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SALTO-YOUTH - Role of the Youth Worker

The UK National Youth Agency has organised Youth Work Week since , providing an opportunity for youth organisations, youth workers and young people to highlight the value of their work. Since the Commonwealth Secretariat has worked to expand the reach and scope of Youth Work Week across the 53 nations of the Commonwealth.

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Each year sees more than a hundred Youth Work Week events taking place across the globe including youth forums, employment workshops, conferences, award ceremonies and community events. The Commonwealth Secretariat encourages youth clubs, national youth councils, youth ministries, departments, commissions and national youth organisations, to get involved in Youth Work Week by hosting an event or activity for Youth Work Week.

Site search. Youth Work Youth workers are instrumental to the positive development of young people, ensuring young people fulfil their potential and become assets to their societies.

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Different models have been pursued on how to engage with young people and the defined roles of youth workers and educationalists. In the last decades we have noticed that the radical tradition of youth work has been fading and youth workers have been seen more and more as service providers for youth. This model of engagement focusing on the individual has no scope for young people to collectively challenge the existing power structures. Youth work and educational institutions are seen as a most powerful state mechanism to counter that threat.

This has led to policies that aim to tame youth, rather than see them as important positive actors and change makers in society.

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For those of us who are working with young people we need to critically assess our motivation, role and competence for the work we do. How are we working with the youth?

What have we learnt when working in communities affected by internal conflicts, civil wars and occupation, in order to re-build community cohesion and peaceful coexistence among people? The most important prerequisite is the acknowledgement of existing privileges and power structures and how those influence the communication and possibilities of participation of different individuals and groups of people. When facilitating a dialogue process in Sri Lanka we invited youth leaders from all communities to meet together for the first time in 30 years.

From the very start we told them that we will provide simultaneous translation for all the meetings even when it took a great deal of our budget allocated to the dialogue process and told them that everyone can use any of the national languages or English in the meetings.

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The youth leaders of the Tamil youth told us later than that was when they decided to commit themselves fully to the process. When providing them with a possibility to speak their own language, we as facilitators recognized them as equals and how they see Singhalese as a language of oppression. The youth dialogue process ended up being very successful and has contributed greatly to the peace process and re-structuring the Sri Lankan state in the last few years. Without the few thousand euros put into the translation, maybe it would have ended up very differently.

Of course there were some other factors that contributed to the success of the process as well.

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  5. We are not saying that we as youth workers should always provide translators in youth meetings. But we could and should pay attention about the language we use and how the terms and expressions we use profiles individuals and groups of young people or feels exclusive to some. And that we recognise what are those cultural and institutional practises in our societies which seem neutral to us but are actually discriminatory.

    We need to learn to recognise and to pay enough attention to the power structures which are complex and often subtle in nature, even when they are invisible to us. We need to learn to analyse power and to listen to different perspectives.

    Youth work characteristics

    And then we need to find ways to transfer those analytical skills to young people and help them to make sense of their realities and their role in society. Only then we can support the young people to use their power and ability to create alliances to facilitate change in their realities.

    The core values of youth work include critical dialogue, equality of opportunity, respect and participation which is voluntary and not compulsory. This means supporting them through non-formal education and creating opportunities for young people to build their critical thinking and support them to explore the issues in their realities, acknowledge legitimate feelings of anger and help to translate this into non-violent actions utilizing the democratic processes and legitimate tools available in our societies.

    For example, recently a group of young people from five different high schools in an area near Glasgow, were invited to explore the concept of dialogue.

    How can we support young people, youth workers and trainers in our field?

    A few weeks later some of the students were busy planning for a dialogue event which would bring students and other actors together. When asked why they decided to organise the event they replied that they were massively inspired by the session exploring the concept of dialogue as a means to get to know each other and work on common issues.

    Their aspiration was to set precedence in the high schools in the area for such activities to become part of the annual school calendar.