Blogs for youth workers

Blogs for youth workers you must read

Blogs for youth workersOur must read blogs for youth workers

Youth work is a strange beast. We aren’t great at tooting our own horn. Even worse at sharing what we do. So when people step into the gap and share their thoughts, dreams, aspirations, research and their passion it is a fantastic sight to see. There have been many youth work blogs that have come and gone over the years (a testament to our sectors difficulties). With this in mind here are a few of the blogs for youth workers we read regularly that keep us up to date and get our creative juices flowing.

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK

We have been keen followers of the crew at In Defence for the last six years. The mix of news and thoughts on where the sector is at in the UK always keep us interested and informed. Tony Taylor does a great job bringing it all together with the occasional guest post from others throughout the sector. In Defence have a great open letter to the sector which states their view on youth work and how it should run. This is a must read for anyone who wants to stay in the youth sector for the long haul.

DETACHED YOUTH WORK – LEARNING FROM THE STREET

Over the past year we have got to know the writing of James Ballantyne really well. James writes at the intersection of Youth Work and Youth Ministry and brings a detached youth work perspective to his writings. James has a depth of knowledge and wisdom that shows through in pretty much every post he does. Another UK Native James brings a strong dose of detached youth work to his readers, a concept we should all get our head around. This blog is a fantastic resource for youth ministers who are looking to develop their skills and knowledge, and is a fantastic read for the rest of the sector to see what youth ministry could be like with a bit of youth work injected into it.

Exploring Youth Issues

Alan Mackie is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh who’s areas of interest include education and youth work. His blog brings articles o politics, young people, youth work and education together to give us a smorgasbord of thoughts. Alan’s blog is one of those We go to if we want to challenge our thinking and the way the world sees young people.

Radical Youth Practice

A New blog on the block is Radical Youth Practice from Rys Farthing. Rys was a lecturer of Aaron’s at RMIT over a decade ago and is now based in the UK. We expect a lot from this blog and it delivers in spades. Challenging the way youth services see political action as they worry about biting the hand that feeds them is an early taste of whats to come from this powerhouse author. Its early days but we expect to see Rys around for a long time yet.


We can’t recommend these blogs for youth workers enough.

Go and check them out.

Part of being an ultimate youth worker is ongoing learning. One of the best ways is to follow a few blogs. It keeps you current and helps you see some of the debates from different perspectives.

What are some of your favourite blogs? Let us know in the comments below.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Podcast 011: What do we mean by profession

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

Podcast #011: What do we mean by profession

In todays podcast Aaron brings you into some of his research from his Honours thesis. The question of what we mean when we say youth work should be a profession is one that rarely gets asked in the youth work literature. The underlying assumption is that we all know what is meant by the term. However, if you ask five youth workers what they think it means you will get five different answers. The rank and file youth workers at the coal face have a very different idea of what a profession is than the academics who are writing about professionalising.

In todays podcast we are asked to think about what we mean by the term profession. We are initiated into the most common definition used by social welfare academics, that of the structural functionalists. This model is best framed in the work of Ernest Greenwood who claims that all professions have five attributes in common. We are asked to consider how these five attributes link to youth work identity and practice especially in the changing environment of the 21st century. Does this model still fit? Is it enough? Does youth work identity sit well with this model?


Today’s resources

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Professional Youth Work

What do we mean by professional youth work?

Professional Youth WorkProfessional youth work

There has been a lot of talk over the past few decades about the need for professional youth work. We have talked about it al lot too (to see some of our thoughts click here). The issue is if you ask the average youth worker what the sector means by professionalisation they have vague answers at best. If you get someone on their game they may speak about things like qualifications, codes of ethics and pay and conditions of workers. The big issue here is we don’t really know what we mean when we say we need to professionalise!

If you do a cursory glance at the literature on professional youth work however it becomes clear very quickly what model academics and senior practitioners are talking about. It is a model that harkens back to the structural functionalists of the early 20th century. These writers such as Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons saw the need for groups of people to hold knowledge about certain issues for the good of the whole society. They saw a link between the legitimate “professions” and character traits such as self-sacrifice on the part of the individual, ethical practice framed by a code of ethics, autonomy of the profession, and monopoly over a body of knowledge. They saw the need for the strengthening of university education to confer attainment of these traits to professionals and legitimation of the professions.

