I generally find it really difficult to identify a night out on detached as being anything other than useful in the overall process of detached youthwork in the context of the local community. No moment in many ways is a waste; as it gives the worker opportunity to observe the present nature of the community, the social, economic and physical dynamics and interactions. The opportunity to gain experience in the space, the opportunity to see what power dynamics are in play in the spaces, the regular flow of groups, of people. Nothing is wasted.
Nothing is wasted either in that the community is becoming more aware of the informal presence of the youth worker on the street, not in the club or church, but in the public domain, as an alternative to the ever shrinking police on the beat, or increasing in some places Street pastors – the two way acclimatisation is important, whether its passing adults smoking outside a pub, waiting in a bus stop or in the local chippy, all these connections are worth investing in in the long term, its all part of being accepted locally.
So, if quiet nights can be useful – and they certainly are – what would make for a successful night on detached?
Overcoming the hurdle of a first contact conversation with a group – is a hugely successful moment. One to bottle for the whole evening – but in terms of acceptance and success probably 3-4 star.
A young male disclosing something personal in front of his friends – thats a 5 star success.
An acknowledgement from a leader in a group that wouldnt normally chat to you – thats probably 2-3 stars.
A lengthy chat with a group about any or all of the following; school, sports, evening activities, music & friends – very worthwhile and probably a solid 3-4 star event
Something more detailed, personal from young females – 4-5 star – its just a little more likely than from the males, thats not being sexist, it just is. Boys just dont do ‘personal’.
A young person who youve not seen for a while, tells you about how theyve changed and thought more positively about themselves and wants to thank you for this – yes it happens – at least 5 stars
Building on known , regular relationships where you’re beginning to gain rapport and acceptance in the space and in he group – yup easily 4 stars.
Having to deal with young people being verbally offensive to you – its not nice – but theyre not ignoring you either – so 1-2 stars maybe – definitely something to reflect on and change your own actions, behaviour, and a challenge to get to grips with.
Other things that make for a successful night on detached ;
Young people wanting to share their phone numbers, give you chips or run to talk to you
Positive feedback from others in the community
Reduced verbal abuse, and changes in young people
The team enjoying the experience
When young people are thankful that you’re there and they tell you. In your review sheets, record the feedback you get from young people – +ve and -ve – as all the spontaneous positives you will want to bottle and keep forever. A young person once told me that “id saved his life” , i thought id only had several conversations with him on the streets, but he was deadly serious.
Maybe, if you’re a detached youth worker, you know all this already, because you feel it and see it every time, you love it as the life of a young person gets thrusted into your uncomfort zone on the streets. Detached is successful because the we generally dont expect anything to happen, we cant control any of it, so when things do, and (thousands of conversations/contacts in 100’s of sessions later they have done for me) we can celebrate the smallest thing as success. We celebrate that the process is occuring in front of us.
These are just individual moments that we can see in the space of the streets, similar to what we see in the space of a youth club, we educate to help young people in conversations which may have a positive effect elsewhere, but only if the young person trusts the guidance, and wants to change through it. And this process, of accepting informal learning from a trusted person (s) makes detached the unpredictable art form that it is, but one splattered with moments of success, progress and rapport throughout.