Youthwork Management Juggling

The old adage that no two days in youthwork are the same, is true, neither are any two days in a management position in a youthwork organisation.

Some days can be an ongoing juggle of all the aspects of the work, all the different areas of responsibility, all the planned activities, and all the reactive ones.

From all the funding streams, managing staff, budgeting, administration, emails (sigh!) , social media presence, planning, strategy, networking, volunteer recruitment, creating policies and adhering to them. Every day can feel like an act of juggling, juggling what might be in the diary, with what emerges in the day, juggling what to do to be effective, or important in these areas. Juggling with the daily requests and phone-calls.

Though I’ve tried to find, or created my own planning or priority system, none seem to work for me. For me using electronic organising is like Rimmer in Red dwarf and his revision timetable,  I spend more time adding things to task lists, than actually doing the tasks.

Outside of ‘just’ work, then there’s the juggling of study, family and ahem exercise. (no prizes for guessing which one of these has suffered recently)

Im not one for thinking that the roles required in these spaces are a cause of undue stress, but holding things in the air and keeping all of these things spinning around in some kind of order, seems to be the day to day existence of managing in a youthwork or community organisation setting.

Yet there are other aspects of the analogy of juggling that keep ongoing – juggling between values (of local org/national affiliation/youthwork) , juggling between maintaining the organisation via funding and maintaining values, juggling between delivering on plans and having ideas and creativity, juggling between what roles does a particular day, or team, or practice need for that day or time for things to work. Juggling between doing something safe, or attempting to be creative, juggling in the borders, between the systems and yet not implicitly endorsing the system in the work. Juggling between the ideal practice, and the reality.

As i also help to deliver the detached work, juggling between practice, and being responsible for practice. Ironically at times the nature of juggling in management can make it even more difficult to be excited about practice, yet id rather do more practice, spend time energised by and with young people on detached. But mentally this can be difficult after a day of management juggling.

Maybe juggling keeps the balls in the air for so long, on other occasions the clown doing the juggling needs to walk around the stage, needs to change the space, or take the balls being juggled in a different direction. But most of the time, youthwork management on a day to day basis is an exercise in juggling, especially in a small organisation where resources are limited, but the expectations still remain. There are some days when i have to get out, walk the dog or go and have a coffee with someone – chew the fat and get a new perspective on the importance of juggling, or a different method to juggle, or to put a whole load of new, easier balls to keep spinning in the air.

 

 

 

 

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Focussing on faithful performance, rather than management by numbers

The dawning of youth ministry in the 1980’s was heavily influenced by that  statistic, you know the one I mean, that every week 300 young people leave the church. This week articles from

http://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/change-and-growth-for-the-church-of-england/

and Ali Campbell have continued the ongoing almost obsession both within and outside of the church with measuring its life or health by Sunday attendance numbers. There are many others, i am just highlighting these two because they’re the most recent. The Guardian ran the piece yesterday too. There’s a graph almost every month depending on who’s got research being produced.

Everyone knows on one hand that statistics can be presented in a number of ways – however i wonder if one of the key flaws to the traditional discussion is the use of statistics, or at least the measurement of people by numbers at all, within the consideration of the state of religion or the nations religion.

a lesson from youthwork:

Youth work, which has claimed to be an art, a Moral philosophy (Kerry Young 1999), one of its key demises as a universal service has been caused by political interference in regard to youthwork needing to justify its existence through adhering to the political ideologies of neo-liberalism. These prioritised efficiency, value for money in tendering processes and essentially young people as numbers/commodities and as clients. Because youthworkers couldn’t fight back, neither could they force young people to attend or did they want to (due to the nature of the informal voluntary relationship that youthwork consists of) the game of political neo liberalism, and this ideology implemented by new public management has led to the closure of youth services (a practice underpinned by an art) – replaced horrifically by schemes such as NCS which act in a business, outcome way and view young people more akin to a problem to solve, which may work with young people, but is far from what might be considered artistic educative youthwork.

So, why this sorry tale?

If the maxim that once some thing can be measured it then lies itself open to be managed is accurate, then might the church in determining its success by numbers be opening itself up to the same political managerial forces that have currently decimated youth services?

Maybe not – but where might the dominant ideas regarding management be coming from?

