7 Tools to develop youthwork from scratch

So, back to a list of practical top 10’s, this one if you’re thinking of developing a piece of work with young people from scratch. And i get this one a few times from Vicars or churches, and so especially if you’re a faith group or voluntary group. What are the jigsaw pieces in the creating process for starting youthwork from scratch?

  1. Spend a long time researching, not just the area, the culture, the gaps and the gifts of the young people – but find out their interests, their skills and how they want to develop the group, what they want to do, where, when and how they want it to occur.
  2. Think about the legal stuff like policies, safeguarding and risk- and get help from an established group nearby.
  3. Consider doing some training with the volunteers on conversations, reflection, and the legal stuff above
  4. Think about reflection, evaluation and recording the process of the work, the interactions between yourselves and young people, and how the work is progressing
  5. Give yourselves space to discuss the challenges, questions and values of the work you’re experiencing. Put in supervision for you all. Build a good team, model these relationships with the young people.
  6. Think about developing links to an affiliation to help in most of the above – such as FYT/streetspace.
  7. Do good networking with other agencies especially those you met in point 1, so that others can help, and have knowledge about what you’re doing.

This isn’t in the best of orders, and though it seems that working with young people is a complicated – behind the scenes type of work ( ie points 5-10) however, to do these things well means that the interactive, creative and group flourishing work you’re hoping to develop can happen with more skilled, resourced and confident people. It takes time to build up trust, in that getting young people to trust you depending on the culture, might take time. So the clearer you are about the aims and intentions, and have confidence in your intention to be there the easier it might be that you are trusted.

If young people are in context, then its important to think of them as being part of families and communities and schools, and so how might you involve all of these people in the creating process?

what might be the gifts of the young people and not just their needs?  how might they help, and how might you use them?

Might you need some funding – and if so for what? – getting trained in the youthwork bit?  – to get a consultant in might cost £30+/hr, but might this be cheaper than paying for a youth worker to do it all for you…(yes)

Think about the social space and how this is important both for you (where you feel comfortable) and the young people (where they do) – where’s the best place to start? and why should it end up somewhere else?

Build in contingency in case you end up finding healthy distractions along the way – ie like a self harm issue with a young person, or that they all like fishing , or they have learning difficulties – might you need to adapt your approach to fit them and how? how responsive can you feel you be?

Speaking of questions, give yourselves the opportunity to ask yourself them, critically think about the work, and give the young people the same opportunity.

There will be a few more, and I can feel the breath of a number of colleagues or academics on my shirt as Ive forgotten a couple of clangers probably, but here are a good few dead certs to start you on your way. The situations i have been in where these things haven’t occured very well, or where the youth worker is expected to do them as I’ve arrived, have been the situations that generally haven’t gone particularly well. Especially in point number 1.


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