individualization and youth work

In this piece Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith argue that there has been a fundamental shift away from a concern with the group and association in many youth services and agencies. In its place has come a focus on outcomes in individuals.

contents: preface · introduction · schooling and visiting · youth work · building community, vanquishing individualism · the group · the new individualism · from members to clients; from connections to connexions · conclusion · bibliography · how to cite this piece

What makes good society? I answer, in one word, real fellowship.
(William Hazlitt - On Coffee House Politicians)

During the early years of the Industrial Revolution a new pursuit surfaced - youth work. Gradually it developed a distinctive mode of intervention and focus so that by the end of the nineteenth century it had acquired a recognisable style and élan. It embodied a distinctive approach to work with young people. This approach was characterized by an emphasis on relationships and voluntary participation; a commitment to association; a belief that practitioners should be approachable; have faith in people and be trying to live good lives; and a concern with the education, and more broadly the welfare of young people (see Jeffs 2001; Doyle and Smith, forthcoming). Here we will explore the nature of that uniqueness and the extraordinary extent to which contemporary practice in Britain and Northern Ireland has lost touch with key aspects of this heritage.

Pioneers of youth work entered a burgeoning field of activity. The late eighteenth and nineteenth century witnessed a phenomenal growth in charitable work. Many, especially women, gave prodigious amounts of time and money to charity. One study of middle-class family budgets, for example, found more was spent on charity than on rent, clothing, servants' wages or any other item apart from food (Prochaska, 1980: 21). Motives varied but predominately individuals were responding to the problems of poverty, family disruption, poor housing, disease, ignorance and 'spiritual decay' emanating from rapid industrialisation and urbanisation. Groups and organisations proliferated many of whom catered specifically for the social, educational, welfare and spiritual needs of young people. Some were local enterprises, others offshoots of the emerging national youth organisations such as the Sunday School Movement or the YMCA. Wisely neophyte youth workers learnt from predecessors and contemporaries. The more adventurous avoided unthinking replication - partly because they perceived weaknesses in the ways existing programmes functioned, but also for the reason that many aimed to engage with young people untouched by other agencies. This independence helped ensure youth work emerged as a discrete entity distinctive for reasons besides the age of the clients. Eventually a form of intervention sufficiently unique to secure a niche of its own emerged. As a consequence it became realistic to talk of youth work (and youth workers) in ways that assumed a listener (or user) understood what it did, what it sought to achieve and what values it embraced. [page 40]

Schooling and visiting

The niche youth work occupied was located between two more self-assured and substantive forms of intervention into the lives of working class young people. The first of these was the institution and, in particular, the school and residential home. Both were designed to control, manage and reconstruct working class young people. Prior to the 1870s school attendance was not compulsory and a high proportion opted for independent 'dame schools'. These operated on a flexible basis that acknowledged the needs of the family, and the desire of both children and parents for the former to move in and out of the labour market as and when work became available, and when family poverty stipulated they earn a wage. By 1870 employment opportunities for young people were rapidly declining. This resulted in widespread alarm amongst reformers and the 'respectable classes' that the majority of young people were neither in work or school but out on the streets. Calls for the introduction of compulsory school attendance eventually became irresistible. However, where employers still required cheap malleable child labour to sustain profit levels part-time schooling was retained or schools combining work with instruction were established. Compulsion and the wholesale warehousing of young people led to the creation of a battery of laws and an army of officials to enforce observance. Schooling on this scale also required unprecedented state funding. This was tied to the adoption of a bureaucratic, standardised curriculum enforced by a malevolent system of inspection designed to ensure compliance and the cowering of the teaching force. It produced a brutish, anti-intellectual, cut-price contemptible system for the schooling of working class children (Roberts, 1976; Horn, 1979; Hendricks, 1994; Davin, 1996). For those whose parents were too poor or unwilling to care for them, who transgressed the law, or refused to attend regularly there existed a parallel system of residential institutions. Run by the Poor Law Guardians or religious organisations these places were even more brutal, more terrifying than the worst state school. These Bastilles, along with enforced migration provided the ultimate deterrents for keeping working class youngsters in order.