What i mean is – does the fascination with the outcomes of faith performance (ie the activities of clergy , church) in light of ‘people-as-numbers’, reduce the acts christian faith to scientific management and outcomes determined performances?

Instead – as Vanhoozer states (2014:182) – should the aim be to ‘present Christ, not extend Christendom’  and  be encouraged to artistically perform creatively in contexts, produce mosaics and prosaics of liberative, flourishing acts, acts of sacrament, worship and theatre. Concern about numbers or status anxiety is probably correctly identified by vanhoozer as a “perennial threat to the church’s faithful performance ” and should it act in ways that seek to attract- use tools of the empire, or business strategies of ‘the world’  which will inevitably hinder or produce a certain type of growth or faith.

So – instead of attendance – and i reluctantly say this – what about focussing on performances of worship/church as creative and artistic, on dramatic performance. Might authentic faith follow?

Whether faith performance should be measured, and then be called to management from this perspective should hopefully be open to question.

Faith as art,  might reduce faith to acts of performance, akin to the redundant art museum, but art is too static, unlike the drama of ongoing present performance, so as i urge ‘art’ i mean ‘artistic’ or art as  contrast to science/numbers.

If numbers are required, why is the outcome of the action what is recorded? , In the weekly statistics on film takings, there’s two recognised, one for takings overall, and one for takings per cinema/showing. So, What about measuring numbers of performances? or variety of performances? or number of voluntary hours committed by church people in society, chaplain hours, youth ministry hours?.

If the issue is that reduction of attendance is a sign of increase secularisation, (Moynagh 2012) Then the church should adapt its performance from its actions on Sundays thus measuring aspects of church performance in decline and start to identify and produce evidence on a regular basis of the church’s good artistic and active performance in the UK society.

And if attendance is the statistic that counts, could that not include all services in churches, messy church, mothers union (the original fresh expression?!), Wednesday services and others.

The danger of numbers is that creative performance is stultified because creativity & goodness of performance is gauged through the lens of people attending church on one service on one day. As soon as performance is weighed down by ‘how many people attended it, or Sunday services only’ whether it be youth ministry, chaplaincy, messy church, toddler groups its reduced faith to people-as-numbers, rather than faith in people.

As Moynagh argues (2012), churches that put on varieties of performance do attract more people, but if its didn’t attract people would that not mean that it was appropriate.

The danger of management of churches that inherits management models that don’t reflect the values or acts of mission, but management concepts from business which deem efficiency, control and value for money as priorities, not a liberative or theological underpinning of management fit for the futuristic values of the church as faithful performance. If the old adage that going to Macdonalds doesnt make a person a hamburger, managing the church like a Macdonalds chain will not make for a healthy spiritual diet in the UK.

 

The Path

Weekend dog-walks usually take me, either down to the beach, around the Burn Valley, or up through family wood, and around Summerhill park, on the western edge of Hartlepool. Summerhill is a myriad of paths, through recently populated woodland, with added facilities like a climbing wall and BMX tracks hidden within, either to be avoided or found depending on your perspective. Summerhill is also not far from a liveries of Stables.

Around the park there is one route, split at times in three paths, other times two, and on rare occasions one. 2016-01-10 14.58.57

When separated they keep apart the walkers, cyclists and horses. Other times they’re together. Why are the separated?  mostly for safety, to stop the deterioration of the grass, or for the Horses to keep them on grass for their shoes (however, horses are often on roads, so at this point im slightly out my depth)

I noticed at different points there were edges and boundaries between the paths, some took a shorter route, but interaction and conversation could occur from walker to horse rider, bmx’er to walker. And all could voluntarily cross between them2016-01-10 14.55.41

As i walked i had two thoughts, two metaphors came to mind; one about being a youthworker, the other about the church and young people.

In terms of the youth worker, i reflected upon the nature of connecting with a young person through youthwork to walk along the same path. Ok not a hugely significant statement. But actually what would it mean to walk along the path of a young person with them? what kind of privaldge would it be for them to let us be on the same path, not some invader, interrupter, but to be with them on the path, walking, listening and learning together. Sounds too romanticised, and maybe its not possible. Being on the streets on detached gives me the chance to walk the same situations as them, be in amongst the physical path that they tread. A distinction perhaps against the youthwork that occurs on the youthworkers physical path.