Sociologist and University of California Berkley, Social Welfare Professor, Ernest Greenwood (1957), best described a profession in terms that we see in the social welfare literature today by identifying five common attributes that distinguish them from non-professional associations. His work contributed significantly to the professionalization movement in social work within the United States of America throughout the latter part of the twentieth century. Greenwood’s work has also been used throughout the social welfare sector to develop core frameworks to develop many professional associations.

Surveying the relevant literature in the mid twentieth century Greenwood identified five attributes that characterised professionals:

  1. systematic theory
  2. authority
  3. community sanction
  4. ethical codes
  5. a culture

By systematic theory Greenwood means, “a system of abstract propositions that describe in general terms the classes of phenomena comprising the profession’s focus of interest”. By authority, Greenwood believes that the knowledge of a discipline which frames its systematic theory sets a professional apart from the layman as holder of professional authority. Community sanctions are those which state who can and can’t be a member, particularly which education makes you a professional and which doesn’t. A Code of ethics sets the formal guidelines for a profession, hence, “the profession’s commitment to the social welfare becomes a matter of public record; thereby insuring for itself the continued confidence of the community”.  Finally, by culture, Greenwood means the unwritten code of conduct generated by groups within the profession, “the interaction of social roles required by these formal and informal groups generate a social configuration unique to the profession, viz., a professional culture”.

As the dominant model of professionalisation in the social welfare sector Greenwood’s Attributes Model cannot be ignored. However, it doesn’t need to be followed blindly either. Perhaps we need a new discussion in youth work. One that asks what type of professionals we want to be… Rather than how we can be like everyone else.

What do you think we should be like?

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Key perspectives: Sociology

SociologyKey perspectives

Sociologists analyse social phenomena at different levels and from different perspectives. Sociologists study everything from specific events (the micro level of analysis of small social patterns) to organisational and group structures (meso) to the “big picture” (the macro level of analysis of large social patterns). All developing into key perspectives.

Over the past 150 years or so sociologists have developed the ideas of the original European thinkers who gave us the conceptualisation of Sociology. But those original thinkers did give us the basis from which to see the world. Sociologists today still employ the three key perspectives:  the functionalist perspective, the conflict perspective and the symbolic interactionist perspective,.

These key perspectives offer sociologists theoretical paradigms for explaining how society influences people, and vice versa. Each perspective uniquely conceptualizes society, social forces, and human behaviour.

Functionalism

First emerging in Europe throughout the 19th century the key perspective of Functionalism cemented itself at the pinnacle of sociological theory. French Sociologist Emile Durkheim led the charge and is considered the most influential of the functionalists. Into the 20th century American sociologist expanded the work most notably Talcott Parsons leading it to dominate through the post second world war era.

According to the functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, each aspect of society is interdependent and contributes to society’s functioning as a whole. The government, or state, provides education for the children of the family, which in turn pays taxes on which the state depends to keep itself running. That is, the family is dependent upon the school to help children grow up to have good jobs so that they can raise and support their own families. In the process, the children become law‐abiding, taxpaying citizens, who in turn support the state. If all goes well, the parts of society produce order, stability, and productivity. If all does not go well, the parts of society then must adapt to recapture a new order, stability, and productivity.

Conflict

There are many conflict perspectives which get lumped under this same banner all looking differently at the nature, cause and extent of conflict (Haralambos and Holborn, 2013). However, the basis of the key perspective, which originated primarily out of Karl Marx’s writings on Class Struggles and Max Weber’s on Social Stratification, presents society in a different light than do the functionalist and symbolic interactionist perspectives. While these other perspectives focus on the positive aspects of society that contribute to its stability, the conflict perspective focuses on the negative, conflicted, and ever‐changing nature of society. Unlike functionalists who defend the status quo, avoid social change, and believe people cooperate to effect social order, conflict theorists challenge the status quo, encourage social change (even when this means social revolution), and believe rich and/or powerful people force social order on the poor and the weak.

