Now I’ll be honest. I may have misunderstood something a little, got the wrong end of the stick you could say. I had a particular view of Michael Rosen’s award winning book ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. You see I’d viewed the illustrations and had come to the assumption that it was the story of a father taking his family on a bear hunt.
Now you’ll forgive me for being judgemental here but no, I thought, let’s not go on a bear hunt. Without claiming to be anything like a skilled parent I was at least confident that I recognised bad choices when I saw them. Let’s not take a family of small children on a hunt for a notorious carnivore, it’s just not sensible. Happy in my wisdom I wrote the book off as just another children’s story and moved on.
As it dawned on me that I might just have got it wrong (who knew?) and that the illustrations in the book actually show five children and not a father and family it made me reflect on other misled wisdom. If you’re reading this then you probably already care about Youth Work. In which case you may not need me to tell you that the Association of Directors of Children’s Services have reminded us in recent weeks that 600 youth clubs have closed so far in the austerity years.
I cannot help but feel that maybe decision makers (in what have been incredibly difficult times) may not quite understood what was going on in the story of Youth Work. I don’t want to focus here on different approaches, settings or methods. What I do know after delivering and managing Youth Work in different cities and countries is that, done well, it has a transformative power to improve the lives and experiences of young people and the communities they live in.
For more than two decades I have had the privilege to work with some of the most talented and skilled youth workers you would wish to meet, I have watched them use reflective practice and informal education to empower thousands of young people to develop, grow and have more of a voice in their own future. My own experience daily reminds me of the impact the Youth Work approach can have on individuals whether through the variety of services delivered here at Young Devon or through training young commissioners with the Young Lambeth Coop.
As we’re celebrating Youth Work Week 2017 I refuse to be downhearted by news of closures, because I still believe in the power which Youth Work has to change lives, I still see committed organisations and individuals working like crazy to support young people. I am also beginning to detect a realisation from the decision makers I meet that something important might have been missed here.
So I will dare to say it. I’m Going on a Youth Work Hunt. I intend to keep looking for the best it has to offer for some time yet. Do join me!
We're going on a youth work hunt.
We're going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We're not scared.