But how might the journey unfold in front, who directs and follows, by sight, by path, and who holds the map, or is it guided by the trees, the signs or the concrete already laid.

What kind of person would a young person want to walk with them, and how long for?

 

Secondly, might this image be a good one for thinking about people and the church.

The Church is the route and the process and the paths, people are on the paths walking, or running or riding.

Yet why do the paths separate between people and who decides who is on what path and for what reason?  should all the young people be on the BMX path? what if they’re walking a dog- should they then? or adults on a mountain bike? or parents pushing buggies? should these boundaries be less set and more determined, as her by nature, by choice, by interruption (of puddle, verge and post)

The paths all have the same trajectory, destination, and yet why might it seem that young peoples trajectory and destination is different in the church, is it because they are on separated paths, an especially designed path thats not of their making.

Does a youth ministry path lead to a vastly different destination than the local church? How might a messy church path interweave within the paths of church? Where is there dialogue and conversation across the paths? Where might new paths be furrowed and paths that bring other people to start walking too?

Just a few metaphors for walking with young people, and for the church as a series of paths, whilst i was out walking the dog yesterday afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Into 2016: New Years resolutions for the Youthworker

Here’s a quick top 15 new years resolutions for a youth worker, maybe some of them ill need to do, especially number 10.

  1. All that coffee you drink- buy it fair trade, and if not fair trade from an independent shop or cafe
  2. Give young people more opportunities to make decisions for your club, organisation, church
  3. Resist the temptation to follow every conference on twitter, or tweet incessantly whilst being there.
  4. Restrict using theological or theoretical phrases as catch all terms that no one else knows, or dilute their meaning ( im thinking ‘Missio dei’. ‘Incarnational’, ‘person-centred’, Frieran’ ) even worse if you dont know what they actually mean, or haven’t read up on them since college.
  5. Take time to rest, especially during the summer.
  6. Read some books, yes even some youthwork or theology or sociology or psychology just for fun, itll help your practice and keep you sharp.
  7.  Find someone to have critical conversations with about your work and practice.
  8. Be yourself more often.
  9. Try something new, be brave, take risks and start making new paths to walk along
  10. Tidy your desk, tidy your office. (this one is definitely for me)
  11. Make sure you take a day off per week.
  12. Young people are not yours, they are their own, or ‘the’ young people.
  13. Realise its a marathon and not a sprint
  14. Treasure every moment and conversation you have with young people and find ways that make conversations happen, happen easily and happen on their terms.
  15. Take time to invest in the profession to encourage others, write articles, share stories, make resources. Find avenues to pipe up about the good youth work you are doing.

I am sure you can add your own. I am sure there would be resolutions for the youthwork managers out there also, or the government in regard to how it treats and invests in young people and youthwork. That might be for a different day though.

Happy New Year !

A review of 2015; inspired by goodness

Its that time of the year when the cheap dodgy ‘filmed in November’ programmes fill the TV schedule, with reviews of the previous year, top moments, clips and footage, and so in the finest of cultural traditions, but probably with the audacity of the JLS greatest hits album, here are some of mine;

Top book I’ve read in 2015 – By a long way, ‘Faith, Speaking and Understanding By Kevin Vanhoozer, like refreshing water on a thirsty theological soul, just another glorious Vanhoozer read. second, on the same theme ‘Performing the Sacred’ by Johnson and Savage, a practical building on the role of the audience in the Theatre of the Drama of Redemption. Its funny, this year I have bought and read a lot less books than in 2014, though have read a considerable number since starting uni in October. However, Im about to start reading one of Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s ‘Theodrama’ Part IV, i imagine its the Theodramatic fans equivalent to the episodes of Star Wars. Hopefully starting at IV will make sense.

Top Film: Selma. By a long way. Well almost by a long way, that is until I watched Pride a few months ago. Both redemptive tales of goodness in societal and political struggles.

Favourite place; Seaham Beach – the alien one – Ive been there twice this year, and for a long walk over the top of it too.