Alongside these activities there emerged a range of educational initiatives aimed at reaching those who did not attend, or had limited full-time schooling - and two of these are of profound significance for the emergence of youth work. Sunday schooling often entailed the use of more informal and engaging programmes of activities (after the work of Hannah More and others) - and involved elements that we could now name as youth work. These schools attracted substantial numbers of young people. In 1851 over two million children were enrolled in such institutions (around three-quarters of working class children aged 5-1 5 years) (Laquer, 1976: 44). Also arising out of an evangelical stream, ragged schools were an important site of innovation. Working in the very poorest areas, and often with little money, [page 41] those involved in running ragged schools often displayed a comprehensive interest in, and care for, people. Significantly, they also went to meet people in their own neighbourhoods frequently using stables, archways or rooms in pubs as their classrooms. Many of those central to what we now know as youth work began their work in ragged schools and the like. This included George Williams (of the YMCA), Tom Pelham (the writer of the first handbook on boys clubs) and Quentin Hogg (founder of the Regent Street Polytechnic) (see Smith, 2001).

On the other side of the niche that became youth work were the visiting societies. Offspring of the historic practice of 'visiting the poor', these formalised and rationalised the process. Towns and cities were segmented to ensure few escaped the attentions of charitable visitors who:

Armed with the paraphernalia of their calling - Bibles, tracts, blankets, food and coal tickets, and love - these foot-soldiers of the charitable army went from door to door to combat the evils of poverty, disease, and irreligion. In other words, they sought to reform family life through a moral and physical cleansing of the nation's homes. (Prochaska, 1980: 98)

A large number of the early schemes were based on a model developed by Thomas Chalmers who, beginning in 1819, set about visiting families in the Tron parish of Glasgow. Many of the earlier visitors were deeply troubled and affected by what they saw and experienced. They also were prepared to take significant risks with their health, driven by a concern for what they saw as the debilitating effects of poverty and urbanisation. Sectarian rivalry was often intense but visitors provided care for the sick and dying as well as material help. A result of this particular combination of factors was some significant innovations in practice. Ellen Ranyard, for example, developed groundbreaking visiting programmes that looked beyond the traditional forms of middle class philanthropy. While still believing that social distress was the outcome of individual failings or personal misfortune rather than something more structural, she recognized that a great deal of local knowledge was required if visiting was to be successful. As with many others she looked to the adoption of Christian 'ways and beliefs' as being central to change. Combining these elements, she hit upon the idea of the 'Bible Woman'.

This missionary cum social worker, a working class woman drawn from the neighbourhood to be canvassed, was to provide the 'missing link' between the poorest families and their social superiors... Given a three month training... in the poor law, hygiene, and scripture, Mrs Ranyard agents sought to turn the city's outcast population into respectable, independent citizens through an invigoration of family life. (Prochaska, 1988: 49)

[page 42] By 1867 there were 234 Bible women working in London. Ranyard had recognised that in order to undertake this activity, working class women would need to be paid and as a result Bible Women were the first group of paid social workers in Britain.

Visitors also undertook research that exposed the plight of the poor along with advice and informal education. Mary Ward, a pioneering settlement worker, chronicles the harrowing nature of this work in her novel Marcella (1903). In order to maximise the value of visiting, reduce fraudulent claims and guarantee continuity many societies trained visitors, produced guidelines and maintained accurate case records. From this tradition social work, probation and social casework emerged as coherent activities. Some visitors, for example Hannah More, Octavia Hill, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Maude Stanley, were active in youth work. Indeed, many youth work initiatives, especially those aimed at girls and young women arose out of visiting. Stanley, for example, started to set up clubs and groups in the 1870s in the neighbourhoods in which she was a visitor as a response to what she saw - and went on to play a key role in the promotion and organisation of the work (see, for example, Stanley, 1878; 1891).

Youth work

While developments in district visiting, ragged schooling and the like provided some important elements to what we have come to know as youth work, it wasn't really until the 1860s that the case came to be more widely made for specific forms of intervention aimed at 'youths' (aged 13 to 19 years) (see, for example, Sweetman 1863). Often linked to churches, a new agency - the youths' institutes and clubs - was designed to supply 'recreation, companionship, reading, instruction... all of a pure and healthy kind' (op. cit.). The utilisation of the notion of the 'club' was an especially important organising idea - both for work with young people and adults. Of special significance here was the advocacy of working men's clubs by Henry Solly. He defined clubs as:

Societies of working men formed to promote social intercourse, innocent amusement, mental improvement and mutual helpfulness embodying the conception of a Brotherhood for the completest possible culture of its members as human beings - for their whole development as men. (Solly, 1867: 45)

Like Sweatman and others involved in youths' institutes and clubs he sought to combine fellowship, recreation and education. He also brought a belief in self-help and the full participation of members in running and organizing their clubs.

