The seven characteristics of youth work are: Youth work is an educational practice, Youth work is a social practice, Youth workers challenge inequality and work towards social justice, Where possible, young people choose to be involved, Youth work seeks to strengthen young people to influence the environment in which they live, Youth work is a welfare practice, and Youth work works with young people holistically.
The seven characteristics show the different roles a youth worker plays, and explains how a profession that “works with young people because they are young” involves many aspects of the youth’s lives. An example of youth work as an educational practice is TALL U. Elizabeth would purposefully intervene; enable young people to think, feel, and act differently towards their social world. Their performance to the song Glory, portrayed their understanding of the social dilemmas the world around them is currently facing.
Youth work is a social practice that allows youth to work with others to “ nurture collective association”. The youth get to learning about social behaviors, expectations, and challenges from each other. It becomes a co-dependent social practice.
An example of youth workers challenging inequality and working towards social justice would be when advisor from the MET high school joined their students in the police brutality and black lives matter protest. The advisors understood the impact Mike Brown’s death had on their students and instead of just speaking about in the classroom, they physically joined them in the fight. Going out there with the students “ promoted social justice for young people and society in general.” This example also fit for the characteristic that where possible, young people choose to be involved. Just as the advisors made a conscience decision to protest so did the students. It was a “ voluntary attendance.” This was the extent to which they chose to shape an encounter that was important to them.
Youth work as a welfare practice is “ work with young people experiencing greater needs or in areas of higher deprivation.” Most of the time this characteristic is addressed when an organizations sole purpose is to solve the problem. For example the WIC program that aims to provide families with young children with healthy food options and nutritional supplements. Although that is the main goal of WIC it also helps low-income family have access to free food. WIC does a good job at serving more than one purpose while trying to solve one problem.
Ultimately youth workers aim to “ encourage and enable young people to influence the environment in which they live” this is best achieved when youth workers work with young people holistically. It is the passion and ability to identify with youth that drives youth workers to make a difference and empower young people. These seven characteristics simplify youth work in a way that allows people to understand the many functions of youth development.