Blogging for and about Youth Work and Young People

Archive for the ‘International Youth Work’ Category

Working through uncertainty

I was at a meeting of the South East Youth Partnership (SEYP) International Committee up at the British Council Offices in London on Monday. The Committee comprises representatives from local authorities and the voluntary sector from across the South East Region. Our remit is to promote and support International Youth Work, with a particular focus on the youth in action programme funded through the European Commission.

As the committee started to plan ahead and look at International youth work strategically across the region it became obvious that we were trying to do this against a background of disquiet and uncertainty. With reductions in services happening across the South East most people were unsure whether they were going to actually be in post in October (the date we were planning a promotional and getting started event). Some services are in the middle of restructuring, others were going through their second or third round and yet others had not yet started.

We had a long discussion to decide what sort of an event we should put on, whether we should hold one at all and who to aim it at. In discussion it was clear that there was definitely no one shape fits all in terms of services. In West Sussex we are in the midst of restructuring to form an Integrated Youth Support and Development Service, incorporating the Youth Offending Service, the Youth Service and Connexions although who will actually deliver the services is still to be decided. In other areas there is no youth service with youth workers being in integrated teams managed through Children Services Managers.

It was felt that International Youth Work is starting to be seen as the ‘icing on the cake’ and a ‘nice to have’ so there was incertainty over how ‘managers’ may perceive the benefits of releasing staff to attend a training day on accessing funds in this way. However after much debate we decided that we should go ahead with a promotional / training event. With many grants ending in March 2011 (in particular the Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Fund) the Youth In Action funding could be used as a means to support some of the work that was previously covered through the YOF funding. In particular the Youth Initiative part of the programme could be helpful as you don’t even need to go abroad to apply for and gain the funding. The event will be targeted predominantly at practioners.

So – the event is going to go ahead and I will post more details as it gets organised. In the meantime it is worth reflecting on the support that many colleagues need in this period of uncertainty……where Change is the only certainty!

Inspire India Staff Review (All Phases to date)

Finished Sanitation Uit

Finished Sanitation Uit

Last night I met with the Inspire India Staff Team to review the programme to date. It was a really interesting evening with lots of discussion, laughs and challenges. We are going to put together the information to date and I will post that later on. A few thoughts though that made me think and really struck home were:-

  • We had a long discussion as to whether the lead in time ought to be longer and why. Views varied from no, the timing was right and we may have lost some of the young people if it had been longer to yes, it should be much longer so that the young people know how hard it’s going to be and will drop out if they’re not committed enough. (Even though of 30 young people who went out to India we had only 2 returns, one of whom was a late notice replacement and wasn’t entirely versed in what the scheme was about). What came through from the discussions were the ‘judgments’ being made by the staff on which young people had benefitted from the experience (regardless of what the young people themselves were saying about their learning) and how much of this was related to the staffs own values and morals.  This proved to be quite a challenging and interesting conversation and I think all of us went away still mulling over the ideas presented.
  • The young peoples’ very positive reception of the whole blogging concept (even though we had done very little prep with them on this). The groups overseas worked with young people differently but both sets of staff felt that blogging supported and gave added structure and purpose to the experience.
  • The Community aspect that came across through the blogging including some very postive affirmations for a group of young people who probably don’t receive so much praise and interest. (And the fact that it is a permenant record that they can go back to whenever they want.)
  • The challenges of working in partnership – which we inherently knew would be the case and worked hard to minimise but weren’t as successful as we would have hoped to have been.
  • And finally, that all the staff still felt that it had been one of the most challenging and developmental experiences of their careers…..and were still keen to do more!!!

Some time was also put aside to put together the young peoples’s follow up and review in a weeks time. It will be interesting meeting up with them and seeing what they think now they’re back here. They will also be choosing what they want to do for the volunteering phase and finishing off the ASDAN International Award which they have been working on.

Digital Media, Children and Young People

This summer I really think that we’ve started to integrate digital media into our work across the Youth Service and spread the message of what we do wider. For example, one of the by unintended by products of the young people blogging from India has been the impact on not only on them but also on their communities. Below are a few examples of how blogging has been going inter generational!

Blogging in India

Blogging in India

“Nanny pat been blogging every day and is as proud of you as we are.”

“Nan`s here tonight she`s very proud of  you and has really enjoyed seeing your pictures,teaching her how to blog!!!”

“Aren’t you impressed I am blogging? Look forward to seeing you. Love Nan and Grandadxxx”

“Will get dad to blog tomorrow”

Young people involved in the Inspire India programme all come from targeted backgrounds and it has been amazing to see the communal response to their experiences. Families, carers, workers and friends have been following their adventures, their ups and downs and giving them a lot of encouragement. When we have had to contact individuals we have frequently had comments about groups of relatives and friends sitting around the computer to post comments or to see what has been happening.

As well as this the young people in india have been learning how to use the video and digital cameras to capture ‘the moment’ and then spending time describing their experiences. Many of them have had negative experiences of writing at school however appear much happier to write on the computer and using text language, or textese simplifies communication for them. (Although I have to admit that sometimes I find it difficult to interpret! :)

Young people involved in hosting the chinese on the china exchange programme have been writing up their experience and reflections on the china blog and I’m hoping to post some video feedback from some of their discussions shortly.

As well as this young carers involved in the Summer Camps during the last two weeks have been keeping video diaries. (Again, watch this space for some examples of what they have been up to). We hope that this will develop into an ongoing piece of work with the young carers group that will give them an opportunity to share their experiences as young carers with others.

So……..we are starting to bring together the hardware, experience, knowledge and creativity to help us start taking toddler steps in using digital and social media in youth work. Whilst this is taking a long time I feel that with ongoing hard work and intiaitive we will be able to further develop this work and embed it more fully into our practice.

Chinese Exchange Group Returns!

Courtesy of Tama Leaver

Courtesy of Tama Leaver

Wow! At last our Chinese partners, the Shandong Youth Federation, have confirmed that they will be coming to the UK on the return leg of the Youth Exchange we’ve organised! Some of you may recall that last year was the first opportunity we had to take a group of young people to China. They blogged about their experiences as well as creating a short film that they showed at the beginning of this year to a wide audience. We have always been aiming to host an incoming group and this will be the first time that our partners are sending young people instead of a group of youth work staff. As ever communications have been difficult (something we are hoping to clarify when the group is here) and it has taken some time to get confirmation of their visit.

Two of the young people from last autumns group are organising the programme for the Chinese group, including homestays, and we are hoping to blog on the West Sussex Youth Service Chinese Exchange Blog whilst they are here. So if you’re keen to keep an eye on our exploits then please log in from 3rd August onwards.

Virtual International Youth Work?!?

I was having a wander around the internet and checking on my Google Reader feeds this morning (gosh, I am getting technical with my speak!) when I came across this post from Vicki Davis on the Cool Cat Teacher Blog. I’ve followed the Flat Classroom project a little and also the Flat Classroom Conference.  and love the idea of this work. I suppose I’m now wondering how we might use this in youth work? Or perhaps someone already is and I don’t know about it?!

When I look online it always feels as though schools and education in some ways are so much more advanced in how they use social media then informal education (or maybe that should be the statutory youth sector?) I think there is a lot we can learn from here. thinkingAt the moment I’m reflecting on the West Sussex China Exchange last year and wondering if we have another visit next year how could we link ‘virtually’ to others here in the UK…or before we do that perhaps there is someone interested in how we join up virtually across the country and work on a subject together? Hmm……definately food for thought!

Inspire India Begins!

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will have guessed by now that I am passionate about young peoples development through using International experiences.

To this end I have been putting together a year long Targeted Youth Support Programme with a bit of a difference, hopefully. Aimed at young people aged 16-19yrs who fall within our targeted groups and working across children and young peoples services in West Sussex the Inspire India Programme seeks to empower young people and support them to make choices and recognise their own skills & abilities. It will consist of six phases:-

Phase 1 – Recruitment of 30 young people and five staff from West Sussex
Phase 2 – Preparation and training of young people in all aspects of the programme
Phase 3 – Overseas Experience to India

Raleigh logoThis will be a 3-week experience delivered by Raleigh in conjunction with staff from West Sussex County Council. Key areas of the Overseas Experience will be:

•    Personal Development
•    Arts Programme (Cultural)
•    Global / Development Education
•    Community Volunteering Project
•    Adventure / Challenge Project

Phase 4 – Volunteering in the community post expedition

On return each young person will be supported to engage in a volunteering placement and gain accreditation for this through the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme. We hope to be working with Outset Youth Action, Locality Youth Forums and the European Voluntary Services scheme to access and support placements for young people from the programme. Alternatively the young people may want to lead and develop their own volunteering projects and would be supported to access funding to implement them. (eg. Vcashpoint, Youth Opportunity Fund etc).

