Can youth club combine forces with the internet to create a modern desirable youth service?

The internet… the world in which many of us now live in. People can access the internet from near enough anywhere in the world, young people are growing up in an age where access to the internet is increasing and alongside this is their access to social media, gaming, online study, shopping and a whole host of other things.

Upon reflection of my own experience (I am considered a young person) I can remember back to my Primary School education where we had one computer for the whole school to access which meant that we used it around once a fortnight or possibly even less, this changed during High School when I had I.T lessons at least once a week and a library with constant free computer access. Now in 2012 I feel strange if I cannot access a computer/the internet for one day, everywhere I go there is computer access, my home, my phone (for when I’m on my travels), my family and friend’s homes, university, work, the list goes on…

If I can take an example from one of the youth clubs that I work in, we have 2 computers for people to use with an internet connection speed of around 0.2mbps (only a slight exaggeration). So as you can imagine people don’t come to us to use our internet!! They come for other things such as sport, cooking, arts and crafts and mostly for social, chill out time in a comfortable place. But for every one person who comes to youth club in our area there must be at least another 100 that don’t attend. Are they all hanging out on social networking sites such as facebook? Browsing the internet or playing games on consoles that use the internet to create gaming communities such as the Xbox live?

The reason that I am reflecting about this is that I can see a drop in the number of attendees at youth club which my team and my manager have discussed. My manager believes it is because young people are all on Xbox live and I have come to the conclusion that while we do not ‘compete’ with the internet for young people’s interest the internet is definitely an addictive, exciting place to be! So will we get with the times and become partners with the internet in the way that we work (for example utilising it for it’s benefits and combining this with our work to create a more tailored youth service) or will we soon end up in a history book/online document?

*Note I am aware that some youth services have already utilised the internet in their work with young people and if you would like to share stories of this please do so.

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Should there be limits on social media? – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English

An interesting topic which affects almost everyone, should social media be policed? Will it offer protection? Control? Should policing be done by the social media companies or the police? Do we need new laws and control to match our new media? Are social media sites ‘public space’? And what consists of ‘Freedom of speak’?

Should there be limits on social media? – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English.

Who will win and who will lose out of the ‘Big Society’ agenda?

After there have been so many cut backs in the funding for youth and community projects all over the UK both within the public sector and within the voluntary sector it has come as a low blow to may organisations that the government may end up financing private sector projects instead…

Within funding available for working with young people as part of the big society agenda Serco and co have applied for  what may be £100m for two years. So where are youth and community services going now? Will private and voluntary projects work together in areas where public services have been taken? Or will voluntary and public services all buy into the private sector? One issue that cannot be ignored is that ‘One in 10 charities told researchers for a report by New Philanthropy Capital that they could close within the year due to cuts.’

All of the information above is a summary of issues within a Guardian article written by Daniel Boffey, the article can be found here http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/aug/05/serco-bid-national-citizen-service.

We’re not just playing Pool…morning thoughts

The competitive market that is ‘youth work’ needs youth workers do be able to do more than just play pool and build relationships with young people it became apparent in a meeting yesterday. Youth workers need to aim high within their projects at youth clubs, and then they need to sell themselves in order to gain more youth work.

Yesterday I made the mistake of asking for more work opportunities, turning a meeting into an interview situation that I didn’t quite feel comfortable with and wasn’t prepared for. I was asked about what skills I have and what makes me unique as a worker compared to all the other youth work staff and all the other youth and community students/graduates.

With cuts to youth services all over the U.K and of course some localised youth work being completely cut in parts of England it has become a competitive place to work. Admittedly I’m not the best sales person, especially when it comes to my own skills but I would like to gain more youth and community work. Anyone have any suggestions of how I can build my confidence and sell my skills?

Also the current climate of youth and community work doesn’t just effect paid staff such as myself, what about volunteers, youth work graduates and people know are looking to apply for youth work jobs?

And dare I say how does this effect the young people? Is it ethical that the local authorities who have kept their youth services during the recession will be more inclined to use young people to gain results and prove their credibility as a service for young people?

 

Thanx! Please comment and add to these thoughts.

 

Forming a Youth Service Directory (my working placement for university)

Forming a directory is something I have never done before, not only have I never done it but I have also been asked to do it outside of the area that I work. Why? The reason the directory was proposed to me is that staff and young people of the area would benefit from knowing what is out there for young people to access so that it can be used as a form of partnership referral for any needs/wants that young people have.

Who proposed this idea to me? A youth development officer (YDO), who then arranged for a local community education officer (CEO) to supervise me. During my discussion with the YDO I was very clear about the fact that I didn’t want a CEO who would constantly tell me what to do, as this placement was to demonstrate my own management and development skills. When they explained that I would be to contact all the local youth services, clubs and groups I said yes that sounds like something I can do. What I didn’t explain at this stage (and wasn’t aware of myself) was the fact that I have only ever completed one piece of community work previously (a community profile) which I did as part of a group not by myself and on an area I had more knowledge of.

Now that I am in placement I am realising how my previous confidence  in my own ability and determined attitude to do ‘a good job’ in order to get this project done has made me overlook a few key aspects of it.

-The biggest aspect is that I have completely overlooked young people and their community’s view on this directory (as stated in a previous reflection: https://pedagogyuk.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/had-a-meeting-today/). After some thought I have put posters up in the local youth/community centres in order to encourage participation and introduce the idea of what is going on. As pointed out by blogger http://yourideasredditch.wordpress.com/ this may not be as effective as I’d like. Very easily it could be ignored, misunderstood and overlooked meaning that it isn’t very accessible to people.

