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Title Agents of Surveillance
Author Jason Wood
Key Concepts Oppression, Anti-oppressive Practice, Racism, Sexism, PCS Analysis, Media

 

Essay

Introduction

This paper evaluates a project that I carried out whilst working with St Gabriel’s Community Centre.

For the reader to gain an understanding of the practice and the project, we shall revisit the practice plans, paying particular attention to the organisation in terms of its purpose and its behaviour, and my own project – in terms of its intention and aims.

Following this, I have undertaken an evaluation of the work that went on, making links to appropriate theory.

St Gabriel’s Community Centre: The Organisation and Its Culture

In presenting an introduction and overview of St Gabriel’s Community Centre, it is important that I approach three different dimensions:

  • The aims and objectives of the agency;

  • The form of agency it is, in relation to community work models and;

  • The culture and behaviour of the organisation.

The Aims and Objectives

St Gabriel’s Community Centre is a voluntary, independent community project that aims (broadly) to ‘serve the community needs’. It is a registered charity and limited company, with a management committee.

There are many different services within the centre, including: a youth project with two evening sessions; fitness clubs; after-school learning clubs; interest groups, such as cookery classes and bowls; and health promotion related services, such as pregnancy testing and advice/information. This list is certainly not exhaustive of the services, but helps frame the very diverse provision. Funding is equally diverse, gauged from sources such as small charities and funds, the local authority and major charities or funds such as The National Lottery.

Importantly, St Gabriel’s is constantly reviewing and evaluating the need for its services. In 2001, the centre became involved in research in the local area and is part of a multi-disciplinary team examining existing provision and making recommendations for improvement.

St Gabriel’s Young People’s Project (the focus of my placement) is based at the centre, and offers two evening sessions, together with an advice and information service for young people. Again, the funding for this youth work comes from a variety of sources. Major funders, however, are the city council’s local education authority (for the part time youth work team) and the Neighbourhood Support Fund (for the full time youth worker, and the advice/information project costs). The Project is quite clear about its purpose; essentially they see informal education and leisure as a route to supporting young people. This ‘support’ ranges from assisting in education and training decisions to providing information and advice on a range of personal, health and social issues. The vehicle for delivering these aims is the youth club, individual sessions as well as specialist groupwork.

Locating the Organisation’s Purpose

I feel it is important to locate the community centre, and the young people’s project within some theoretical framework. It we take Popple’s (1995) overview of different community work models, we find that St Gabriel’s is concerned with both: 

  1. Community Development in that it aligns and attempts to bring the concept of education closer to the community, and;

  2. Social/Community Planning in that it analyses social conditions, sets goals and delivers services and programmes.

(Popple 1995:56-57)

By locating it within these two contexts, we can also begin to identify the roles and responsibilities of those working at the centre. Popple suggests that the roles here would be associated with that of the neighbourhood worker or the enabler/facilitator. This is certainly true – as the essence of the project in that staff are responsive to the local needs, and act upon them, whilst encouraging participation.

The Young People’s Project clearly aligns itself with youth work values, promoting informal education as a tool for increasing participation – and ultimately democracy (Jeffs and Smith 1999a) as well as workers who encourage young people to think about their lives and the world around them (Young 1999a). Additionally, in light of the resources that come from the Neighbourhood Support Fund, it could be argued that they operate a quasi-welfare support service aiming to boost young people’s attendance at school.

Is there a conflict here? Certainly. On the one hand, the open nature of dialogue with young people and working on the basis of voluntary engagement has to be balanced with the ‘targeted results’ orientation of the Neighbourhood Support Fund. However, funds are hard to come by and sometimes painting a negative picture of young people (even pandering to moral panics) is the only way to secure resources (Jeffs and Smith 1999b). This, of course, is a discussion for another time, but gives some introduction to how possible ethical conflicts may occur.

Organisational Behaviour and Culture

In discussing culture and behaviour, I find it useful to look at human beings within organisations – particularly with regard to motivation. Weber and other theorists approach bureaucracy and organisation with mechanical rigour; it is useful sometimes to see a more human side.

