This week is Youth Work Week. It’s the 21st year we’ve held it and it’s getting bigger every year. A whole host of events are going on, many in partnership across lots of youth sector organisations, such as Creative Collisions. We’ve been running Give an Hour too, to raise the profile of youth work with MPs and parliamentarians, getting them out of their offices and into a youth work project in their constituencies. We’re holding a parliamentary reception to bring these MPs together and to make Youth Worker Awards for outstanding professionals. And we’re trying to get the word out as far and wide as possible by using social media.
Great youth work desperately needs promoting just now- as a profession, and a distinctive educational approach, it does not enjoy the status or recognition it should by decision makers and it needs to be better understood by the general public too. If it was better understood, and if it’s positive benefits were more widely acknowledged then the case for investment could be much more easily won, Youth Work Week is about getting the impact of youth work seen by those outside the youth sector.
The landscape is constantly changing and we know we need to adjust. As a leader of a youth sector organisation, we have to find new ways to support youth work. This new post-recession landscape is no less austere than five years ago, and unless there is a significant shift in political priorities then securing investment in our sector will continue to be a struggle.
We are investigating new ways to fund youth work. One idea we are pursuing is social impact bonds, where an investor funds a service on the basis it can change specific outcomes for young people and the investment is repaid by the government department based on the costs savings accrued as consequence. Greater investment by businesses is also part of the solution. Increasingly we find the future business benefits of supporting young people is not lost on many corporates.
The youth sector is also recognising that a collective voice is harder to ignore. Developments like Creative Collisions – a sector wide conference, may prove logistically taxing but ten voices passionately advocating for youth work are certainly louder than one. Collaboration must be a key feature of the youth sector.
Youth Work Week is about celebrating the positives but also exploring new territory and thinking in new ways. Just like youth work itself in fact.