Youthwork is good for young people and society , heres 50 reasons why (#yww18)

Its Friday of National Youth work week and to celebrate all things positive and empowering about youthwork practices in the UK.

The NYA have run a campaign on describing youthwork, and the evidence of these can be seen via Twitter here are few of the images, from the twitter feed, to capture some of the sense of what youthwork means to many people involved in it:


But what does the sector and the many 100’s of youth workers say about themselves- for, it is one thing stating what youthwork is all about – another describing the good it does for young people and society. Over the last 24 hours I have shared on twitter and facebook

(via the In defence of youthwork page)  the question as described above:

In what way is youthwork (or ‘are youthworkers’) good for young people and society? 

These were the responses to this question, unfiltered and unsorted:

  1. Believe in them
  2. Support, encourage and cheerlead
  3. Trust them
  4. Love them
  5. Deal in hope
  6. See potential, not problems
  7. Meet the needs that teachers struggle due to the formality of their jobs
  8. Guide, support and enthuse
  9. Start where the young person is at
  10. Be there
  11. They are trained listeners
  12. Advocate rights
  13. Helps young people develop real life skills to cope as adults
  14. Transforms young peoples lives through meaningful mutual engagement, allows young people to fulfil their potentials
  15. Provides young people with a safe space where they are able to be themselves and realise their potential – coming from someone who has been youth worked since she was 11 and loved it so much that 10 years later she’s a youth worker!
  16. Gives spaces for young people to throw off pressure to grow up too fast & be young, have fun.
  17. Gives vulnerable teens a place to be safe and access services that can help and support them
  18. Offers young people the chance to access a vast range of opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t
  19. The encourage growth and enhance their future chances
  20. To give young people a voice and give them a listening ear to hear and reflect issues that are important to them an not the system
  21. Enables young people the opportunity to develop unique relationships, where they can question, be heard and feel valued. These relationships are different to parents, teachers and peers, being based on mutual trust and respect, with the young person at the centre.
  22. It’s a relationship which the young person chooses to participate in, in which the young person is valued as a whole person. This relationship is a safe space to explore and the only agenda is around the young person’s growth and development as a whole person.
  23. Because it offers safe relationships with adults outside of the family which is beneficial for young people
  24. It’s the only service that has a voluntary relationship with young people for me it was the first time I ever felt listened to and valued inspiring me to become a youth worker which I feel is a privilege
  25. A youth worker advocates and protects the interests of young persons
  26. Enables young people to build positive relationships with other young people and adults outside of their family
  27. It may make better adults!
  28. Providing valuable informal education that is not provided in schools and homes. This can be life changing for some young people
  29. Youth work provides at least one example of an adult who can empathise with and think like a young person – bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood. An example of how you can continue to be yourself even into adulthood, rather than change to ‘become and adult’
  30. Give young people some time and space to be their true selves
  31. Empower them
  32. Actively inspires and enables self determination
  33. Takes support to them, in their community, in places they feel safe and people they feel confident around
  34. Offers a space for young people to develop their authentic self through an accountable social education programme, which allows for mistakes and growth
  35. Youthwork offers a safe space for young people to be themselves be heard be supported be empowered and treated with respect
  36. All young people feel respected and valued
  37. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve met now “grown up’s” who tell me how brilliant a youth club session/residential/activity was which they took part in and others who sought me out for support as adults because they remember what we did as youth workers.
  38. Inclusive and challenges young people to explore their identity in society
  39. An adult yp can laugh/ have fun with but also be safeguarded by! Without youth workers referrals to early help services and social care would be higher!
  40. when a young person see’s that a youth worker doesn’t hold the weight of judgement in their eyes when they look at them it makes the young person lighter, they feel that they can shed the weight of years of being taught they are worthless.
  41. Youth work can be a place of political education and political participation of young people, with the aim of having social action.
  42. It’s a place where young people can test out ideas around identity, belonging etc and open up their world view by meeting people they may not normally come into contact with, trying new things and having their viewpoints challenged.
  43. To help with transition to adulthood
  44. Youth work changes young peoples lives for the better. It plays a transformative and educative role in the personal and social development young people. It helps young people explore and understand their own and others identity and gives them the skills knowledge and tools to positively impact, change and shape the world around them
  45. Helps young people connect with their community and become valid members of it
  46. Youth work embraces and celebrates young peoples lived experiences without judgement
  47. Youth work enables young people to grow in understanding of themselves, those around them and the society in which they live. In addition, to having their own space to have fun, free of judgement.
  48. Despite the overall feel of some of these statements, I think it is also important to note that youth work as a practice does not see young people as victims or in need of ‘saving’ as such, unlike many other professions working with young people. Youthworkers work with young people to empower them, and believe they can source their own power. Youth workers aim to understand the world from the young person perspective, respecting their choices, feelings and views, and providing accurate information so young people can make their own informed choices. This also means sometimes (often) we have to watch as they make, what we believe are mistakes, and be there, without judgement when they are ready to engage.

