THIS IS YOUTH WORK
Telling and sharing stories of practice
The Storytelling method cannot be confused with day to day conversation. Everyday we as youth workers tell each other our stories, and in many ways we are experts in ‘anecdotes’. However the storytelling method builds on our conversational strengths, allowing us to capture our practice through a thought-out methodical approach. This involves a combination of strong facilitation, informed probing / questioning, peer interrogation and a thorough documentation of the stories… Being involved in the story telling workshop … has been a unique experience.
(Youth work co-ordinator, voluntary youth organisation)
Working as a team on ‘youth work stories’ was such a useful and valuable thing to do. I think we are so busy ‘doing’ that we don’t stop to think about our role as youth workers and what the hell we are doing! We should have done this a long time ago – we might have saved more of our service. If we are not clear about what makes youth work unique then how is anyone else going to know?
(Team Leader, local authority Targeted Support for Young People Services)
An invitation to host a workshop
In Defence of Youth Work
The In Defence of Youth Work campaign was formed in 2009 with the aim of defending youth work as a democratic, emancipatory and critical practice with young people. It defined this as:
- taking place in open-access facilities and settings which young people choose to attend;
- offering informal educational opportunities starting from their concerns and interests;
- working with and through their peer networks and wider shared identities;
- giving value and attention to their here-and-now as well as to their ‘transitions’; and
- rooted in mutually respectful and trusting personal relationships – amongst young people and between young person and adult.
2012-2014: three years of story-telling workshops – and beyond
In 2011, IDYW published This is Youth Work – twelve ‘stories from practice’ written by young people and youth workers. With a thousand copies distributed free, the illustrated book and its accompanying DVD were warmly received and widely used – including beyond the UK.
Between 2012 and 2014 IDYW used the book as a prompt for 27 story-telling workshops which in total attracted some 650 practitioners (paid and volunteer), managers, students and trainers. With a key aim of clarifying and raising awareness of what is distinctive about youth work, the workshops’ main focus was the analysis of examples of practice provided by workshop participants. During 2013 the workshops were refocused to take account of the changed situations in which many practitioners were by then working.
Drawing on these three years’ experience, a web resource will be published early in 2015 on the use of youth work story-telling in different settings. IDYW is also considering using this material as the basis for workshops on the facilitation of story-telling workshops. It is also planning an event in the autumn of 2015 at which story-telling will be used to clarify how youth work is understood and practised a number of other European countries.
Tailored to meet the needs of different organisations and situations and starting from the settings in which practitioners are now working, the workshops aim to allow participants to:
- explore what youth work practice means for them in their current settings;
- through story-telling, describe, analyse and ‘unpick’ examples of that practice;
- reflect on the relationship of these examples to the ‘cornerstones’ of youth work as advocated by IDYW in order to identify if and how it is distinctively youth work;
- consider how they can help sustain that practice within and beyond their organisations.
The workshops, normally lasting two-and-a-half to three hours, have adapted a ‘dialogical’ process of debate developed by Professor Sarah Banks of Durham University. In small groups, participants:
- choose a story offered by a group member which illustrates their practice as a youth worker;
- analyse this story in depth to clarify if, how – and how not – the practice described is distinctively youth work;
- consider possibilities for and barriers to this practice in their own work situations and how it can be sustained.
Who are the workshops for?
Workshops have been run for:
- paid and voluntary workers and managers (statutory and voluntary sector) – including:
- those working in open access settings where voluntary attendance is assumed;
- those who identify themselves as youth workers but who now have other job titles and are working in targeted projects which young people may be required to attend.
- youth work students and course tutors.
- young people – particularly those in or who are moving into young volunteer roles.
Arranging and running workshops
- publicise workshops on its website and via its mailing and contact lists;
- provide facilitators for each workshop – on the basis that one will be needed for each 10 participants;
- support participants who wish to write up their stories with a view to giving them wider availability;
- where feasible, provide opportunities for participants who want to run their own story-telling workshops to get facilitation experience and possibly training.
Workshop hosts will be expected to:
- provide the venue and some photocopying facilities;
- publicise the event and recruit to it via their own websites and contact lists;
- offer the workshops as a by-choice opportunity to practitioners and students in their organisations, institutions or wider area;
- as a minimum pay travel expenses for facilitators, all of whom are volunteers;
- pay any fees that might be available to the IDYW campaign and/or if appropriate ask for a contribution from participants on the day .
If you are interested in hosting a youth work story-telling workshop, contact Bernard Davies (firstname.lastname@example.org)