September 23rd, 2011

Working ‘with’ rather than ‘on’

Working ‘with’ young people is the second part of our mission or put more simply how we practically engage with young people. The aspiration behind this is to work with what young people want to engage with, rather than imposing our agenda on young people. This is in reality a very difficult journey to walk. ¬†For example when we have opportunities that we think could be beneficial for young people, one of the challenges we face is introducing these opportunities without saying young people have to attend or take part. Equally young people might (and do) find that after trying something new they enjoy it and want to explore a whole new avenue they once knew nothing about, and this gives confidence to try new things.

Voluntary participation, as I have also talked about, is important in this journey and if we offer an opportunity young people they do not have to participate they can voluntarily participate if they so choose. We also want to promote the ‘whole’ development of young people rather working ‘on’ specific aspects, like employment or physical health or education. So part of our role as youth workers is to understand the development and appreciate that development, so a game of football for example is not just about a game of football, but is about the physical health and physical development of young people as they exercise; it is also about working as a team and verbal communication and strategy, so their mental health and wellbeing is being thought about and considered in the football. It is about engagement with each other and peers, so knowing about supporting each other emotional health and development is reflected here, it is about having fun, there are also spiritual elements of understanding of your place in creation and community that young people experience in a team. It might look like football but as a youth worker is much much more, this is some of what it means to work ‘with’ young people rather than ‘on’.