How are we responding to policy? – I

Time: Approx. 1 hour though depends on size of group and experience

Resources: 12 pieces of coloured paper for key terms, post-it notes, pens


  • Introduce the following ways in which we can respond to policies affecting youth work. Introduce one term at a time asking the group for their understanding of the term and an example.

Actively dissenting:

Individual and groups openly challenging the current situation.

Subversively dissenting:

Individuals and groups ‘in and against’ their organisation – trying to get change silently from within.

Staying self-reliant:

Individuals (perhaps in principle) working independently as a form of non-conformist dissent.

Potentially dissenting:

Individuals who are perhaps uneasy about or have a clear critique of what is happening but are unsure if and how to express these reactions.


Individuals who have adjusted to, and are reconciled to working within, their organisation’s policies etc.


Individuals who feel positive about and supportive of their organisations policies.

  • Once all are clear on the above definitions, ask if the group feel there is another way in which to respond to policy that is not captured.  Get a term and definition from the group; write the term on a coloured paper.


  • Set out the key terms on floor, widely spaced across one (side) axis
  • Across the other (top) axis place four other labels:
    • “within specific project”
    • “within organisation”
    • “at local level”
    • “at national level”

Diagram 1


        Project           National     Organisation         Local       

Actively dissenting

Subversively dissenting

Potentially dissenting

Staying self-reliant



  • Ask people to discuss, in pairs, their work and how they are responding to youth work policy.  Ask them to identify as many examples as possible of responses, i.e. when they have actively dissented within their organisation, or accommodated policy with their project, or stayed self-reliant at a local level etc.  Write each example on a post-it and place in the matrix on the floor.

STAGE THREE: With the full group

  • Work through the grid – taking one type of resistance at a time. Invite participants to share examples of how they have resisted in that manner at the project/organisation/local/national level.
  • Invite reflections and insights from the group – draw out any patterns (ie, lack of action at national level, or maybe lots of dissent at the project but not organisational level)
  • Ask more analytical questions – eg ‘Why is this?’; ‘What helps resistance?’; ‘What inhibits/blocks it?’


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