Seaham Beach
Seaham Beach

Top Coffee Shop; The Italian one just off Sadler street in Durham, I’ve popped in there a few times and had some great meetings and conversations, and its where I’ve gone on the way in to St Johns on a Thursday, a good place to read for a few hours. Notable mentions also include Flat white, Durham, and Tea @ Hart in Hartlepool.

Top piece of free learning; a joint award in third place between the Nomad Podcast, and the Wittertainment podcast, both excellent, but getting the chance to have two extended coffees and meals with Allan Clyne beats both of them, especially as one of these came after a day of proudly seeing Malcolm Winch graduate from ICC and then have an evening walking through a summery hot Glasgow, it was one of my favourite days of the year.

Top people I’ve met for the first time; Meeting Mike Mather was also inspirational, and I thoroughly enjoyed a Beer with Thomas Bruar, back in Wetherspoons in Perth, and I have met other people known from a distance in person for the first time; such as Tony Taylor, Pete Ward and Jessie Joe Jacobs. Though just to mention new people does a disservice to all the great conversations with other people over the course of the year, essential support, guidance and wisdom along the youthwork journey. Also,  after 18 years, great to catch up with a few people from my first experiences in Hartlepool.

Favourite road – (this one for the cyclists) there’s been a few as I’ve managed to get out and ride a few thousand miles this year. When the sun is setting and deep red, the view over seal sands, and Salthome on Teeside were pretty amazing, and a flat sprint of about 10 miles from Port Clarence to Hartlepool. The other bit of road that i have liked has been the longish sprint from Sedgefield to Sadbergh. Hopefully Ill find some new ones in 2016.

Other highs this year have included the decorating of our dining room, the beginnings of some consultancy and youthwork training work locally, helping to support some new youth work with FYT in Middlesbrough, and thinking about where more might take place in 2016, starting of an MA at Durham Uni and being out on the streets in Durham to have some amazing conversations with young people on detached. Some highs also include extended celebrations for my wife’s birthday and a day at Alnwick Castle, and lots of walks around the north east coast, especially Crimdon, Seaton and spotting the Seals at Greatham.Seals at Greatham

Going to the Semi final play off win for Middlesbrough against Brentford was a sporting highlight, only tempered by my Sons sadness of the final result.

Middlesborough play off semi final 2nd leg
Middlesborough play off semi final 2nd leg

 

Other good youthwork moments this year have included some productive and creative conversations at the FYT/Streetspace conference, the IDYW conference, YWAF Conference, and the Cafe Leadership days- most of which I have written blogs about somewhere on this site already. These were some great opportunities to share practice, insights, learning, trials and joys. It was great also to participate in a 2 day Supervision course at Durham Uni, a really helpful time to get back into thinking about youthwork practice, and study further.

At the end of the year, I could reflect on the low points, or challenges, and these relate mostly to times of tension, of frustration or of uncertainty, and relate primarily to funding, vision and opportunities, but i am going to leave them at that, as i have also learned and been inspired by is the devout attention to thankfulness that Becca Dean describes regularly and eloquently, and so, whilst there has been difficulties this year and much to learn from, I will try and learn to be disciplined in contentment, however difficult that may sometimes be.

 

So this is less a review of the year, and become a moment to remember the goodness that I have had the privaledge of  receiving from a whole host of people, whether in person, via podcasts, or books and so thank you and  I hope that I have been able to contribute to your existence and world in a similar positive way during the year, and I hope for more of the same in 2016…. and so in thinking about 2016…where will this ongoing drama take us to next and how might goodness continue to lead us on…?

10 things that might make being a Youth worker easier.

I have a feeling this might be the last blog I write before Christmas, and so thank you for reading this, for reading my ramblings over the last 12 months in 2015, for contributing comments, for sharing them. I hope beyond anything else that a tiny fraction of what I have written has been useful, inspiring, caused you to think, and help you in your practise of youthwork. After a lengthy blog on Monday on the Prevent policy and consultation, this one is borne out of some of the key issues that seem to be going around the youth work world at the moment, and might make life a bit easier, fruitful or constructive for a youth worker, in whatever setting.