Phase 5 – Follow Up and Review

This is a key aspect (more…)

Blogging and Wiltshire Youth Service

A colleague and myself found ourselves in rural Wiltshire the week before last thanks to David Whelwell. I’ve conversed with David online both here and also through other online forums. He followed our China Exchange Blog and invited us to talk to colleagues from Wiltshire Youth Service about our blogging experiences. It was a really helpful and useful experience as we had the opportunity to truly reflect on our experience of blogging with young people. I’ve been trying to make sure that I keep using video etc to support this blog so the short animoto video below shows a little of what we did. (I’m still learning what photos to take and haven’t yet worked out how to add video to this as I’ve seen others do).

Anyway, back to the day itself… what was key was the sharing of our experiences with others and hearing what youth workers were currently trying out in Wiltshire. There were some interesting discussions and sharing of information. What struck me during these discussions was the need to have an interest and be prepared to have a go with digital media even if you’re not too sure where it’s going to take you! One definate  ‘take away’ for me was their investment in using online resources for training youth workers, something I think is essential for developing digital skills and confidence in our staff and that I will be sharing with our training staff.

China Follow Up Residential

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks with more to follow! The weekend before last I was part of the staff team who met up again with the young people who went on the China Exchange visit last October. We were running a follow up weekend with several experiences. We were reviewing their experiences, supporting them to make a storyboard in order to develop a DVD highlighting their journey, and planning for the return visit by the Chinese hopefully in July this year.

It was a really interesting weekend. First up we did an exercise where I read out statements and the young people had to place themselves on a line with totally agree at one end and totally disagree at the other end. The statements related to some of the issues and areas they discovered in China, for instance whether Europe should adopt a one child policy, that young people in the UK should adopt a Chinese approach to the elderly, that it was better to be poor in the UK than in China and so forth. The object was to be provocative and to challenge their learning and thoughts and this was certainly achieved….leading to thought provoking discussions about democracy and freedom of choice.

Saturday was spent doing storyboarding. We encouraged the group to draw pictures of the things that really stood out for them during the 10 days and to reflect on why this was so and what they had felt at the time. As you can see on the video, there was lots of discussion and they made a wonderful scroll of their visit. They used this as the basis of reviewing video clips and starting to develop ‘their’ story.

They’ve also been working on a presentation and celebration event to include parents. Although there was a lot of hard work put in on the video over the weekend there is still a lot to do. The group have developed their return visit plan for the Chinese and also discussed how much longer they remain engaged in this work. Many of them have exams coming up so will be limited but they are still all very enthusiastic and keen to host the return group. I’m also looking at how they might support us in some of the other international work we’re doing as I’m keen for them to be able to support give a young persons perspective on our future projects. So, although this part of the project is winding up there are various other avenues for them to keep involved with our work and hopefully share their experiences with others.

Developing our work with China

Well, it finally looks like the plan to initiate a youth exchange with China is likely to become a reality! As I mentioned here, after a number of youth worker exchanges we were hoping to set something up for young people. Shandong Youth Federation have replied to our emails confirming that they are interested in hosting up to 20 young people. Unfortunately the other local autorities have had to pull out so we’re going to look at taking a smaller group of 10-12 young people probably aged between 16-19yrs.

I’m really excited about this and hoping that we can use some of the things we are learning about social media and the internet to support this work. I’m really keen to see if we can do some projects like the Life in New China Project supported by What Kids Can Do and Adobe Youth VoicesOr blogging like the young people involved in Beijing Voices. The tricky part is, although communication systems are easier than before, trying to work out how we are going UK delegation meeting Chinese Uni Studentsto be able to work together and get something going is quite difficult due to our different cultures.

When I went to China at the end of 2006 we were still trying to understand what sort of youth work happened over there as we mainly saw universities, cultural sites and various enterprises. As there is such an ethos of education, education, education (There’s been a great BBC3 series running about Chinese School education). it was difficult to find out what youth work they did and what happened to those who weren’t academically inclined.  chinese delegation visit07 (9)

When the Chinese delegation came here last summer we made a point of showing them some of our facilities and work that we did. Hopefully these visits has helped with what we’re hoping to set up.

Now we need to find out which young people are interested, what sort of things they want to do and learn out there and liaise with our Chinese colleagues to try and make all this happen (and all by October!!!) Oh, and not forgetting all the risk assessments etc, etc. Well, I can’t say life is dull!!! :) 

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