Partnerships can be a pain, but they are key
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
A few weeks back, I had to deal with an older teenager hanging around outside the youth club where he was disrupting a younger group.
While he was only making silly comments at people and fooling around, it was uncomfortable for some of the members and I asked him to move on. I later found out that this young man is a volunteer leader at another youth club up the road where some of the younger members also attend.
Concerned about how he might be abusing his role as a volunteer, I phoned the youth worker at the other club. We were able to discuss the situation and they offered to work with him to examine how his role as a voluntary leader has implications outside of the club.
If I hadn't known the worker from the other club, that conversation could have been quite awkward. I might not even have contacted them and the situation could have continued without either of us realising the connection.
Over the years, because of situations like this one, I have come to the obvious conclusion that effective youth work requires working with others. But partnership working is not always easy. With "information sharing" and "joined-up thinking", there is sometimes mistrust between individuals, agencies and sectors. Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to find time to get our own work done without going to more meetings or taking on more tasks.
But maybe partnerships don't have to be so formal and agenda driven. In our area we are fortunate enough to have good relationships between the various youth workers and agencies. We have successfully organised a number of joint initiatives, and meet together regularly to discuss issues relevant to youth work in the town. A good example is how we plan our summer programmes together and work hard to avoid overlap and duplication. There is a genuine sense of friendship among the group.
So what if partnerships were more relational? How would you benefit from getting to know the local leisure centre manager or by going for coffee with a worker from another club? What could you learn from meeting with the Scout master and seeing how he runs the group?
Working in partnership enables us to see beyond our own practice and gain some perspective. Therefore having a good relationship with other local youth workers and professionals is not just important - it's essential.