In the organization and orientation of the youth institutes and clubs we can see 'youth work' taking shape. From visiting and ragged schooling (and other places) [page 43] there was an emphasis on the character of the workers. For them to be able to speak with authority and integrity, they had to be seeking to live life well. These workers had also drawn upon a commitment to education and to the welfare of young people. When brought together with the notion of club (and the associated responsibility to others) we can see how youth workers came to be understood as important pioneers of group work (see Young and Ashton, 1956).

To better appreciate the nature of the youth work that emerged it is helpful to contrast these workers' developing practice with those involved in schooling and casework. Club and centre workers certainly undertook visiting, for example, going to the homes of members who were sick; deemed potential victims of abuse; had 'dropped out'; or were apprentices and servants 'living in' and therefore at heightened risk of exploitation. Youth workers also engaged in individual casework, just as they organised formal educational classes to supplement school provision, and residential accommodation where members could live or recuperate after illness. However such blurring of the boundaries waned as formal education for post-school age students developed; social, court and after-care work expanded; state income maintenance was introduced, and the provision of both institutional and community health care spread (Spence, 2001). Mainstream youth work as a consequence acquired a discernibly different persona from institutional provision and individualised casework. Unlike the former, it: was based upon a voluntary relationship. Young people were always free to join and free to severe all links; did not operate according to a pre-ordained externally imposed and inviolate curriculum or structure. Young people were offered an educational and social programme that was to a greater or lesser degree negotiable. They were also often able to use the centre or club on their own terms for relaxation, sport or study in the library or quiet room; was not employment led. Youth work was dominated by a liberal education ethos prioritising what Ryan (1998) characterises as 'spiritual emancipation'; an education designed to cultivate freedom of thought and prepare young people to participate in an intelligently self-governing society. In contrast to 'visiting' and social casework it; focussed on the group or collective experience rather than that of the individual; rejected the casework client-worker relationship in favour of the club-member one; saw both individual and social change as being best promoted via collective rather than personal endeavour. [page 44]

Differences between youth work and both schooling and social work were not merely the result of 'cussedness'. They emerged from two headstreams. One was instinctive pragmatism. This told youth workers that there were some things and some young people that could not be taught via schooling. Therefore, alternative ways of working were needed. The upshot of this was that individuals and groups with widely divergent aspirations turned to youth work. Irrespective of whether the ambition was to convert young people to a religious or secular faith, save them from a life of crime, sin or bovine vapidity, the techniques of youth work appeared to offer a route to salvation. Then, as now, it promised to rightly or wrongly deliver where others had wholly or partially failed.

The other headstream was more significant. From the onset youth work was enriched by a relationship with other political and social movements. Again the origins and ambitions varied. However, each shared a belief, held to varying degrees of intensity, that the new economic and social order sponsored and sustained individualism thereby weakening civil society and organic communities. Therefore these sought to cultivate ways of working to alleviate poverty and offer educational experiences that perpetuated rather eroded kinship; fostered not obliterated a sense of community; spawned fellowship not individualism. Attitudes to state sponsored mass schooling amongst them varied from the downright hostile to the enthusiastic but mildly critical. Similarly, whereas some loathed 'visiting' as a manifestation of a mind-set that perceived the rich and 'respectable' as being in loco parentis over a child-like poor, others accepted it as an expression of Christian love or social conscience that relieved suffering and cemented relationships between the classes. Each considered however that it was vital to find ways to protect and sponsor a sense of community and prioritised this; all to varying degrees turned to youth work as a way of achieving this end.

