discussion: youth service mutuals, Wednesday 15 May, 12-1.30pm
experts on 15 May to discuss whether the transfer of youth services to mutual
ownership can benefit young people
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link for further information
Don Irving recently attended the Pilot Group meeting of Dynamo
The meeting took place in Maastricht, Holland, from the 4th to the 8th of February, 2012.
After a gruelling journey, consisting of taxis, buses, an aeroplane and six trains, I finally arrived at the Hotel de L'Emperior in Maastricht physically exhausted. Despite this, I was full of excitement albeit with some anticipation.
As a newcomer to the Network, I had a general overview of the purpose of the pilot meeting; however, the following five days certainly brought me up to speed with the work of the Network and of its overall objectives and values.
With a career in youth work lasting almost thirty years, including many years front line street work and latterly managing large youth services in some of England's most deprived cities, I was interested to see how the Network is able to support the developments of street work. I was particularly keen to ascertain what lessons could be learnt from the pilot projects and how they could be fed into the UK platform.
The programme for the week was full and offered participants a variety of presentations, opportunities for discussion as well as a number of fieldwork visits across Maastricht.
Amongst the feedback from the pilot projects, I was particularly interested to hear of the excellent research being carried out with the Roma community in Italy and Greece and the work being conducted around male prostitution in Belgium. Both projects served to illustrate the need for such research as well as the huge contribution that street work can make by working with such vulnerable and often persecuted communities.
The input from the "expert" speakers were incredibly informative and thought provoking. The contribution from Frank Van Strijan around street cultures was inspiring and the address from Jan Schellekens, a youth work trainer, and certainly captured the essence of what street work is all about.
The presentation from Dr Judith Metz was outstanding. She gave an excellent historical account of youth work in the Netherlands and offered, in clear terms, a very practical understanding of what youth work is.
With regard to the field visits, I was particularly impressed with the work being carried out by volunteers at the neighbourhood centre, a project that puts local people at the heart of the decision-making process and in control of their own local facility. Despite the fact that the centre was limited to the times it is able to operate due to financial restraints, the whole set up was a model of good practice and certainly something everybody involved should feel proud of.
The visit to the open youth centre left me with more questions than answers. While offering young people a place to meet, I was left feeling that it could have been much more. Firstly, there was little opportunity to meet with the young people in a structured way as they were pre-occupied with the games and music. Secondly, there was little evidence of any educative youth work available and thirdly, the Smoke filled atmosphere did little to secure a safe and healthy environment for the young people and staff. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the youth workers and believe that the level of trust developed with the young people offers the possibility of developing some exciting youth work.
The final session of the pilot meeting provided the participants with an opportunity to share their experiences of the field visits. All in all, the feedback was very positive with a general consensus that this element of the programme had been a very useful and informative exercise.
The remainder of the programme was spent with more "in-house" business i.e. reflecting on last years achievements and undertaking future planning, particularly in relation to the next training group event.
The meeting ended with showing of a DVD presented by Henk. The film fittingly highlighted how the perseverance and skills of good street workers can help change the lives of young people.
I conclude my personal reflections with some suggestions for future pilot
· Perhaps an induction session for new participants to the Network would be
Finally, I left the Pilot meeting feeling tired, but inspired by the level of commitment of the participants. The meeting was very well organised, the hospitality overwhelming. I felt that the Network is progressive and a very much needed platform for street workers through the world.
I look forward to being able to contribute to the Network in the future.
Don Irving (UK Federation for Detached Youth Work)
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