Empowerment, Power dynamics and Powerlessness
Youth Work rightly is interested in dynamics of power, recognizing where power lies in any given situation and then working creatively to enable equality and participation. For example in a School situation the Teacher may well stand at the front (The adult has power, the standing adds to that Power) by his/her large desk, they are working from Power. Youth workers typically would sit with the young people … aiming as much as possible to limit the effect of power. A key value of youth work is ‘Voluntary Participation’ (see V), again working from a non-power model, young people chose to, or not to particpate.
Furthermore Youthwork aims to give power away. It is not what the adults do for the young people, it is the process of working in a way that encourages young people to work, to challenge, to create. This is what we mean by empowerment.
Captains Log Supplemental:
Interesting query via the Twittersphere
Great comment from a muchly respected peer who is now a teacher. I admit to making a juxtaposition to explore a point but I think it holds true. Youth work recognizes that power is always present and as such needs acknowledging. This is not about whether power is chosen, or used. It is about its presence by way of history, institution, rules, age etc
Young People have to be in school, the discipline structure of the school stands with the teacher in their statutory role (and the challenging job that they are employed to do).
They are an adult authority figure working on behalf of the establishment. This is not a criticism, just a recognition. I am absolutely sure that good teachers do not wield power or abuse it (and this is in no way my point), but it is a fact that in that role there is a clear power dynamic, inescapably …. and of course there will be too in a youth work situation but it is part of the M.O of youth work to actively try to reduce this differential.