So, if there were 10 thing that could happen to make being a youth worker easier then these would surely rank up high in them;

  1. Having Funding that allows for long term values based youth work to actually happen
  2. Being managed according to youthwork values & having consistent management in whatever organisation or agency.
  3. Having an external supervisor- who also knows what youthwork is all about, and an organisation that encourages you to be professionally supervised.
  4. Working for an organisation where you don’t have to justify your existence all the time, especially in terms of outcomes. and that includes churches, actually that includes churches big time, and maybe not clergy, but congregations. Though as ever it starts with Clergy, Bishops etc…
  5. Having clear pathways of progression, and I know ambition or career isn’t for everyone, but some kind of career path. Scrub that, given that so many have lost their jobs, It would be easier for youth workers if there were jobs. lets not be picky or ahead of ourselves.
  6. Better networks of youth workers in rural areas. or at least outside the big centres of youthwork provision, should there be any.
  7. For people to trust the youth workers approach, philosophy or practice, after all they are the youth worker.  Ask questions yes, help and support definitely, but in the same way you wouldnt suggest to a surgeon how to remove your appendix, have the same trust in the methods that the youth worker is doing.
  8. For the youthwork centres of academia to continue to support their graduates with ongoing CPD afterwards.
  9. For youth workers, especially in church/christian faith based organisation settings  to get some kind of paid sabbatical, regardless of where theyve applied their practice over a lengthy period of time.  Would that be great..? If academics and Clergy can – why not youthworkers? after all its a valued ministry in the church isn’t it? oh…. guess its not that valued then… – and going on a conference doesnt count.
  10. For former youthworkers to get involved in Politics at the highest level, or the highest levels of the church, in the education department,  in the establishment to be able to change things, and fight for the possibility of youthwork in the future.

Rant over, there’s probably a ton of stuff to add to this one. Sometimes its tough enough just working with young people, without the hassle or worry or added stress that some of the above can bring. Oh, and i know, what could be more difficult that just playing table tennis with young people…

Happy Christmas youth workers everywhere!

 

Management culture and the church

At the present moment I am in the middle of my MA in Theology and Ministry at Durham Uni, for one of the courses I am doing a Practical Theology Reflection, one of the other modules I am undertaking is Youth work Management. So at the moment I am knee deep in thinking about Theology, about Mission, and about Management, and as ive spent the day reading today on the Management side of things, am contemplating a few thoughts about management in relation to the church.

In Managing Voluntary Organisations Charles Handy describes that “the new language recognises what the voluntary world has known all along- that organisations are living communities with a common purpose, made up of free citizens with minds and values and rights of their own”, and from this grow a better understanding of organisations, built upon philosophy, and theory, and values for organisations.

In Morgans seminal piece on Images of organisation (1998) he describes the trajectory of organisational culture, and management – from post Industrial, Taylorism, and Fordism- a mechanical functional organisation  – through to Organisations as organisms, Organisations as cultural- creating social reality, Organisations as learning organisation, Psychic organisations, organisations of flux and organisations of dominion, all of these are metaphors of organisations- and more than one can exist within an organisation.

The question in my mind is, what sort of organisational culture is the church (ie what organisational structure has it inherited), and what should the church seek to be?

And, is there a clash between the dominant culture of the church, as currently operated, and that as experienced by those who work within it – under the authority persons such as Clergy and voluntary PCC?

It would be obvious to suggest that different denominations of the church operate with different organisational structures, but id reckon most are hierarchical to some degree or another. Yet what kind of organisation, in terms of culture does the church attempt to be?

And how is its organisation shaped by its values and intentions?  Given that at the start my reference is the world of voluntary organisations which seek to listen to and respond to the voice of people in community, meet needs, build on gifts, develop partnerships – in accordance with community development/ youthwork values and principles. It is why writers like Butcher (2012, in Ord) suggest that community and youth workers need to challenge the dominant discourse around policy and leadership and to create their own based upon values and principles. This sense of pioneering, challenging structures and discourses of inherited management seems alien in many inherited church management structures.

Might a reason that youthworkers, and Clergy – as managers- struggle to make that relationship work is that the management models at work are at odds with each other? How often does the Youth worker despair at the politics of the management of a church for example- and not saying clergy don’t either. But the discourses and expectations of management between the youthworker and Clergy might be vastly different. Is it that Youthworkers operate in what Coburn identifies as a ‘border pedagogy’ and thus is more acutely aware of values, of education and the spaces between the structures. And so the structures can represent dominance, power, hindrance, to the worker, and the young people they seek to represent.