Key perspectivesMarxism and Feminism are the most widely recognisable conflict theories in the 21st century. These perspectives see conflict as a common and persistent feature of society, and not a temporary aberration. Marxism sees conflict in an economic real where the means of production are owned by the powerful, the Bourgeois and the Proletariate are oppressed because they lack access to their own means of production. Feminists argue that the world is Patriarchal and the power in the world, whether financial, legal, physically or other is in the hands of men. This leads to the oppression of women as a subgroup in society with limited access to their own means.

Symbolic Interaction

Postmodernism has given rise to many key perspectives in sociological thought. One of the biggest concepts is that of symbolic interactionism. The symbolic interactionist perspective, also known as symbolic interactionism, directs sociologists to consider the symbols and details of everyday life, what these symbols mean, and how people interact with each other. Although symbolic interactionism traces its origins to Max Weber’s assertion that individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world, the American philosopher George H. Mead (1863–1931) introduced this key perspective to American sociology in the 1920s.

This meta-theory birthed within a post modernist framework has changed the way we view reality since the mid twentieth century. In a nutshell, “Post modernists reject the idea of universal truths about the world, instead suggesting that reality is a social construction. Therefore, all knowledge is merely a claim to truth, reflecting the subjectivity of those involved. Postmodernists focus on how truth-claims about the world are socially constructed. Thus there is no single reality or ultimate truth, only versions or interpretations of what is ‘real’, ‘true’, ‘normal’, ‘right’, or ‘wrong’” (Germov & Poole, 2015, 50-51).

Social Construction

Social Constructionism became a core theoretical framework with Austrian-American Sociologists Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s 1966 book, The Social Construction of Reality. Berger and Luckmann purport that all knowledge, including the most basic, taken-for-granted common sense knowledge of everyday reality, is derived from and maintained by our social interactions. When people interact with each other, they do so with the understanding that their respective perceptions of reality are related, and as they act upon this understanding their common knowledge of reality becomes reinforced.

According to Australian Sociology academics Germov and Poole (2015) social constructionism, “refers to the socially created characteristics of human life, based on the idea that people actively construct reality, meaning it is neither ‘natural’ nor inevitable. therefore, notions of normality/abnormality, right/wrong, and health/illness are subjective human creations that should not be taken for granted” (Germov & Poole, 2015, 549),

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Podcast 010: The Sociological imagination

Sociological Imagination

In todays Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast “the sociological imagination”, Aaron gets us thinking about the need for youth workers to see more than just the individual young person. We look at the work of Sociologist C. Wright Mills and how it relates to youth work. Here are the shownotes.


Welcome back to the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast for 2017. We are stoked to have you with us and we hope that your youth work journey is inspiring you to great things. We know its not easy to be a youth worker in the current climate and to all of you who are struggling to keep your jobs and defend the practices of youth work we salute you.

The struggles that we are facing currently in youth work are ideologically driven. We are seeing the tightening grip of neoliberalism on the social sector as a whole. We are hearing the ongoing rhetoric that youth work is not professional. We are also seeing the challenges of public perception of our practice. Amongst all of this we need to remember that we have a strong foundation from which to stand and leverage our work.

Youth work as we know it across the globe sprung forth from diverse fields which has led to contentious issues of our knowledge frameworks ever since. One of the underpinning theoretical frameworks which guides the practices of youth work is that of Sociology. It helps us to look more deeply at the world our young people live, work and play within. One of the key thoughts within Sociology is the sociological imagination. The ability to look at an issue from an individual and social perspective. So let’s find out more about this key framework and how it fits within youth work.

C. Wright MILLS

American Philosopher and Sociologist, Charles Wright Mills was a Professor of Sociology at Columbia University from 1946 until his death in 1962, aged 45. Mills, a native Texan, was published widely throughout his career in popular and intellectual journals, and is a proponent of the conflict perspective within sociological thought. Mills was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in post-World War Two society, and advocated public and political engagement over disinterested observation.

Mills sociological work was heavily influenced by eminent German conflict theorists and fathers of sociology Karl Marx and Max Weber.

Mills is remembered for several books, among them ‘The Power Elite’, which introduced that term and describes the relationships and class alliances among the U.S. political, military, and economic elites; ‘White Collar’, on the American middle class; and ‘The Sociological Imagination’, where Mills presents a model of analysis for the interdependence of subjective experiences within a person’s biography, the general social structure and historical development.