Lets start with the assumption that participation encourages motivation. This theory of organisational behaviour, accordingly which can be attributed to management style, is found within St Gabriel’s as a whole, and particularly within the youth work project. Youth work planning and practice is very much a team-approach with a relative degree of professional autonomy matched with organisational procedures and guidance. Elton Mayo (labelled the ‘father of human relations movement’) was the first to recognise that ‘people are a very special resource’ (Coulshed 1990 36-37). Expanding on that idea, he recognised that the informal structures affect the way that people behave. Balance between diversity of employee’s experience and accountability, therefore, is the key to good motivation.

Perhaps the most relevant motivational theory to explore here is McGregor’s ‘Theory X and Theory Y’. These propose that there are two distinct views of human beings, ‘X’ being negative and ‘Y’ being essentially positive (Robbins 1989). ‘Theory X’ holds that managers assume that employees dislike work, are work shy and display little ambition. On the other hand, ‘Theory Y’s’ principles take the view that:

  1. Employees can view work as being as natural as rest or play

  2. People will exercise self-direction and self-control if they are committed to the objectives.

  3. The average person can learn to accept, even seek, responsibility.

  4. The ability to make innovative decisions is widely dispersed throughout the population and is not necessarily the sole province of those in management positions.

(Robbins 1989:151)

Both Mayo and McGregor provide insight into how important both culture and management style is to employees’ satisfaction and contribution. Youth work is often referred to as a vocation or calling rather than a job. This idea, combined with the notion that youth work is a profession, seems to cement the point. Naturally then, a culture must promote the validity of the youth worker as a professional. This is something I feel is present in the environment at St Gabriel’s.

The Plan: Training for Youth Workers

Space and time limitations prevent me from exploring all of the work that I was involved in during my placement. For these reasons, I will focus on one major element of my work – that of the training, supervision and development of the part time youth work team.

Returning to the theme of participatory decision-making touched on in my analysis of the organisation, one significant element of my work that I wanted to develop was the planning and evaluation of youth work practice at St Gabriel’s. Furthermore, I wanted to provide the best possible support to two new youth workers, both voluntary and both considering ‘career youth work’.

Overview of the Proposed Project

As part of my field practice commitment, I produced a NAOMIE planning model in the very early stages on my practice placement with St Gabriel’s. Figure 1 is an extract that outlines the intended training and support project:

Fig 1 – Extract from FP2 NAOMIE planning model

 

 

‘Volunteer Youth Work Training Project’

NEEDS

New workers wanting to build portfolios of practice experience of youth work, together with building an understanding of the principles of youth work. Considering full time careers in youth work.

AIMS

To provide support, supervision and training for voluntary part time youth workers

 

OBJECTIVES

Volunteers to have portfolio of work they have been involved in.

Regular planning/evaluation meetings will take place.

 

Volunteers will regularly record their work and reflect upon practice.

 

Volunteers will have a clear idea of the principles, values and practice of youth work

 

METHODS

Introduce new ways of recording work.

Provide initial training in YCD principles.

Provide supervision and time for reflection.

 

IMPLEMENTATION

JW to supervise workers.

Volunteers to record work in a ‘diary’.

Regular review meetings.

JW to access resources as and when developing new work.

Kam and Jason to attend DMU to sit in on lecture.

 

EVALUATION

Continuous – through supervision.

Recordings.

Participation levels of workers.

Team meetings.

 

The focus of this training project was to encourage the youth work team to consider and question professional youth work practice, whilst aiming to enable workers to build upon their experience.

These plans seem to fit within the theoretical framework proposed by Smith, when he discusses the principles that form the ‘direction’ of practice. These are summarised herein with additional commentary by myself: 

  1. Opening up new experiences and new opportunities by enabling workers to examine their present practice, future practice and their own development needs;

  2. Promoting mutual respect and fairness by examining how youth work practice can be a liberating tool for challenging oppression and asking the question ‘is it fair’ to be this, or that?