Building community, vanquishing individualism

As Lukes (1973) reminds us, 'individualism' is a nineteenth century word, usage of which grew during the same period as youth work expanded. Both emerged during a half-century when the locus of production shifted from the domestic sphere to the factory; Britain changed from a rural to an urban society; the population doubled; and an all-conquering capitalism imposed its writ on the social fabric; an epoch when:

A traumatically acute sense of the making and breaking of connections came over Western Man and culture. A great tectonic shift seemed to be taking place under the hitherto apparently settled continents of life and thought. It proclaimed itself in an omnipresent, even compulsive, concern [page 45] with the snapping of ties, the unchaining of all established verities and social arrangements. Before this shift, Men felt more or less linked to God, Man, and the earth around them. They knew their 'place'. Afterwards, they knew only that the earth had moved, and, with it, everything upon it. To some, this was cause for celebration: new possibilities were opened up, old restraints gone. To others, it meant the falling apart of society and the self: an occasion for lamentation. (Mazlish, 1989: 12)

It was an epoch during which, in Marx's memorable phrase, 'all that is solid melts into air'. The previous social and economic order laid great emphasis on order, continuity and duty, the new one stressed competition, change and individualism. Although the prosperity it bestowed on many and the Empire it bequeathed the British nation might be celebrated, severe reservations were articulated regarding the price paid for these and other benefits. In particular sceptics and opponents were nervous regarding the impact of this 'tectonic shift' upon society, the family and relationships between individuals. These fears J. S. Mill shared, regarding a 'society' where 'making the good of each depended upon evil to others, making all who have anything to gain or lose, live in the midst of enemies' (1963: 444).

Debates concerning the 'conflict' betwixt individualism and community formed a backcloth for controversy. Within the emerging discipline of sociology, pioneers seeking to interpret the new world materialising around them were fascinated by the decline and demise of community (Nisbet, 1966). British philosophers, in particular the Idealists of whom T. H. Green was the foremost, also struggled to find ways in which the individual autonomy underpinning the economic market place might be tailored to co-exist with the bonds of community (Nicholson, 1990). Likewise some of the most influential literary figures of the period, for example Mary Ward, Benjamin Disraeli, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Kingsley, John Ruskin and George Eliot shared the latter's fascination with the impact of the cash nexus and a distrust of those who believed 'that all social questions are merged in economical science, and that the relations of men to their neighbours may be settled by algebraic equations' (Eliot, 1866: 29).

These concerns and debates had a profound impact on the development of youth work and community work. The relationship between the individual and a dominant market economy was not an abstract academic affair left by practitioners for others to wrestle with. Not least because youth work, adult education and community work attracted those struggling to address this issue precisely because each seemed to offer a partial solution to the conundrum. Key individuals moved between the different polarities of the debate. The networks were complex and close. For example [page 46] Robert Owen who established at New Lanark the first community centre, community school and primary school during the second decade of the nineteenth century proceeded to be a key figure in the development of the Co-operative and Trade Union movements. Jane Nassau Senior, the educational reformer active in the formation of both the Girls' Friendly Society and the pioneering outreach project, The Metropolitan Society for Befriending Servants, was a personal friend of George Eliot and Octavia Hill, whilst her brother was a leading co-operator. Hill, a co-founder of the first Cadet Force, the earliest children's playgrounds, the National Trust and innovative community centres and girls' clubs was, in turn, close to John Ruskin who was possibly the most influential critic of unbridled industrialisation during the Victorian period. Finally Hill's friend Henrietta Barnett, with her husband Samuel, established the first Settlement and pioneered the New Town movement.

Those involved in the development of youth work came from a range of religious, philosophical and political traditions. These traditions shaped the practice of organisations and individuals but above all melded to bestow upon youth work a unique essence. Five overlapping responses to industrialisation in particular percolated practice creating a discrete entity - youth work. They laid the basis for divergent strands of practice extant today:

Romantics - these lamented the destructive power of industrialisation upon the countryside and the rural way of life. They loathed the 'ugliness' of the new urban milieu and rejected as unnatural the way of life it spawned. Young people growing up in the new conurbanations were viewed as victims of an abnormal environment that spiritually, emotionally and physically stunted their development. Influenced by writers such as Rousseau and Wordsworth those close to this tradition fostered back-to-the-countryside communities and outdoor programmes. Contact with the 'great outdoors' and physical activity were perceived as self-evidently possessing a redeeming quality. Adherents, besides direct involvement in their own organisations such as Outward Bound, had a profound influence on mainstream youth groups especially the Boys' Clubs and uniformed groups.