Overview of the sociological imagination

In 1959 one of the most important texts in sociological work was published by Oxford University Press. The book by American Sociologist C. Wright Mills “The Sociological Imagination” changed the landscape of sociological thought and research forever.

Mills conveyed that the core undertaking for sociology as a discipline and sociologists particularly was to discover and express the connections between the particular social environments of individuals (also known as “milieu”) and the wider social and historical forces in which they are embroiled. This approach challenges the structural functionalist approach to Sociology, as it opens new positions for the individual to occupy with regard to the larger social structure. Individual function that reproduces larger social structure is only one of many possible roles, and is not necessarily the most important. In Mills own words, “The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That’s its task and its promise”.

In ‘The Sociological Imagination’, Mills endeavoured to reconcile two abstract conceptions of social reality—the “individual” and “society”—and thereby confronted the dominant sociological discourse of functionalism. In essence he asked where the convergence point is between an individual’s ‘personal troubles’ and societies ‘public issues’.

Private issues

Mill work on the sociological imagination looked at the dominant discourse of individuality which had grown since the second world war and sought to understand the framework of an individual’s ‘personal troubles’. These private issues which are said to have nothing to do with the rest of society such as what you eat, who you vote for, which religion you follow or what type of job you have. For Mills these private issues were not just the sole purview of the individual, but a complex system of interweaving thought and ideas from everywhere.

Public issues

This interweaving system is what Mills coined as public issues. Why is it that individuals in poor communities seem to have children who follow in the same footsteps as their parents? Mills argues that it has little to do with the individual’s choices and much more to do with the systems and the power of the elites which guide the forces around the individual. There is an intricate relationship between the individual and society.

Example

An individual person becoming unemployed is a personal trouble, one million people becoming unemployed is a public issue. But what makes them personal or public? If the issue affects an individual or a small group that is a personal trouble. If it affects a significant proportion of society it is a public issue.

Family violence had historically been seen as a private issue. It was seen as only affecting that family. However we know that family violence is visited on a significant proportion of the population so it is really a public issue.

What does this mean for youth workers?

Well first and foremost it gives us a lens to look at what our clients need. Do they require individual support of wider advocacy? In the case of family violence probably both. In the case of unemployment an individual may need retraining and support around interviewing. If it is a larger issues such as the slow death of manufacturing then advocacy and innovative redistribution may be needed. The sociological imagination asks us to recognise where the problem lies.

The second thing is that we need to be skilled in personal support and as change makers. We need to know how to support our individual clients in the space where they are at. We also must become fluent in community development and activism. Currently, the youth sector in the Uk is being squeezed. The issues are personal for the young people losing support, and the youth workers losing jobs. They are also public issues as millions of dollars are pulled from a sector designed to help the most vulnerable and generalist youth work is under siege.

Finally, it gives us a useful language to speak into these situations which is clearly defined. It is a language which is hard to ignore and it is a language which is shared in the sector.

Lets recap.

C. Wright Mills coined the term sociological imagination in 1959. It seeks to understand the personal troubles and public issues which define humanity. It asks us to think about issues through the lens of both the individual and the system. It asks us to understand the effects on the person. It asks for action.

Conclusion

We hope that todays cast on the sociological imagination has given you something to think about. We believe that if youth workers remember some of our sociological roots it will help us to be the best supports for our young people that we can. If you found this cast helpful or you have any questions touch base with us on our facebook page facebook.com/ultimateyouthworker

Stay frosty, and we will see you in the next episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Sociological Imagination

Sociological Imagination: Sociology

Sociological Imagination

One of the underpinning theoretical frameworks which guides the practices of youth work is that of Sociology. It helps us to look more deeply at the world our young people live, work and play within. One of the key thoughts within Sociology is the sociological imagination. The ability to look at an issue from an individual and social perspective. So lets find out more about this key framework.

C. Wright MILLS

Sociological ImaginationAmerican Philosopher and Sociologist, Charles Wright Mills was a Professor of Sociology at Columbia University from 1946 until his death in 1962, aged 45. Mills, a native Texan, was published widely throughout his career in popular and intellectual journals, and is a proponent of the conflict perspective within sociological thought. Mills was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in post-World War Two society, and advocated public and political engagement over disinterested observation.

Mills sociological work was heavily influenced by eminent German conflict theorists and fathers of sociology Karl Marx and Max Weber.

Mills is remembered for several books, among them ‘The Power Elite’, which introduced that term and describes the relationships and class alliances among the U.S. political, military, and economic elites; ‘White Collar’, on the American middle class; and ‘The Sociological Imagination’, where Mills presents a model of analysis for the interdependence of subjective experiences within a person’s biography, the general social structure and historical development.

Overview

The Sociological ImaginationIn 1959 one of the most important texts in sociological work was published by Oxford University Press. The book by American Sociologist C. Wright Mills “The Sociological Imagination” changed the landscape of sociological thought and research forever.

Mills conveyed that the core undertaking for sociology as a discipline and sociologists particularly was to discover and express the connections between the particular social environments of individuals (also known as “milieu”) and the wider social and historical forces in which they are embroiled. This approach challenges the structural functionalist approach to Sociology, as it opens new positions for the individual to occupy with regard to the larger social structure. Individual function that reproduces larger social structure is only one of many possible roles, and is not necessarily the most important. In Mills own words, “The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That’s its task and its promise”.

In ‘The Sociological Imagination’, Mills endeavored to reconcile two abstract conceptions of social reality—the “individual” and “society”—and thereby confronted the dominant sociological discourse of functionalism. In essence he asked where the convergence point is between an individual’s ‘personal troubles’ and societies ‘public issues’.

Private issues

Mill work on the sociological imagination looked at the dominant discourse of individuality and sought to understand the framework of an individual’s ‘personal troubles’. These private issues which are said to have nothing to do with the rest of society such as what you eat, who you vote for, which religion you follow or what type of job you have. For Mills these private issues were not just the sole purview of the individual, but a complex system of interweaving thought and ideas from everywhere.

Public issues

This interweaving system is what Mills coined as public issues. Why is it that individuals in poor communities seem to have children who follow in the same footsteps as their parents? Mills argues that it has little to do with the individual’s choices and much more to do with the systems and the power of the elites which guide the forces around the individual. There is an intricate relationship between the individual and society.

Examples

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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ABCD and the youth work profession debate?

ABCD for Youth Work

Much of 2016 was horrible for the profession of youth work. Our funding was cut… yet again, more of our colleagues lost their jobs and still more left because of burnout. Much of our discussion of the profession of youth work has focussed on what we don’t have and what we aren’t yet. Aside from a few fledgling state based professional associations our move towards developing the profession of youth work has stalled. So what next? What is the next step for us in developing the profession of youth work in Australia? What can we learn from Asset Based Community Development?

Youth WorkTo begin with I think we need to re-evaluate where we are at and where we want to be. For the last few years we have rested on the academic work of he last decade to frame our arguments around professionalism. There has been a glaring omission in this research, the voice of the youth worker. For the most part the work on the development of professional youth work in Australia has been the purview of academics, peak bodies and industry groups. We need to hear what those on the front line want from a professional association. We also need to ask what this association would look like?

One framework that could help us to begin reframing the discussion is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a methodology for the sustainable development of communities based on their strengths and potentials. It involves assessing the resources, skills, and experience available in a community; organizing the community around issues that move its members into action; and then determining and taking appropriate action

ABCDLiberation is a key focus of youth work theory and is a focus we should consider in professionalising. Harvard University academic Rosabeth Moss Kanter says that when we do change to people, they experience it as violence, but when people do change to themselves, they experience it as liberation. There are currently three groups in the debate; those who are in favour of professionalising, those who are against professionalising and those who are apathetic to the whole debate. None of these groups are experiencing liberation.

We are a divided community. Partly this is due to the competitive nature of government funding, partly our qualification system and partly how our services are set up. We have become so entrenched in the deficits based funding models that we see our professional deficits. We have so brought into the minimum qualifications mentality and graduate so few postgrads that the notion of becoming  a highly educated profession is fascicle. We also have difficulty transitioning between statutory and non-government service provision. Honestly we focus more on our diversity than we do on the things that make youth work cohesive.

