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Change and Continuity in Contemporary Youth Work: Striking the Right Balance. Maurice Devlin NUI Maynooth. Changing nature of “youth” (National Youth Work Development Plan 2003-2007).

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change and continuity in contemporary youth work striking the right balance

Change and Continuity in Contemporary Youth Work: Striking the Right Balance

Maurice Devlin

NUI Maynooth

changing nature of youth national youth work development plan 2003 2007
Changing nature of “youth”(National Youth Work Development Plan 2003-2007)
  • ‘Throughout its history, the success or otherwise of youth work has depended most centrally on the extent to which it has remained in touch with the changing needs and circumstances of young people. If “youth” changes, then obviously “youth work” must change, if it is not to become irrelevant, ineffectual, or both.’ (NYWDP: 2)
changing nature of youth
Changing nature of “youth”
  • Demography
  • Diversity
  • Blurring of Boundaries
  • Complex Transitions
  • Choices and Pressures
  • Individualism and Consumerism
vision of youth work nywdp
‘Vision of Youth Work’ (NYWDP)
  • Youth work as education
  • …..a planned programme of education designed for the purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and social development of young persons through their voluntary involvement…which is -
  • (a) complementary to their formal, academic and vocational education and training; and
  • (b) provided primarily by voluntary organisations.’ [Youth Work Act 2001 s. 3]
vision of youth work cont
‘Vision of Youth Work’ (cont.)
  • Youth workers as educators
  • A positive contribution to young people, communities and society
  • Voluntarism
  • Rights and citizenship
  • Equality and inclusiveness
  • Coordination with other services & work with young people
north south education training standards committee nsets
North South Education & Training Standards Committee (NSETS)
  • Principles: Youth workers have a commitment and responsibility to -
  • treat young people with respect, valuing each individual and avoiding negative discrimination;
  • respect and promote young people’s rights to make their own decisions and choices, unless the welfare or legitimate interests of themselves or others are seriously threatened;
  • promote and ensure the welfare and safety of young people, while permitting them to learn through undertaking challenging educational activities;
nsets principles cont
NSETS principles (cont.)
  • contribute towards the promotion of social justice and equality for young people and in society generally, towards encouraging respect for difference and diversity and challenging discrimination;
  • recognise the boundaries between personal and professional life and be aware of the need to balance a caring and supportive relationship with young people with appropriate professional distance;
  • recognise the need to be accountable for their work with young people;
  • develop and maintain the required skills and competence to do the job.
quality standards framework qsf
Quality Standards Framework (QSF)
  • Principles: Youth work is -
  • Young person centred: recognising the rights of young people and holding as central their active and voluntary participation;
  • Committed to ensuring and promoting the safety and wellbeing of young people;
  • Educational and developmental;
qsf principles cont
QSF Principles (cont.)
  • Committed to ensuring and promoting equality and inclusiveness in all its dealings with young people and adults;
  • Dedicated to the provision of quality youth work and committed to continuous improvement.

Statement of Youth Work Practice:

What you do: ethos; mission; service provision; defining features/functions

Why you do it: rationale; vision; aim & ojectives; outcomes

Who is it for & with: target group; partnerships; linkages; exchanges

How you do it: modes of provision; methodologies

Where you do it: geographical area; settings; locations

Core principles – All youth work practice and provision is:

1. Young person-centred: recognising the rights of young people and holding as central their active & voluntary participation

2. Committed to ensuring and promoting thesafety and well- being of young people

3. Educational & developmental

4. Committed to ensuring and promoting equality and inclusiveness in all its dealings with young people and adults

5. Dedicated to the provision of quality youth work and committed to continuous improvement

Prescribed indicators:

1. Systematic needs assessment

2. Services responsive to the requirements of young people

3. Service promote the strengths of young people

4. Young people involved

in the design, delivery and evaluation of services

5. Clear examples of voluntary participation

Prescribed indicators:

1. Provision of supportive environments & programmes

2. Child protection policy and procedures

3. Health & safety policy & procedures

4. Appropriate insurance cover

5. Compliant with relevant legislation

Prescribed indicators:

1. Theoretical & practical foundation

2. Range of effective youth work methodologies

3. Relevant and diverse programme/curriculum provision

4. Evidence of planned & unplanned learning

5. Developing personal & social capacities

and competencies

Prescribed indicators:

1. Accessible, inclusive and integrated services

2. Policies, programmes and practices comply with equality legislation

3. Policies, programmes & practices, promote, diversity, inclusion, equality and interculturalism

Prescribed indicators:

1. Culture & practice of innovation & critical reflection

2. Service provision underpinned by principles of good practice

3. Commitment to continuous development and quality assurance

4. Commitment to resource effectiveness

Please identify one achieved outcome in relation to each of the Core Principles

Self & External Assessment

Standard Section 1: Youth Work Practice & Provision

1.1 Planning

1.2 Practice

1.3 Progression

1.4 Monitoring & Assessment

1.5 Policies & Procedures

Standards Section 2: Organisational

Management & Development

2.1 Governance & Operational


2.2 Strategy

2.3 Volunteers

2.4 Human Resource Management

2.5 Collaboration & Integration

Continuous Improvement


Progress Report

purpose and outcomes interagency research project
‘Purpose and Outcomes’ – Interagency Research Project
  • Parallel to QSF, five major youth organisations (four voluntary and one statutory) took the initiative to explore the “purpose and outcomes of youth work” from the perspective of youth workers and young people in their own groups and projects.
  • Organisations: Catholic Youth Care; City of Dublin Youth Service Board; Foróige; Ógra Chorcaigh; Youth Work Ireland.
purpose and outcomes interagency research project1
‘Purpose and Outcomes’ – Interagency Research Project
  • Decided to focus specifically on examples of good practice; five “sites” purposefully selected across the country – different types of project/group/service but all long established and highly regarded.
  • Combination of qualitative and quantitative methods (interview/focus group/short questionnaires), informed & contextualised by literature review.
  • Report: The Purpose and Outcomes of Youth Work, M. Devlin & A. Gunning, Irish Youth Work Press, 2009.
range of hard and soft outcomes
Range of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ outcomes
  • Widespread agreement between youth workers and young people that youth work results in:
    • enhanced personal qualities and feelings - confidence, self-esteem, personal and social awareness, amicability and sociability;
    • opportunities for association in positive contexts, strengthening friendships and establishing new ones;
    • new and more diverse experiences and opportunities (which are more likely with longer periods of involvement);
outcomes cont
Outcomes (cont.)
  • Outcomes (continued):
    • practical skills (e.g. making decisions, planning and organising, budgeting, cooking, teamwork, group work, communications, arts and creativity, various sports, games and activities);
    • information, advice and advocacy (e.g. health, relationships, sexuality, the law, careers and formal education);
    • practical support for formal education; and in some cases direct provision of (and support for) alternative routes to qualifications;
outcomes cont1
Outcomes (cont.)
  • Outcomes (continued):
    • support for young people’s families by youth workers, integration of family members within the work of the youth group/project, more positive approaches to parenting (and to young people in general) by adults involved in youth work;
    • improved communications and relationships between young people and adults within communities; opportunities for practical intergenerational cooperation at local level;
    • improvement in local conditions and amenities, providing local leadership (both young people and adults), cooperation and coordination with other local services.
findings qualitative families parenting
Findings – qualitative:families & parenting
  • “One example, a parent who is a leader as well, said prior to becoming a leader herself if there was a phone call to be made on behalf of their child, they would be running out to do it, whereas now she’d be saying, go over there now and ring up and get the number and do all that yourself. Prior to that, she said she would have done all of that for them. There is a big tendency with parents to do too much for their children. She said because she had the experience of the club she would be much more aware of getting them to do what they can for themselves, rather than do it for them.” [Volunteer youth worker, rural club]
findings qualitative community involvement
Findings – qualitative:community involvement
  • “You can see the benefits as well in the community, young people will involve themselves more within the community and getting involved. I have a group that are getting involved, off their own bat, with a gardening initiative with adults from the community. If there wasn’t a youth project there to facilitate that, would you have these young people coming along and taking that much of an interest in their own community?”
findings qualitative the intergenerational dimension
Findings – qualitative:the “intergenerational” dimension
  • “We are very lucky that the centre is twenty four years in the community, so all the young people we work with, say maybe their mothers or aunties or uncles have come through the use of the centre, so if the kids are here till 11 o’clock at night, the parents don’t have a problem…I think the centre in itself, I know it’s a youth service, but it is also community based in that you have parents and grannies and everyone coming in with every problem that isn’t youth service based. They would come in with lost cats or anything…”
findings qualitative friendship
Findings – qualitative:friendship
  • “I have a friend who moved down from Dublin a year or so ago and he didn’t really know anyone, so I brought him here one day and it’s great here because the atmosphere here is like the first day, whenever I walked in it was, hey what’s up and the first day he came in, ten minutes later he was having a laugh with everyone. So he was up by twenty friends that day anyway.” [Young man, regional youth service]
findings qualitative informal non formal learning
Findings – qualitative:informal/non-formal learning
  • Carol …You don’t even know it [learning] is happening, it’s just, you know we learned how to cook and we didn’t realise it, I just remembered how to do it and rowing and orienteering and aerobics, and all about the environment, they teach like how important, when all the trees and everything are getting cut down, they teach you that’s bad and they tell you why it’s bad and all.
  • Anna But you could learn that in school too. What’s different about how you learn it here?