So, maybe the system is more at fault than the personalities, but if the management structure of the church was reformed according to the values of the organisation- what would it look like? what would it emphasise? Or have the adopted models of church management run their course, and, like community organisations its time to move beyond mechanical or transactional or macdonaldised modes of management to management cultures befitting of the values of the mission of the church and the values of the Christian faith.

Lewis D (2001) argues that organisations may operate within an ambiguity paradigm, in that they are caught between beaurocratic worlds of management on one hand, and intentions to be operate with more flattened egalitarian, face to face, associational world of management. This may have some resonance Theologically when beliefs about social or hierachical trinity are used to re shape church structures, but that a bureaucratic mode might be too hard to let go of. Especially if power is attributed and held within it. The space within is the ambiguity as change occurs or where there are incoherances between what is idealised, but what is actualised.

Is there hope in that emerging church developments have adopted more equal management models? well maybe – but that only goes so far in determining the culture of a new organisation, how might they be shaped around creating social reality, or learning culture , or something else befitting the values of a new organisational group. its obviously easier in smaller groups and networks.

What is the current mood music in the church in relation to management – has it adopted business models too quickly – when christian youthworkers might feel that this emphasis is too numbers driven? Has the church adopted a universal strategy for management culture that doesnt take into account the complexities of local contexts? Might each church seek to develop its own management culture to fit its own communities local needs, ministry and mission? what then…. So could it shape itself according to values – not dissimilar to the emphasis of community and youthwork, after all – we’re all in the transformational ‘business’.

Maybe my head has been in books too long today to make any sense of considering the church and its management culture (s), where it derives them from, and what influences the way its structures are today.  But maybe there is something in here, some nugget for someone somewhere, Thoughts on my random thoughts as ever welcome…

 

Gift Encouraging Youthwork

Last week I had the undoubted please of having Lunch with Mike Mather, a Methodist Pastor from Indianapolis, USA. Beforehand I had read the article about the way in which his church community had shifted its focus, largely from focussing on community needs (and acting to serve) to recognising the gifts in the community (and seeking to encourage), in terms of approaches, shifting from needs focussed to Asset focussed. (thanks to Val Barron at Communities Durham for setting this up) – the article is linked above.

It got me thinking, as youd imagine it would, about whether predominant trends in youthwork & ministry have an encouraging gifts as a main focus?

As we discussed over lunch, we shared some theology about where gift encouragement is Biblically and theologically; from the feeding of the 5000, the sending of the 72 into welcoming hospitable houses, ‘you are’ (salt and light). Then thinking about the work of Friere, Boal, and Boff, as encouragers in community to use the resources already there- to liberate.

During the conversation i shared a story about a young girl we’d met on detached the evening before, and whilst it was a powerful experience in and of itself, Mike used the story to name the gifts that this girl naturally had.

It caused me to realise that at times I get caught up in the amazingness of the interaction itself, (ie; isnt it great that we’re in their space and they want to talk) and how i might make a intentional and conscious change to use the space of the interaction to identify positives about the natural gifts that the young people are displaying. Id be challenged if i could do this in real time, ie in the moment, but I imagine that’s what building good habits are about in the space of the streets.

And so, on a broader note, i reflect on the values on youthwork; such as empowerment, valuing individuals, democracy, informal education – and reflect that these can , just as ‘incarnation’ can be for Christian youth ministry, as definers of the approach, not necessarily what it we actually do with young people.

When we value young people- for example- yes that means treating them with respect, listening and empathising – but how might we value them by encouraging and facilitating their gifts and abilities in their families & communities?

The same could be said about empowerment- yes dissolve power in our actions, but for what purpose? to give young people a chance to get a pre determined job? or genuinely empower them in the natural gifts that they might have – person gifts, artistic ones, intellectual ones.

So often the powers of organisations, and university departments, churches and funders will determine that people, compared to themselves have deficits. and thus have needs have to be addressed. But might there be a better way to develop community, instead of focussing on need. It’ll take a mindshift change, but including myself, we have much to learn, about people and learn to build from what they already have. We have power to lose and share.

 

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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