One of the things I love about my job is the variety of life you get…one moment you’re talking to colleagues about strategic direction, the next you’re visiting a youth worker, the next you’re meeting with a County Principal Youth Officer, the next facilitating a conversation about developing a youth work project…huge variety but so fulfilling!
I was out in Ugborough last night helping a group of great people think about starting a youth work project. The first and most important step in this process is simply the acceptance that something needs to be done and that you want to do something about it! The process I try to guide these kind of discussions through is really straight forward:
- What are the issues young people face in your community? – identifying perceived needs
- What facilities/youth work are/is already going on in the community? – to find out what’s happening – sometimes it’s better to get involved in existing work than trying to reinvent the wheel!
- Where do young people hang out naturally in your community? – thinking more about getting out to meet young people, rather than trying to get them to come onto your territory and play by your rules
- What would we love to see happen in the future? – no-holds barred – we can dream and then start working on developing that dream.
I think it’s really important to remember that youth work is about developing appropriate relationships of trust with young people – not about activities, activities, activities! Young people need people who are interested in who they are, not just keeping them off the streets and out of trouble. Youth work is about helping young people as they develop towards adulthood – helping to equip them with the skills they need to make decisions about their lives in a mature and well thought out way.
Another vital component is getting young people involved in the conversation as soon as possible – last night there were 6 teenage girls participating in this first meeting – so exciting to see! Giving the young people major influence over decision making is great youth work – ownership ensures respect. Let them make decisions about facilities, about equipment, about programme – let them experience the responsibilities that brings. Quality youth work will follow!
Anyway, just some thoughts on developing this kind of thing…