Its easy these days to focus on what is wrong in youth work. Like I said, its embedded in our way of thinking. We need to move as Cormac Russell states from, “whats wrong to whats strong” in our youth work community. What assets do we bring to the question of professionalising? What is our strength? How can we use our strengths to meet our agreed goals? We need to build our community. We need a clear goal for youth work as a profession. Perhaps ABCD can help us to develop these areas.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Challenge Support Matrix for youth work

Over the past five years we have worked with hundreds of youth workers who are struggling in the field. We have searched for a model to explain this to no avail. We heard stories of the challenge of youth work and we heard stories of the need for support.We have done the research and we can tell you why people leave the field. We can tell you how to keep people in their jobs. However, there was no neat package that we could use to help managers understand what was going wrong and frontline staff to recognise where they were at… until now.

This content is for Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Monthly Membership) and Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Yearly membership) members only.
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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Podcast 009: You need a mentor

You need a mentor

You need a mentor!!!

In todays Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast “You need a mentor”, Aaron gets us thinking about the need for mentors in youth work. We look at five things we need to do to find and get a mentor. He also leaves us with a challenge. Here is the overview.


Find a worthy mentor

Check them out! If you are looking to become a better you in your personal life, your job wherever then you want someone who is going to be able to do that. There are a lot of people who make their living telling you what to do who have never done the things they sprout. Snake oil sellers.

You want to find a person who has lived a worthy life. Who has made mistakes and learnt from them. Who dosen’t have all the answers but has a network of people to help them. Who sees their family as more important than the work.

The key here is to see if their public face and private are the same or if they wear masks. Check out their social media profiles, ask people who know them about their personality and behaviour.

Mentoring doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. What does this person have to enrich your life or work?

If they are not a fit move on to someone that is.

Be mentor worthy

Nothing will end your search for a mentor faster than if you are not ready. There is an old proverb that goes “when the student is ready the master will appear”. This fits perfectly in mentoring. Mentor will check you out too. You don’t have to be perfect but you have to want to strive towards it. You need to be teachable and open to being challenged. You need to recognise your limitations and know what makes you tick. You need to know your values and why you want a mentor.

Your work must be of an exceptional level. If it’s not you better be able to show that you are trying. You need to be a learner at heart, taking every opportunity to learn a new skill. You must be reflective.

If you tick these boxes you will be in a great place to find and get a mentor. If you don’t tick the boxes it doesn’t mean you are lost. Work on the things that you are lacking and realise that most people will overlook your lack of skills and experience for a bit more passion.

Make the ask

If the potential mentor is worthy and you are a worthy candidate then it’s time to ask them to be your mentor.

  • Don’t be a crazy fanboy of girl. Don’t ask for the person to “be your mentor” right off the bat. It too big of an ask at the first meeting. Get to know them first.
  • Ask for an initial meeting. Something informal, over coffee maybe. Remember to keep it to less than an hour. Come with questions that you’re prepared to ask, but let the conversation flow. This is the best place for you to check out if they are going to be a good fit for you. If all looks good Ask if they would be willing to mentor you.
  • After that initial meeting don’t forget to drop a thank you note to the potential mentor

Don’t ask a yes man

This is a side note to the ask. You don’t want someone who will agree with you all the time. Difference is good. You want someone who will compliment the skills you have and the behavioural style that you have. For more info on this check out our blog posts on DISC. D.I.S.C. The best person to mentor you is one who understands you and brings complimentary knowledge and skills.

Have more than one

In our self care cast we spoke about the need to have multiple people keep you accountable. Similarly no one person will have all the answers. Seek out a few people who can speak into different aspects of your life. Career, family, personal, faith, future. Some people see this as having a board of advisors for your life. They don’t need to all be at the same time. In this case though having more than one person is great.

Give back (be a mentor for others)

If you have been a youth worker for at least 5 years you should be seeking out new youth workers that you can mentor. If you had a new person every year and they went on to mentor other youth workers the numbers grow exponentially. As a sector we would have the most well supported staff ever. We need this so much as most youth workers will bail on the job before they make 5 years. A bit more support will go a very long way.

We challenge you to seek out worthy mentee. It doesn’t have to be someone in your organisation… just someone in the sector.

Conclusion

Mentoring doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. Great mentors can come in and out of your life at the weirdest times and that is ok. If you don’t have a mentor get one. If you have been in the field for five years or more we challenge you to be mentoring new youth workers. We know this is going to help you and the youth sector as a whole.

Stay frosty.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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7 signs you need more supervision

7 signs you need more supervisionYou need more supervision!

