Evaluating Youthwork


In the recent few week i have been thinking alot about evaluation.
– A student in the local area has been asking to evaluate the Third Sunday event
Stewart Cutler has been asking does Youthwork Work?
– I have been thinking about what makes a great concert. (and by default a great interaction/youthwork engagement.)

Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society through non-formal educational activities that combine enjoyment, challenge, learning and achievement. Youth work provides for young people’s well being and development in all its various forms – intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual.
Youth workers work primarily with young people aged between 13 and 19. Their work seeks to promote young people’s personal and social development and enable them to have a voice, influence and place in their communities and society as a whole. (http://www.nya.org.uk/information/108501/whatisyouthwork/)

Can I prove various things within that statement.  yes.
Should I prove the things within that statement. no

what does that prove? Does it prove I am a good worker? Does it prove i am effective? if so effective in what?
How can you prove that “young people learn about themselves, others and society” without introducing a test for the young people. It would need to assess them individually on a situation which relates to the subject of which they had the interaction with the youth worker about. Kind of similar in nature to the tests at the end of Dog Borstal. (although perhaps the rosette is slightly to far to copy.)

So that leaves us in a quandary. How can I justify my position to my boss, my boss’s boss and ultimately to those who pay my (decent) wages. How can I as a worker, be clear in what I do having worth and importance.

We have to justify our work within the basis of our our current economic system. That system is based upon the production of widgets. if you work hard i will see the widgets you have produced, therefore I will know you have worked hard. (exchange widget for any thingy you wish) The history of youthwork is that people have judged youthwork in that widget counting way.

The current practice is to measure outputs – how many clubs are you doing. What different opportunities are available for young people to avail themselves of. This system speaks of dealing with youth work by not dealing with the work itself, more where and when the work could take place.
The Scottish Government is pushing youthwork to measuring outcomes, as a worker you set an outocme for the session and using Outcome Focussed Planning and Practice you then assess if you met your own outcomes or not. I think that this is closer to the way of measuring youthwork, but still has problems.

How can you measure the outcome of a session of alcohol awareness? Immediately after the session? Immediately after the first time they are offered a drink?
I had a friend who did a session on drinking with a group of girls, talking about some of the effects of alcohol on the body. The response was not what was expected or wanted. The response the next week in discussion was that the group had still went out and consumed lots of alcohol, but they had wore jackets as in the session they had learned that alcohol lowers the body temperature.
Which box does that tick if we are assessing outcomes. They did learn about drinking, they did modify their behavior in relation to drinking practice, they drunk the same amount as they were planning to before the session. Is that successful or not? The problem I guess is that there is no easy way to do it.

If accepting this conception of youthwork. then traditional methods of measuring the process cannot be appropriate. Outcome based practice has got closer but yet i do not feel is actually the answer.

I have a suggestion but until then. the question of “How do you measure something which is unmeasurable” remains.