To celebrate Youth Work Week and our 130th year, London Youth held a speed presentation event on Tuesday 7th November at St Mary’s Youth Club in Islington. We asked five experienced youth sector professionals from our membership to present on a key youth sector theme by showing 20 slides each for only 20 seconds.
It was a fantastic opportunity to bring together young people and youth workers, and to hear stories from different parts of the sector in an engaging and welcoming atmosphere. The event was a great success, with the speakers and audiences sharing and discussing what makes good youth work work!
Our special thanks to all who attended, to our interesting and knowledgeable speakers, and to Rokiyah and David, who did a fantastic job hosting the event.
London Youth and the Youth Sector
London Youth’s CEO, Rosemary Watt-Wyness, opened our event and provided insight into the bigger picture affecting youth organisations and the whole charity sector. Pointing to London Youth’s 130 year history, she laid out her plan to make sure we are ready for the next 130: to increase our membership, to strengthen what we offer our members, and to maximise our – and young people’s – voice.
Rosemary suggested that youth services are at a crucial juncture, with two paths into the future. She said that it’s important to seize on the current mood against cuts to services and to make a compelling case for youth services, emphasising that good youth work works. Rosemary ended with the thought that it takes a city to raise a generation.
Charline King, a Youth Service Manager at Rathbone Society, spoke on the theme of youth leadership. Charline used examples from her work with young people to express her huge positivity about what young people have to offer and what they can achieve. She challenged the audience to think of the last time they had given a young person responsibility and whether their expectations had been exceeded. Charline emphasised that leadership opportunities provide young people with knowledge, skills, and the chance to be creative or to help their communities.
Having recently come back into youth work, Donna Pollard, Project Liaison Officer at Rinova, expressed her surprise at how hard the employment market is for young people and how little the curriculum prepares them to break into it. She asked where the Saturday job had gone. Donna also spoke about the numerous barriers and challenges for young people, such as the resilience and determination required to work long-term without any monetary reward or the lack of a current reference. Donna said that, in her experience, good youth workers show that they care by listening.
Tackling Youth Violence
The Chief Executive at Carney’s Community, George Turner, spoke of the discipline that boxing can teach and how much he disliked the inaccurate use of the word ‘gang’. George made the point that, like parents, youth workers shouldn’t end the relationship when a young person gets their first job. He talked about the huge impact of violence on the young people in Battersea, and how this violence was being normalised and inflamed by social media. Noting that a year in prison costs the same as a year’s attendance at Eton, George called for holistic youth services that included the whole family. George emphasised the central importance of giving young people something to belong to.
Bryony Jones, the Employment Coordinator for East London at Mencap, said that she had struggled to find an adequate definition for inclusion because it was such a large and powerful concept. She said, for the young people she worked with, it often meant being defined by more than aspect of their lives, like their learning disability. Bryony talked about the measured hopes of her young people, who might just want to make a single friend out of a programme, and also the barriers they faced in the workplace. Bryony suggested that inclusion really means a world where no one is left out and so the very concept becomes unrecognisable.