With two from me: 

49. Youthwork give young people the opportunity to build a relationship with an adult in which they can choose to say no. 

50. Youthwork provides a way of helping communities think better of young people through social and community activism, narrating a positive story of young people. 




At the end of youthwork week, lets endorse, celebrate and cheer for all the good that youthworkers do, in all the many places where voluntary relationships occur between themselves and young people, in organisation buildings, on the streets, community centres and churches, lets remember how much of what we are all doing and trying to do for young people we share many values, dreams and desires for the discovering of young peoples gifts, abilities and exploring with them places in the community and the future orientated , youthful fight and frustration we need to accomplish this. For all who stand in the gap, who take on the fight of funding bids, trustee meetings, community hostility and pressure from systems, outcomes and managerial expectations for the sake of young peoples rights, participation and welfare, be encouraged, and thank you.

Is the tide turning ? We hope so. And if these 50 reasons aren’t good enough to convince policy makers and funders of the value of youthwork, then Im sure we can think of 50 more.

Thank you for all you contributed to this piece with your comments and responses to this question. It would take another piece to credit you all individually, so thank you.

Youthwork: learning from the water carrier

“As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, The teacher asks – where is the room that i can eat the passover meal with my disciples” (Luke 22: 10-12)

Possibly not the most well known episodes, statement or actions of Jesus, an unremarkable instruction. But , aside from the due diligence, dedication and devotion of the women at Easter (John 12: 1-12, Luke 21 1-5, Luke 23: 26-33 and Luke 24 1-12), its this simple little episode that has got my attention. For at least two reasons, and two reasons in which we as christian faith based youthworkers might reflect on further.

Firstly, Jesus knew the routines of the community. Ok this might reduce his aura slightly, but instead of him knowing prophetically that the water carrier was there, he’s actually seen him on previous occasions, doing his dutiful actions, day by day, collecting water, filling the buckets and delivering it. Maybe thats a benefit to being up early, Jesus might have seen him on his early morning prayer times.. but Jesus had some knowledge of this routine, this person, his duty, his influence and his resources. It was all these he needed at a time of pending crisis.

Secondly, moving on from the first. Once the routines of the community had been sought, Jesus could use the resources that the Water carrier could give. The water carrier was familiar to the community, had power and resources, did a daily routined job well, hidden (possibly) and was relied upon for an essential resource. Crucially at a time of crisis, Jesus didnt turn to the powerful leaders to give him and his disciples a home, a space, a welcome. He found, not the least likely, but someone dependable, reliable, familiar and unassuming. And the water pitcher led them to the right place.

At Easter this year, i wonder whether as youthworkers we take our role as the water carrier a little more seriously. Often we are hidden and unassuming in our communities, and actually deep down we know this is a space we love to be, hidden in the margins, guiding and leading, having conversations – yet all the while young people are led to new places, places where new things become familiar, because we do do the regular, the week by week, listening to the community and its resources, and most of all being familiar in times when young people need someone who can be trusted.  Its a sacred space, a gritty space.

Crucially too, the water pitcher, is relied upon by Jesus to propel him and his team into the space of the last few days of that Holy Week, the ordinary used to lead to extraordinary. As youthworkers our role in the ongoing drama is to have conversations which reflect a new reality that propels young people to new ideas, dreams, visions – but that will only occur if we aware ourselves of the drama of that change.

Happy Easter!

Being a detached youthworker without any detached youthwork…

I think my wife noticed the itchiness of my feet over the weekend, it had been all of 2 weeks since my last detached youthwork sessions with Sidewalk ( two epic final sessions i might add) what seems a long time ago in the middle of August. It was about 7.30pm on Saturday night, we’d been out all day ( to the beach where else!) and i had already taken Ruby the dog out for a long walk, so i wasnt suffering cabin fever by any stretch… yet on Saturday evening i wanted to be out and about getting a feel for the evening atmosphere in our new town.

So for some reason, i had to go to sainsburys, for any reason, just to walk into town, its not even as though my new job had started, it hadnt, it started on Monday. And yet the itchiness of the feet drove me to want to be out in the vicinity of the town, the evening activities of young people and get a feel for whats going on.

Maybe i wasnt used to being in on a Saturday (without packing a house.. the week before)  or that id rather be anywhere than home when X factor was on, yet what was more likely that the habits of 4 1/2 years are difficult to get out of the system.. even when the surroundings are all so very different.

Maybe theres something to be said about being anonymous in a new town, and being able to wander to sainsburys or the take aways without the need for a reaction from other people around, for at that time no one is consciously ignoring me, or accepting me, as they dont know me..yet.. so i can blend in, or observe, or reflect on the activities in the surroundings around me.

So what happens now… well until theres a team of youthwork volunteers, there’ll be little detached youthwork, yet will i walk the dog, or go to sainsburys during the evenings, or eat lunch in the park during the day, well, once a detached youthworker, always a detached youthworker i guess, oh and loving the outside in the end of summer devon sunshine helps, but so is being present and visible…