Youthwork – What is it?

last week I was at a training day. It was led by a high heid yin of Youthlink, (the agency which acts as the main link between the youth work sector and the government within Scotland.

The training was around the concept of Outcome focused practice. The idea is that any youth work should be focussed on the outcomes from the youth work practice, (the what happens because of youth work), rather than the more traditional position held by the sector, of work being measured or focused on outputs (the things we do as youth work)

This is being driven by funders looking for more detailed outcome information, the HMIe’s assessment of youth work practice and evaluation methods, and by the Scottish Governments current policy drive towards a skills based agenda for Scotland.
My reflections

I smiled at the concept. As a youth worker for a church, i am paid and judged on outcomes of my engagement with young people. But if had met with the loca heads of The local Youth Network and I had said I had an outcome focused practice i would have been portrayed as an unethical youth worker. Just out to save the young people, not interested in good work. (I know that is stretching it a bit but hey, thats sarcasm for you.)

As part of the process during the day we split into groups and completed a Weavers triangle planning/monitoring/evaluation tool.

As the group wrote on the triangle the things we would plan to do and make happen as essential youthwork stuff they fell into three main categories

provision of
– opportunities, learning, training, volunteering opps, support, activities
indentifing and securing
– funding, partners, service level agreements
Monitoring and evaluating
– the above

The thing that jarred with me is that I believe youth work to be about relationships, yet there was nothing there about relationships. Yeah there was methods to build or maintain relationships, space for shared experience and glimpsing into the work of the other, but there was nothing about relationship, the voluntary nature of the work. it was all be stealth, that having a relationship wit a young person wasn’t a valid thing to be admitted to.

I think though that this is what the outcome focused evaluation is all about.

I meet with young people to be with them and work. My aim and outcome is to do good youth work.
If I do that then I have done a good job and I am happy.
If I have done that then the young person i have worked with has changed through a process or openness, weakness, equality, and reflection. This gives space for decision to be made and changes will follow.
If I do the above then as a result of good youth work a change will happen.
Outcome evaluation asks what the changes are. and are they the ones we expected or suspected at the start of the process.

One of the year out guys who have worked with me once asked me
“if you could only work with the same 20 young people for the rest of your life would you be satisfied”
I answered if if did good work then yes.

If as part of my work, i do good work and twenty people change their lives through engaging and undergoing youth work with me then I would be satisfied with that. didn’t Jesus work with twelve people or something?

so any thoughts?

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