A little bit of a Cliche’d word but useful nonetheless, Youth Work does not use power or take power … it is about the young people growing, doing, owning, exploring and learning, Youth Work empowers
I heard a great story once about a bunch of young people being invited to a Council Meeting to present their case for a project that they wanted to do. It was not a positive experience by all accounts as the young people felt uncomfortable and out of their depth with the power dynamics; given the combination of the council chambers, officialdom, wordy complex rhetoric …. and their unfamiliarity with the way that the ‘business’ was conducted. There was no brief or welcome, just the assumption, that without explanantion, the teens would undertsand and be able to conform to the ‘norms’ of the chamber and particpate where apppropriate. (A good example a of negative power dynamic)
However in a great example of empowerment the Youth Worker worked with the young people to process and explore their experience. To move from anger and onto owning why it had been such an uncomfortabe experience. Importantly the Young People were encouraged to think of how they would like to respond to their experience … and help the Council to understand what it had felt like to that group of teenagers.
To that end the young people set a date and invited the councillors to the Youth Club for a follow-up meeting. On arrival each of the councillors was asked to remove one shoe and leave it by the door, then to sit on the floor forming a circle for discussion.
One of the young people began the meeting by asking If this felt strange and uncomfortable to the councillors (It did, they wholeheartedly agreed). The young people then explained that this was only a fraction of how uncomfortable and alienated they felt by what had happened on their visit to the Council Chambers!