Conservatives - who deeply mourned the loss of the pre-industrial social order, the old certainties. As a counterweight they placed great emphasis on patriotism and a sense of nationhood. By instilling in the young a love of country, god and Empire it was anticipated class divisions and social fragmentation might be set aside and a sense of common purpose and unity fashioned. Many held fast to a belief, well articulated by Disraeli in his popular novels, that a natural alliance waited to be forged between those born to command, the 'aristocracy', and a leaderless proletariat who mutually distrusted the up-and-coming capitalist class. Inevitably they settled for the uniformed organisations but they also saw all clubs and centres as sites [page 47] where the natural order might be re-asserted and gentlemen and ladies of quality might 'raise up' the working class through example and sacrifice. More recently this model has under-pinned interventions such as Connexions founded upon an ardour for guidance and leadership.

Socialists and radicals - were involved both in autonomous working class community and youth work and initiatives linked to national organisations such as the Co-operative Movement and the Chartists who sponsored clubs, centres and Sunday schools. There were also significant examples of radical 'top-down' provision, for example, the community centres, clubs and institutes funded by enlightened employers such Owen, Cadbury and Leverhulme. Autonomous groups incessantly struggled owing to a paucity of resources (by definition members were living at best on the margins of poverty) and the unremitting determination of the state and employers to eliminate credible opposition to the hegemony of capital. Some like the Clarion Clubs and Socialist Sunday Schools flourished for decades. Most however, only enjoyed a fleeting existence. Political radicals, often heavily influenced by writers such as Ruskin, Morris and Marx, also founded clubs or became involved in the work of existing youth organisations, centres and settlements both as a way of converting young people and of experiencing for themselves social relationships not dominated by the 'cash nexus'. The aims of the South Wales Federation of Miners' Boys' Clubs captures their motivation:

The training of good citizens. This means a wide programme of activities, involving culture as well as physical pursuits. Body, mind, and soul should find their place in the Club's aim. The ideas of service, comradeship, and esprit de corps should be in the forefront. Our ideals must be high -although we should not talk too much about them. (quoted Russell and Russell, 1932:16)

The most successful exponent of this model remains the Woodcraft Folk but workers who adhere to it are scattered throughout youth work.

Evangelicalism - provided the impetus and basis for many of the early youth work initiatives - as it did for much of the philanthropic activity in the nineteenth century (Prochaska, 1988). District visiting, Sunday schooling, ragged schooling, associations such as the YMCA and YWCA, and many of the early clubs and institutes had strong evangelical strands. This included an emphasis upon personal conversion, activism, Biblical authority, and the significance of the cross (Bebbington, 1989). Significantly, there were contrasting orientations with some evangelicals being linked to individualistic and conservative ideals (often within the Anglican Church) and others to more collective and critical concerns (often within dissenting churches [page 48] and Methodism). There was also a powerful class dynamic here with the former more likely to be dominated by the middle classes and the latter having a much stronger working class membership. Key figures within youth work came from these poles: Maude Stanley was a conservative Anglican with an evangelical orientation, and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence was a Methodist strongly committed to political and social reform (Doyle and Smith, forthcoming).

British Idealists - were a group of philosophers who wielded considerable influence during the second half of the nineteenth century. Leading members included T. H. Green, Bradley and Bosanquet. They devoted considerable attention to the relationship between the individual and the state seeking a way in which everything converged 'on the free life of the individual in a free state' (Bryce, 1903: 97). They looked to restructure the state so it became 'the focus of a sense of community and citizenship, an institution in which a good common to all classes and recognizable by all interest groups could be articulated' (Vincent and Plant, 1984: 2). Abhorring coercion, Idealists preferred to create a good society via education, conveying as much by example and experience as instruction. They endeavoured to foster self-help, co-operation and a love of democracy, the goal being a society comprising individuals freely choosing to be 'good citizens'. They sought to conduct themselves in ways that sustained and built a vibrant democracy and community wherein the individual acquires their individuality from their community and the community acquires its character from the individuals. In this way individualism and collectivism were not to be viewed as incompatible, residing at opposite ends of a continuum. Green in particular had profound influence via both personal contact and his writings upon key figures in the settlement, club and adult education movements. Toynbee, Ward and the Barnetts were especially close to him and sought to create clubs and projects fostering democracy and sense of community. In particular, the thinking of this tradition can be seen to have had a profound influence on the development of the New Town and Community Centre Movements, community schools and, above all, the settlements (Gordon and White, 1979).

