12 elements of a successful detached youthwork session

At the recent Federation of Detached youth work conference, one of the key conversation topics on the floor was that of measuring and recording the interactions and success/goodness of detached youthwork. This was discussed in relation to commissioning, to targets and to outcomes, which are all tied up with a neo liberal agenda. The other thing alluded to was that detached youthwork was measured for effectiveness in the same way that centre based work was, or alternatively it was ‘reduced’ to an outreach or signposting service. In fact detached youthwork needs its own measuring and evaluation framework to fit its own nature, and purpose. One that fits with its practice.

And for the record these are aspects that should be included. In fact detached youthwork sessions need a whole new points system based on the following…

  1.  Numbers of times young people actively ignored you, closed down the conversation or walked away. Young people activating their choice – award yourself 5 points per time.
  2. How many times did you escalate their peaceful evening with humourous or insensitive comments, or polite banter that was misinterpreted, thus causing conflict that wasnt there in the first place? -5 for every escalation you caused.
  3.  Number of times you didnt look shocked when a young person tried to test boundaries by asking you about your alcohol life or by using swearwords.  award points for stoicism.
  4. A ‘miles walked’ to ‘conversations had’ ratio.  If under 3 miles to 1 conversation then, yup this is a good session
  5. Was it under 0 degrees, raining or a bit icy – count every conversation as double.
  6. If all the team and volunteers are back to the base without some form of emotional or physical scarring caused by young people, then this is a failed session, give this one zero points.
  7. Being out when theres no young people – this is a straight 10 points for determination.
  8. Conversations only with people that arent young people – dog walkers, waiters for buses, off license shoppers – this is good definately points awarded for this.
  9. Any quality conversation with a young person that is a personal opinion, cry for help or gives something away from them- 15 points, if you get this honest from a male – 20 points, and 100 points if you get honesty from a male when theyre in a group of other males.
  10. A session when you lose something that young people have stolen because they want it, again, 10-15 points. Its as sign of acceptance – ie your id badge, water, a ball or a resource.
  11. Young People want you to stay and talk further or walk with them – no points, but feel that deep glow.
  12. It takes about an hour to write up the session review because you have learned alot, been involved in conversations, seen moments of change, recognized young peoples gifts/strengths and offered support, education & guidance – over an hour 20 points, under 10..

Whats the criteria – anything above 100 points? 😉

There probably an element of truth in some of these, some sessions if were honest are a hanging in there survival game, and the scoring sheet is different, others are quiet, almost too quiet – yet in the middle and worth the extremes are the sessions of quality conversations, of reflecting with young people, of learning about their groups, and being accepted in their space as someone they genuinely accept and show this in a variety of ways. How do we measure the success of a detached youthwork session, we just know thats all.

Because it is genuinely difficult to measure of the good that detached youthwork is, it can be notoriously difficult to fund in an era when funding is from external sources such as grants or commission, and so whilst its easier to be comedic about a good session, its still an ongoing challenge. If you can contribute financially to projects like DYFC (see link above) or Frontier Youth Trust (http://www.fyt.org.uk) who are active in doing detached youthwork across the UK, then please do so. 

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