When we tell people what we do at Ultimate Youth Worker and that youth workers need more supervision we often hear “But I get supervision at work?”. When we unpack this with staff members what they mean is that their boss knows something about their caseload or program and occasionally allows them to do some professional development. When we ask how often they get this supervision most say that it is sporadic at best. In the AYAC National Youth Work Snapshot 2013 a survey of youth workers showed that 8.4% of surveyed youth workers had never had a supervision session and around 51.7% receive it less than once every three months. As an industry that claims professional status this is appalling. It is no wonder that the sector in Australia turns over staff at 23% every year. Supervision is important to staff retention.

The most unfortunate part of this is that the average youth worker doesn’t know what a good supervision framework looks like and so they do not see a problem until it is too late. With this at the forefront of our minds here are the 7 signs that you are not getting enough supervision.
  1. You are bored at work. One of the most damaging things that can happen to a youth worker in their role is boredom. I know what you are thinking. How can I be bored when I am up to my eyeballs in trying to meet KPI’s. When we meet youth workers for external supervision one of the biggest issues we see is that they are not being challenged. At least not in the right ways. We all need to be stretched just a little bit to be our best self. We need to try new things. We need to find new solutions. If you do the same thing day in and day out you get bored. If you are bored in your role you need more supervision.
  2. You see supervision as punishment rather than development. Maidment & Beddoe (2012) believe that supervision must be placed at the core of professional development for staff, “We want to place supervision at the heart of professional development, which is career-long and where, via diverse learning activities, practitioners refine and augment their knowledge, develop skills, and undertake supervision to enhance critically reflective practice”. If you see it as a chore in which you will be rebuked for doing the wrong thing rather than encouraged towards best practice then you need more supervision.
  3. Your boss only talks about tasks in ‘supervision’ sessions. If like most youth workers your boss is giving you their version of supervision which most likely is checking in that you are completing all your tasks then you are not getting supervision. You are getting the administration part of good supervision. Making sure your cases are going well and your paperwork is done is only a small part of it. Tasks take up less than a third off good supervision practice. Hence you need more supervision.
  4. You have less than one hour once a fortnight. Best practice in supervision says you should be getting at least one hour of reflective supervision every two weeks. If you are not getting the opportunity to develop you as a person and as a practitioner as well as to deal with the admin side of your job then you are not developing as a youth worker. This takes more than one session a month or God forbid one a year. Supervision takes time, but it also pays dividends. In our experience, for every hour spent in supervision it gives you an ROI of 24 hours of exceptional practice.
  5. You have started to look for a new job. You don’t necessarily hate the job you have but you are starting to feel that if you don’t move on the job will eat you alive. This sense of needing to begin a career search is often where we see most of our clients. Either they or their manager refer them on in an attempt to keep them going. But its hard to stop the Titanic sinking with a bucket. In short if you have started to look for a new job it may be too late. This is always a clear sign you need more supervision.
  6. You are not up to date with youth work theory and practice. One of the key reasons for youth work supervision is to keep up to date with best practices and current research. If you are not getting this then you are not getting supervision. If you are not being moulded into a better youth worker every session then something is not right. Your supervisor must grow your knowledge and help you to critically reflect.
  7. You don’t remember the last time supervision looked like this. If your supervision seems lacking after reading this you are not alone. most youth workers we speak to feel the same way. Most managers and team leaders wish they could provide this level of support too. The key is to recognise it and move forward. If you feel like you need more supervision then get it. If your organisation won’t provide it Then get an external supervisor who will.

If you have read this post and you are now wondering what to do then we suggest you look at the links throughout the post as they are a rich source of wisdom in this area. If you can’t find a supervisor in your organisation that is able to provide good supervision then you really only have a few options. Stay and suck it up. Stay and find an external supervisor. Leave the organisation you are currently at for something better. Unfortunately, the stats would say they are few and far between.

At Ultimate Youth Worker we want to see a well supported youth sector. It is why we began back in 2012 and why we started providing supervision from day one. If you need a benchmark then use the resources on this site. If you want us to supervise you we do face to face in Melbourne and Skype throughout the world. Our biggest wish though is that your organisation will provide you with the best supervision.

Let us know if you think we are on the money.

Leave us a comment below.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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