Youth work is awesome and people need to know more about it. In the past year, I’ve seen so many examples of what youth work done right can bring about, and so many times i caught myself thinking: more people should know about this! While in the previous year I’ve been working in communication for youth work, I still feel I haven’t found the perfect way to communicate about it, and that’s largely because different areas of youth work are so different (thank you, captain obvious), and local contexts so specific
Of course the basic principles of digital communication do apply, but while the form is most of the time relatively easy to create, the content side of things can get tricky. And that’s one of the most important lessons I learned during this project. That good content matters, and that it should have at its core young people and represent youth work as it is. Whatever engagement can be brought about by means of (digital) communication, it should be based on organic growth of a community around the idea that the future of young people matter for all of us, and that we should invest in it now rather than later. Because of this imperative, i feel young people and youth workers should be directly engaged in communicating their experience and work, as they might be the only ones who can represent them correctly.
Without further ado, here is what i think communication for youth work done right can achieve:
Amplify the voices of young people
Part of our latest Training Course was collecting opinions of people of all ages around Banja Luka about the lives of young people, youth work, and what would they change in their communities (check the teaser below, the final short movie will be available soon). The process of creating the material in form of a short movie not only empowered the people who participated in the media workshop to expand their digital competences and overall knowledge on the practice of video making but also made us all aware about how different voices converge to the same general points in different ways.
For a myriad of reasons, young voices are being marginalized all over the world, sometimes excluded even from debates concerning themselves and their lives (outright examples can be the creation of youth policy, distribution of funds for youth, lack of access to institutional means of expression). While communication cannot in itself change this situation, it can give young people a bridge towards making their lives and experiences heard, especially since youth are already generally inclined towards digital tools for communication. It can also work in concert with other types of action to ensure a world where young voices are taken seriously and have an impact in society.
So often we are plainly disappointed by the world around us, and challenging moments in the life of our communities can be a reason for unity or division. At such a time, i think it’s essential to remind ourselves that good things do happen quite often (in fact more often than we imagine) and to rally around initiatives which represent what we stand for. People need to hear about what happens around them and get a chance to engage directly.
We need awareness raising more than ever and communications initiatives of all kinds can bridge the gap between communities and direct action. While awareness is a bilateral and slow building process with a lot of cultural specificity, social and youth workers should engage in it by any available means. A tool we recently used was making creating a video to invite people to an event which reclaimed a small part of the city and empowered young people to re-invent it according to their own needs.
Youth initiatives are often colorful and fun and they tend to cover more ground in the field of arts and creative expression while keeping the focus on promoting change. As I’m writing this, a team of talented young artists are enriching the small Italian town of Torino di Sangro with their amazing urban art. At the same time, open airs for young people are taking place in Berlin (check out DiveRCity) giving a space to musicians to engage with interested young people and celebrating diversity. Other youth are creating a board game to raise awareness of the importance of wolves in the Italian region of Chieti, and ORA Network is currently finishing a Handbook for Good Practices in the field of youth work (which we hope will reach as many people as possible). All of the above are great initiatives and I wish everyone knew about them and use them as a source of inspiration in terms of topic or methodology or just rejoice at the fact that these things are happening. That’s why we’re trying hard to communicate all of them in an engaging manner.
That's why I feel we need pictures and videos of artists working, interviews with the people to learn how the community perceives the work, behind the scenes and live-streams of events. We need all the means of communication available to us, from the word of mouth to Snapchat, in order to convey our message: young people matter and are working every day to change their communities for the better. I feel we need to show what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and most importantly why we’re doing it.