These five traditions were never discrete, each impacted on the others, coalescing to manufacture mutual modes of practice. Profound antagonisms and intense rivalries existed within youth work from the outset. Deep fissures separated, for example pro- and anti-suffrage girls clubs; the political left from the right; and religious groupings of various hues. However, embedded within all segments were abiding continuities of practice. Disagreement raged, then as now, as to the desired outcome, the type of young person and by implication, society, practitioners and funders hankered after, but a yearning to preserve and foster community and association afforded an essential element of commonality. Consequently the starting point was [page 49] the group and collective activity. Reactionaries and revolutionaries, conservatives and reformers alike embraced the club and centre as a motif for youth work. For the former as a place where the old verities might be re-constructed with both the 'leader' and the 'led' learning their respective roles and rank in society, for the latter a site where experiments in democracy might be undertaken. It was a niche wherein women and the working class might encounter not merely new ideas but could enjoy moments of liberty and equality, a haven where the barriers of class and gender might be temporarily dismantled.

The group

The collective had many names. A club, troop, band, centre, battalion, institute, settlement or co-operative; variations in nomenclature reflected differences of emphasis but the fundamentals were constant. Emanating from the desire to create or re-create what Mazlish (1989) designated 'connections' a sense of community or esprit de corps, clubs et al grew from what Henriques described as the 'natural instinct for association' (1933: 8) and a desire on the part of their promoters to foster fellowship, friendship, fitness and citizenship. Consequently group work lay at the conceptual heart of youth work. The focus of youth work was on the group and the collective. Stress was placed upon the learning and growth that flows from the interaction and inter-play of relationships within the group. Although individual activities might be encouraged, these always took place within a group or 'club' setting. The worker meets the group and primarily focuses attention on establishing his or her relationship with the collective and helping the group to develop and handle the conflicts and feelings, positive and negative that emerge from within it. In so doing, members were allowed to secure full maturity and achieve the 'good life' within, as one club put it, a 'co-operative endeavour' that counteracted the 'individualistic point of view' (Russell and Russell, 1932: 16). As two American writers explained, it is 'the importance which the group plays in the process' (Kingman and Sidman, 1935: 17) that differentiates youth work from other educational provision. Little wonder then that so much of the literature of youth work has focused on how to build, sustain and manage the group.

The emergence of the group as a central concern of practice within youth work and settlement work in Britain was soon picked up by workers in the United States. Along with this came a considerable flowering of research and theorisation. The emphasis on research and investigation that had characterised early social work initiatives and the settlement movement, the growing impact of psychology and developments in thinking about human relations, the emergence of psychoanalysis, and a developing literature about the group and the crowd, all made their mark. Crucially, from within education the growing influence of pragmatists such as [page 50] Dewey and Kirkpatrick was also very significant. What began to emerge was a concept of social group work as the promotion and leadership of what Neva Boyd in the 1930s described as 'mutual participation groups in which the members participate collectively in the feelings, thinking and action involved in carrying out communal interests' (quoted by Glassman and Kates, 1990: 21).

Three basic ideas regarding the use of groups took shape - and have persisted.

The first has to do with the value of the small group as a means of maintaining a democratic society. By involving individuals in group action and decision-making within their neighbourhood and larger community, they can become more knowledgeable and skilled citizens. The second idea highlights the importance of the group as a means of socialization. Through the small group experience, an individual's development can be enhanced and the members can learn both the social skills and the values of the larger society. The third, and historically the most recent, idea underscores the potential of the group as a vehicle for ameliorating maladaptive behaviour. Through the small group, individuals can be assisted to change behaviours that are both self-defeating and classified as 'deviant' by society. (Reid, 1981: xvi)

Each of the three strands can be found within British and Irish youth work - but it is the first two that have predominated and which came to be understood in the language of club and association.

The idea of association - joining together in companionship or to undertake some task, and the educative power of playing one's part in a group or association (Doyle and Smith, 1999: 44) appears and reappears in the literature of informal education. For example, the landmark 1919 Report on adult education looked to the educative power of social movements and voluntary associations. They saw the value of 'the imponderable influences which spring from association in study' and the significance of 'the informal educations which come from sharing in a common life' (1956: 76). