organisation’s credentials” as they put it.  In fact, the team have provided a good account of the limitations and caveats that come with the use of this methodology and hold it up for us to play with and find out about for ourselves.  If you still have doubts then you will find it also provides solid case studies where youth work practice has been unpicked in order to highlight the skills involved and the unique nature of the educational processes at play.

I, for one, am very welcoming of this new site and the angle it offers on the impact measurement agenda.  It’s my feeling that the idea of communicating youth work’s benefits through a narrative sits better at ease with workers than generating stats and figures and does more credit to youth work processes.  And after all, when you consider that evidence is given to courts in the form of cross-examined stories – why wouldn’t this methodology be robust enough for youth work’s funders?  Perhaps the bigger question here is: would funders and governments care to listen to our stories?

Find the site at http://story-tellinginyouthwork.com/

youthworkable logo clear

THIS BLOG WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE CENTRE FOR YOUTH IMPACT BLOG HERE. THANKS TO THE CYI FOR YOUR SUPPORT.

Are we running out of time to see Universities help shape the impact measurement agenda?

Universities may hold the key to improving how we measure impact at the same time as improving impact itself.  But with so many courses being at risk, are we on the brink of a catastrophe that could set both things back drastically?

Sadly, there is evidence that the state of Youth Work training and programmes of ‘Continuing Professional Development’ (CPD) have been in decline for a while. In 2011, the Education Select Committee’s Review of Services for Young People said:

The low priority afforded to continuing professional development of the youth workforce is concerning, in particular the fact that, according to the last audit conducted by the National Youth Agency in 2008, some 33% of local authorities spent nothing at all on it (p.48).

Indicative of this decline are the figures on the uptake of JNC courses in Youth Work that the National Youth Agency (NYA) has recently shared.  In 2008 (a recent high) 1,470 people were recruited onto JNC Youth Work courses – today that number stands at just 674, representing a 55% drop from its lofty heights – or an average of 12% fewer students enrolling per year, each year since 2008.  Between 2012/13 and 2013/14 the number of JNC courses on offer has dropped from 57 to 51, representing a loss of just over 10% of our courses.

CPD courses have a key role to play in the justification of our profession:

  • Getting professionally qualified helps put us on a similar footing to other professionals.  Our peers come to better recognise our role and impact
  • Trained Youth Workers (arguably) produce more impactful Youth Work
  • Through training, the Youth Workforce is better able to evidence impact
  • Students produce research that contributes to the arguments for Youth Work practice

What I’m proposing is that there is interdependence between CPD institutions and impact measurement that shouldn’t be ignored.  Dismissing one could jeopardise the other.  Below is a diagram that helps to show some of the ways that the agendas feed into one another.

As a profession we need to be really careful not to let these fantastic institutions slip quietly away.  They are bastions of our Youth Work heritage and also to our future.  Their role in the justification of our work seems more crucial now than ever before, so I was really heartened to see that the Centre for Youth Impact had been working with The Professional Association of Lecturers in Youth and Community Work (formerly Training Action Group) to organise a joint conference on 30th March 2015.  I really hope that out of it has come plans to support each other for a long time to come.

Perhaps we can see appearing in the not too distant future a time when courses are all full and growing due to efforts in proving the amazing things that can be achieved through Youth Work. Perhaps…

This piece was first published on the ‘Centre for Youth Impact’ site here.  Thanks to the CYI for your support.

Youth Worker UK

For a while now I’d been wondering whether the Youth Work world had been lacking something.  I’d been struck with just how disparate we all were when it came to searching for youth work organisations and how difficult it can be to navigate around organisations if you don’t know who or what you’re specifically looking for.  Where could I go for resources? Who would I tap into for the latest news or campaigns?

The result of my pondering was Youth Worker UK:

Youth Worker UK front page

The trouble now is whether this was:

a) A nice idea but executed badly

b) A rubbish idea in the first place, or

c) Fantastic, well done mate!

I have no idea at all.  So it’s out there now and if anyone would like to try to use it and feed back I’d be interested to hear your views.

Currently it’s hosted by Wordpess.com so it’s nice and free! But if this takes off it might be nice to build a CMS that could do some really clever things and not just list sites but stream their latest news/updates etc straight to one page;  People could contribute to a resource library or put up their own organisations to amass a solid database of organisations that are out there.

I’d also be really keen to hear from anyone who knows of things like this that might already exist (and be doing it better!).

Many thanks,

youthworkable logo clear

 

Youthworkable on Youthworkable

my name is copy

I was recently asked by a couple of people how I came to use the handle ‘Youthworkable’ so I thought I might share the answer with others too…

It was a distant time, in a place far from whence I currently roam.  I was in a meeting with lots of other youth workers and some senior managers discussing the provision in a certain patch of our town.  It’s fair to say that the behaviour of this one group of young people had been challenging and what was being proposed was that we stopped working with them altogether because we’d get more work done with more people elsewhere.

So, I can get behind the utilitarian logic of sharing our limited youth work resources amongst a greater number of other young people.  Also, it wasn’t my strategic decision to make; this senior manager was telling us this is what we should do and as a relative newbie, as I was then, I’d have gone along with it.

…But!! They went so far as to say that this group of young people were “un-youthworkable”.

It wasn’t myself that spoke first but the whole room started getting rather upset at the term as we all came together to defend the young people in question.  We turned over the senior manager’s decision and continued to give support to the group.

It was at that time that I knew I was in the right profession, and the term always stuck in my mind.  And like me – it’s a little obscure when removed from context.