  3. Wholeness in the sense of striving for a holistic approach to practice, with workers open to suggestion and development

  4. Developing a sense of community by examining notions of community and the importance of developing interpersonal relationships and;

  5. Collective action and mutual aid enabling workers to see their important role in change

(Adapted from Smith 1994:65-66)

Accountability for this project ultimately rested at my door, and continuous recordings and supervision enabled me to take a second look at my approaches.

Examining the Process: A Critical Evaluation

The importance of evaluation in informal education is grounded in literature, policy and practice. Workers are encouraged to monitor and evaluate work in a part-time capacity, and produce professional recordings in full time training.

Evaluation can be defined by some key characteristics. It is a process that:

  • Analyses how youth work ‘works’ (France 2001);

  • Is part of reflective practice and personal development, either in returning to experience and thinking about feelings and decisions (Jeffs and Smith 1999a) or as an ongoing process when we ‘reflect-in-action’ (Schön 1983) and;

  • Can influence the practice of others through indirect or direct policy changes (Eraut 1994)

Evaluation is a critical tool and one that should be utilised to enhance practice. Therefore, in this section of the paper, I wish to present a critical analysis of the project that I have undertaken. In order to be as thorough as possible, I shall attempt to explore each element of my work, as opposed to simply evaluating the outcomes of the work (See figure 2). This, I feel, gives a broader picture of my learning and grounding for future practice, but also encompasses the key characteristics listed above.

Fig 2 – Evaluating the Process

 

 

 

 

 

Examining Assessment and Planning

Field Practice placements are, in my view, a positive, vital experience for students undertaking youth work training. However, in their format, they can produce a critical urgency in approaching assessment and planning. Coulshed identifies the difficulties of planning too far in advance and questions the notions of ‘needs assessments’ when very new to a job (1990:52).  Her assertion, and I am inclined to agree, is that a longer time spent surveying the community and being mindful of ‘fits and starts’ in both needs and resources, allows more flexibility. However, time is but a precious commodity and this should be realised in planning work, especially for a short-term placement.

There are several factors to consider when discussing the assessment of ‘needs’. In this case, it is important to consider the notion of whose needs I attempted to assess and respond to. Firstly, there are my own learning needs as a student – the criteria I have to satisfy and the experiences I need to undertake in order to widen my practice repertoire. Secondly, there are the needs of those who I intend to work with, and essentially how I perceive these needs. Finally, there are the needs of the organisation to consider. With questions about resource implications and organisational development needs, one must consider how proposed work with either hinder or contribute to the agency and service provision.

Whilst time hindered consultation, in thinking about what supervision and training needs the part time youth work team needed, conference with organisation and the workers themselves was not just desirable – but essential.

Implementation and Outcomes: Technical and Social Perspectives in Learning

I wish now to turn attention to both the delivery of my project and how well I think that the outcomes were met. To do this, I wish to draw upon two models of organizational learning, the ‘technical’ and ‘social’ views.

The Technical view of organisational learning is best described as:

“The effective processing, interpretation of, and response to, information both inside and outside the organisation.”

(Easterby-Smith & Araujo 1999:3)

Whilst the social perspective suggests that:

“Learning is something that emerges from social interactions [it is] socially constructed…implicated in the culture of an organisation”

(Ibid: 4-5)

In my opinion, these two processes are not exclusive, and enable me to analyse my interventions appropriately. Considering ‘technical’ as perhaps an ‘information giving’ training instrument and ‘social’ as a facilitative training instrument, I present a model to assess how I met the planned learning outcomes. The first column suggests the outcome anticipated in the planning phase of the project, whilst the remaining columns provide an overview of how I met the outcomes.

Fig 3 – Evaluation of Outcomes Using Technical and Social Models of Learning

Planned

Outcomes

How did I achieve this?

Technical

Learning

Social

Learning

Volunteers to have a portfolio of work they have been involved in

Introduction of a new induction process and pack, including organisation information and job description.

Provision of planning aids, such as the NAOMIE and APIE models.

Supervision.

Support in developing new projects.

Inviting contributions to existing projects.

 

Regular planning/evaluation meetings to take place

Introduction of a ‘feedback’ book that records team feelings and reflections about sessions.

Supervision.

Introduction of group feedback meetings, and the encouragement of rotating who chairs this discussion.

