I sit with new people today and we discuss the situation of youth work in Romania, France, Scotland and Albania and found common practices and issues. We shared some ideas about changes to practice that we all found useful.
We speak as a group about the different terms used in youth work and how the definitions differ in each country.
I take part in an activity involving Hart’s Ladder of Participation and heard how Camille (French (French national who works in Germany) works for an organisation which allows young people and adult to share decision-making. Many of the group were surprised to see this as many felt that the desire in youth work was for young people to be in charge. We debate this point and agree with Hart’s Ladder in that many adults have knowledge and life experiences that can add to the value of youth work.
Sadly many of the group say they experienced being tokenised and manipulated in the past. There was concern that this puts off many young people from participating and this should be addressed in our work.
After a coffee break and some Albanian donuts, we settle back in to a discussion on the participation of young people, focussing on whether participation is a human right. In smaller groups we discuss this concept and were in agreement with the view that “participation and active citizenship is having the rights, the means and the support to participate and influence decisions… so as to contribute to building a better society.”
After another exceptional four course lunch, we work in smaller groups and examine a topic that young people may be able to influence and how they can do this. My group looks at how young people can tackle crime and violence within their communities and the actions which could be taken.
Albana (Albanian participant) works as a teacher and informed us that at present, young people do not have much influence in this area. We suggest to the plenary group that young people can take action to raise awareness of crime, encourage young people to report if they are a victim of crime and to create crime prevention councils with their local authorities, community and police so that all stakeholders are involved. We feel that work should be done using peer educators so that trained young people are able to give consistent messages to their peers about crime and steps they can take to prevent it.
In the final session, we discuss different styles of leadership. We watch short video clips which show different leaders speaking to their followers/employees. My favourite one was the Scottish national hero Sir William Wallace. Naturally he was defined as an inspirational leader.
We took on the task of producing a drama with one of the leadership styles and we all presented these to the plenary group. It was brilliant. We used real life situations and although it was very funny, it was also very serious.
At 9pm we set up a market with stalls that highlighted our work or good practice in our communities. It was very interesting to discuss the projects. I learn about the work of Save the Children in Romania and Bledar informs me about the work of the Institute of Romani Culture in Albani. I respond with what I believe are difficulties faced by the travelling community in Scotland and the United Kingdom. It was clear from this why the Council of Europe has taken action to involve the Roma people with its work to ensure better representation.
That is it for today Europe – I am off to bed very tired but full of new information that will inform my practice.
Neil Wotherspoon is a Scottish youth worker who successfully applied to the Council of Europe for human rights training.