What is Youth Work?

“Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society through activities that combine enjoyment, challenge, learning and achievement. It is a developmental process that starts in places and at times when young people themselves are ready to engage, learn and make use of it.” www.nya.org.uk


Encourage each participant to take a post-it note and write down a positive experience they’ve had within a youth group. It could be a group they attended when they were younger or it could have been a group they’ve been involved in as a helper or leader.

If they’ve not attended a youth group they could think of what would make it appealing or what young people would enjoy doing there.


Youth Work Values

Explain that youth work is underpinned by a clear set of values. These include:

  • Young people choose to take part
  • It starts with young people’s view of the world
  • It treats young people with respect
  • It seeks to develop young people’s skills and attitudes rather than remedy problem behaviours
  • It helps young people develop stronger relationships and collective identities
  • It enables young people to respect and value difference
  • It promotes the voice of young people

Are there any values you’d challenge?
Are there any values that you hadn’t considered before?

Perceptions of Young People

Can you guess when these quotes were from?

1. “The young people of today love luxury. They have bad manners, they scoff at authority and lack respect for their elders. Children nowadays are real tyrants, they no longer stand up when their elders come into the room where they are sitting, they contradict their parents, chat together in the presence of adults, eat gluttonously and tyrannise their teachers.” (Socrates 470-399BC)

2. “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words…When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.” (Hesiod, 8th Century BC)

Read out the Poem ‘Hoods’ by Mr Gee – can be found here.

Were you surprised at how old the quotes were? What does it reveal?
Why do you think negative perceptions are so common?
Are the negative perceptions justified?


Using a selection newspapers encourage participants to cut out and collect stories that involve young people. Collect the positive stories in one pile and collect the negative stories in another. It could be anything involving young people (e.g a young footballer achieving success, a young person committing a crime or perhaps a story about a teenager volunteering with a charity.)

Were there more positive of negative stories?
Why do you think that is?
Was their any common themes in the stories?
What age do you think ‘young person’ covers?


As a closing activity encourage participants to  plan a youth activity that could run in their local area. (For example, It could be a dance group for teenage girls or a drama group for young carers) Have them consider the aim of the project and how it would make a difference. Who would the group be for? Who would benefit? What age group would they work with?

Encourage them to consider at least 5 different things they would need to do to make the project happen (e.g. buy equipment, hire hall etc.)

This activity is an opportunity to bring together the previous discussion areas including the participants’ positive experiences of youth work, the definition of youth work, the values that underpin youth work and considering how to create opportunities for young people and good news stories.

This closing activity is essentially the application process for o2 Think Big funding. If participants are between the ages of 13-25 and have an idea for a project they’d like to set up they can apply for funding from o2 

For more information or to apply visit their website: www.o2thinkbig.co.uk

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