The reason behind this lack of youth input into the project is the result of another issue…

-I don’t have enough time, due to work commitments in the evening to go to their youth clubs, streets, community centres and such. I am only in their community during the time they are likely (depending on age) to be in education, training and work. One of the ways I hope to combat this is to ask the youth and community staff to become involved in the project. As much as I dread asking people to do something for me (especially as I have never met them) I will have to try and ask the local staff to introduce people to the project and find out their opinions on it; what they think should go in there, how it should be laid out/accessibly, who should have access to it and so on.

I do worry that when I leave something in someone else’s hands I cannot guarantee the effectiveness of their work, we are different people and we work in different ways. However their way is probably best as they are the local youth and community workers who will be supported by their CEO’s on this (as I am writing to them explaining the project as well).

-The last key aspect of this directory is that it was not initiated by the local community (as far as I am aware) or if it was then not though my own work. The fact that I have started this project with no previous contact with the community is a shame and I wish that I had tried to instigate this contact sooner.

That’s all my blogging for this moment, please feel free to comment and add your opinions/suggestions to further my personal development and hopefully make this project run more smoothly.

Thank you

Volunteers in youth clubs

Working for a youth club can be fun, exciting and offer many opportunities to people equally it can be hard, stressful and draining. This blog aims to look at what volunteering is within a youth club, what issues may arise and how to try and avoid/deal with them.

So what do volunteers do? Pretty much whatever you tell them to do (with the exception of not doing what you tell them) because they work for you! They will start with a range of knowledge about your service, some may already have a huge involvement in the youth club ,others may not. There are jokes about engineers asking the new apprentice/employee to go look for the left handed spanner and these jokes are around for a reason, new people especially ones without experience will do what you ask them to. This in itself is an issue if the volunteer has no briefing within the work place, for example are the young people allowed to graffiti on the wall? Some youth workers may see this as a form of expression and ownership and some may see it as a lack of respect and attempt to deface others property. Every centre will have it’s own rules and ways of functioning , volunteers need to be aware of these before having responsibility over them.

Why do volunteers volunteer? Their reasons are always different, I have come to this conclusion from my own experience of working with many volunteers and previously being one. For example: some may need to volunteer as a form of accredited award such as the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE), others may be local individuals who are looking for a career in youth work, many young volunteers would simply like the work experience and responsibility of working before they are ’employable’ at 16.

How do youth clubs get volunteers? Usually they are members who show a level of commitment to maintaining the centre, sometimes their high school suggests they come to work in youth club for award (DofE or Welsh Baccalaureate seem popular locally). Some may just decide they like the youth club and use volunteering as a way of spending more time there.

What issues can be experienced whilst volunteering?

Using the volunteer as a member of staff, the whole idea of a volunteer is that they are working because they would like too (they have chosen to be there) and not because it is their job such as with paid staff. When too much pressure is put on people in this situation they begin to lose the incentive to continue working. Sometimes volunteers have been used to substitute for a paid member of staff creating huge pressure on the individuals . Things can be a bit more innocent than this though and sometimes volunteers are offered more work because they are good at it and youth workers think they’ll benefit from it when in actual fact the young person is just too shy to say no.

Volunteers being too informal with other groups of youth club members, for example a 17 year old who is working with a group of 13year olds might add them on social networking sites, swap number and give them hugs. This would not be an issue if they were young people hanging out together but as they are working in a youth club some would argue that they have responsibility to be professional.

Howard Secombe explains that youth work by its nature causes boundary issues, relationships between worker and member are usually friendly ones. Friends are avaible at leisure time and are often welcome in each others personal spaces (eg. their house) this could cause a ‘conflict of interest’ for youth workers and volunteers. For example what if a volunteer has a youth club member on facebook and the member posts a status explaining they have been under-age drinking on the streets, would the volunteer try to interfere with the individuals choice over the internet? Or would they wait until they are next in work to tell the other staff and deal with it as a team? This option would involve sharing information which the young person has not disclosed within the youth club and breaking the ‘friendly’ relationship they had.

Another issue with volunteers is that they will have their own opinion of what ‘youth work’ is. They may have gained this through experience or from watching youth workers. If they are not included in the paperwork, staff meetings and recording of small outcomes how will they know that youth club activities have any difference from school activities? Youth club at times can be similar to a school but their is usually the exception that is it a voluntary participative process (unless it’s taking place within a targeted scheme or accreditation). When volunteers see an activity at youth club do we explain that no-one has to participate and that people can choose to sit around and do nothing?

How to (hopefully) avoid these situations

One of the best ways to deal with these issues may be to have some form of training with volunteers. If we train volunteers in the issues that they could experience then hopefully they will understand how to deal with them more effectively, which should benefit them, the rest of the team and the youth club members. Another thing is that each volunteer is different and will want to work in their own way, there is usually no ‘job description’ for a local youth club volunteer, some would like to serve in tuck shop, some would like to shadow-work members of staff and some would like to establish their own projects such as forums, committees and trips. Not pushing them to do more but not assuming they can do less will only be reached through relationship and for that close supervision may be required.

Hear I have only covered some basic issues from my own experience and some suggestions I thought up myself, please comment on other issues and ways in which they can be improved. As always this blog is open to debate and my thoughts are not set in stone -they are merely an observation.

Thank you

 

Secombe, H. Youth Wokers as Professionals. In Banks, S (ed) (2010) Ethical Issues in Youth Work (2nd Edition). Oxon: Routledge.