Volunteers will regularly record their work and reflect upon practice

Provision of Journals to record feelings and interventions.

Training session that looked at how to monitor work using existing ‘Data Profile Manager’.

Handouts focusing on ‘experiential learning’ and ‘reflective practice’.

Supervision and discussion around feelings, inviting links with social issues and affairs and affecting change in practice methodology.

Feedback sessions.

Inviting critical feedback and suggestions for service improvements.

 

Volunteers will have a clear idea of the principles, values and practice of youth work

Handout resources on youth work and informal education.

Provision of induction pack.

Workers attendance at DMU and training day at St Gabriel’s.

Supervision and discussion.

Analysis of recordings.

 

The reason for using these models is twofold. Firstly, applying them has enabled me to match the originally planned outcomes with direct, practical interventions using appropriate methods. Secondly, makes links between guidance (information giving) and developing professional autonomy (facilitation).

Finally I wish to explore the issue of ‘power’ in this teaching and learning experience. It is not tackled last for lack of importance, but rather serves as a useful way to bring the points together when we have discussed ‘values’ and participation in this essay.

When Kerry Young (1999b) discusses empowerment, she is quite clear that structures and systems that promote the idea do not necessarily create its substance. Indeed, it is her assertion that:

“The real powerhouse of empowerment lies…in the individual’s ability to transcend the internalised lies, myths and misinformation which keeps us corralled in our own sense of powerlessness…”

(Ibid.:89)

This is achieved through a participation process that is voluntary and based on informed consent. The role of ‘trainer’ and ‘learner’ in its most basic sense has implications for ‘empowerment’ and ‘participation’. The power balance is immediately shifted.

Importantly, if we are training in the business of fostering democracy (Jeffs and Smith 1999), critical analysis of values and beliefs (Young 1999), then an open approach, and one that fosters as much participation as possible is essential.

Conclusion

This essay explored the planning, delivery and evaluation of a training programme for part time youth workers. This project formed part of a wider field practice programme.

In the first part, I introduced the organisation, and the planning of the project using a NAOMIE.

In the second part, I attempted to examine the actual implementation of the project.

In the latter part of the essay, I provided notes on the evaluation of this project, paying attention to different learning styles.

My conclusive comment serves as a recommendation for St Gabriel’s. The training and development of staff members is an important function. The organizational culture at the agency is undoubtedly positive. However, future searches for funding new youth work should be matched by funding training and development – ensuring a commitment to personal growth and continuous evaluation.

© Jason J Wood & Student Youth Work Online 1999-2002

References & Recommended Reading

Coulshed, V. (1990) Management in Social Work, Basingstoke: Macmillan

Easterby-Smith, M. & Araujo, L. (1999) Organizational Learning: Current Debates and Opportunities, in Easterby-Smith, Araujo & Burgoyne (Eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization: Developments in Theory and Practice, London: Sage Publications

Eraut, M. (1994) Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence, London: Falmer Press

France, A. (2001) Evaluation in Informal Education, in Richardson & Wolfe (Eds.) Principles and Practice of Informal Education: Learning Through Life, London: Routledge Falmer

Jeffs, T. & Smith, M.K. (1999a) Informal Education: Conversation, Democracy & Learning (2nd Ed), London: Education Now

Jeffs, T. & Smith, M.K. (1999b) Resourcing Youth Work: Dirty Hands and Tainted Money, in Banks (Ed.) Ethical Issues in Youth Work, London: Routledge

Popple, K. (1995) Analysing Community Work: Its Theory and Practice, Milton Keynes: Open University Press

Robbins, S. (1989) Organizational Behavior: Concepts, Controversies and Applications (4th Ed), New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc 

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, London: Basic Books

Smith, M.K. (1994) Local Education: Community, Conversation, Praxis, Milton Keynes: Open University Press

Young, K. (1999a) The Art of Youth Work, Dorset: Russell House Publishing

Young, K. (1999b) The Youth Worker as Guide, Philosopher & Friend, in Banks (Ed) Ethical Issues in Youth Work, London: Routledge

 

 

 

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