  • Carol It’s more relaxed. In school you have to learn it because you’ll be tested on it and if you don’t know it you’re in trouble but in this place they’re not going to give out to you.
  • Ben It’s more enjoyable that way.
findings qualitative time and patience
Findings – qualitative:time and patience!
  • Clare I would have started about ten years ago in the homework club and he was extremely challenging as a child then. It’s been a really intense long road with him and workers at a different point have had intense contact with him through different processes and [name] would have done a lot of work with him around the group that went on an exchange…. I would say that he really pushed boundaries, he really pushed boundaries with us, he really tested us, up to last year, up to this year
  • Sean If he had been in school, he would have been expelled twenty times over, no problem.
findings qualitative lasting impact
Findings – qualitative:lasting impact
  • “We would certainly try to create an environment where anyone at any age could come back in, whether they were older or young, whether it’s a year gone or five years gone. We had a youngster come back to us recently who must be twenty seven and had a very difficult relationship with his father, but hadn’t spoken to anyone about it. Since he was a teenager he was getting help from us but his father died and he just hit a complete [ ] and he rang one of us and said ‘Can I come for coffee, I need to talk?’ Not been here, not been inside the door for at least five years, the guy is well into his twenties, but just needed to get over that. He actually needed to go for bereavement counselling, but we were able to…we are not necessarily the answer, but we can help somebody work out what it is they need…”
findings qualitative positive behavioural change
Findings – qualitative:positive behavioural change
  • “[Young person’s name] is doing his junior volunteer now…and he was really nervous. I was talking to him about it and he would have been a very angry young man and he [used to] lash out really, really badly, just verbally. We were sitting down and he was telling me he was nervous about working with young people that are like that. But he was able to say, I think what I’ll do is lower my voice tone because I know…if people shout at me, and they used to shout at me, I get louder and louder, so I’m going to try and [change] that. For him to say that…”
findings qualitative personal development
Findings – qualitative:personal development
  • Maurice What’s the one thing, the one way in which you’ve got some benefit or advantage from being a member of the group, what’s the most important thing?
  • Kevin I’ve matured.
  • Maurice You’ve got more maturity from it?
  • Kevin Yeah, I’ve learnt about rights and all, responsibilities.
  • Maurice Is this through discussion, talking to people?
  • Kevin Talking to the youth workers.
  • Niamh More confidence to talk to people and talk in front of people.
  • Kevin For instance now.
findings qualitative positive relationships
Findings – qualitativepositive relationships
  • Joe [A]t some point you cross the line where they are youth leaders and then they become friends, and that’s good…..
  • Jill But you still have a kind of respect as well for them, because you know, they are our friends as well, they are only trying to do their job and we understand they wouldn’t ever really give out to us, but when they tell you to stop doing something, you listen to them more.
  • Joe It’s not like a thing that they are angry, just disappointed. They make you feel horrible. You come in the next week and ……
  • Maurice But they do have authority then?
  • Carol Yeah they do.
  • Maurice And you recognise that and respect that?
  • Joe There’s a line.
findings qualitative keeps young people out of trouble
Findings – qualitative“keeps young people out of trouble”!!!
  • Anna Do you think that if two years ago or four years ago or whatever, if you hadn’t joined the youth club, I know it’s kind of a hard thing to ask…
  • Kevin Ah, we’d run riot.
  • Anna Do you reckon your life would be different?
  • Kevin We’d run riot.
  • Paul I’d say we would, you just don’t know.
  • Kevin If there were not youth clubs or youth workers around, there would be total chaos.
findings quantitative
Findings - quantitative
  • Some examples of quantitative findings (or qualitative findings rendered into quantitative form) follow:
pervasive themes
Pervasive themes
  • Included:
    • The value base of youth work is key to its positive outcomes
    • The voluntary participation of young people is vital
    • Positive relationshipsare the heart of youth work – both its processes and outcomes
    • Youth work can potentially benefit all young people
    • Youth work takes time
naming or numbering or both
Naming or numbering – or both?
  • Regarding outcomes… “Broadly the consensus appeared to be that it is very important to be able to name the successful outcomes of youth work - for young people, for adults, communities and for society as a whole – but it is not always possible to number them, in other words to express them in quantitative or numerical terms. There may be possibilities for quantifying more of youth work’s outcomes than is the case at present and this is something which workers thought merits further discussion, perhaps in the context of the Quality Standards Framework. The main thing is that any system recognises the distinctive nature of the youth work relationship and how it differs from other forms of practice and provision.” (Purpose & Outcomes of Youth Work, p. 26)
  • A focus on outcomes can and should be compatible with the existing emphasis in youth (and community) work on “conscious practice” and “reflective/reflexive” practice.
conclusion some further change needed
Conclusion – some further change needed
  • …to enhance youth work’s relevance and responsiveness to emerging needs and circumstances;
  • …to make it more attractive (to make its attractions more obvious) to young people and adults;
  • …to ensure (and assure) high standards.
and some significant continuity
…and some significant continuity
  • …regarding core values, identity, purpose;
  • …recognising the distinctive space/place of youth work in young people’s lives;
  • …reflecting this in structures and systems;
  • …continuing to work on the basis of partnership;
  • ….valuing the process as well as the product.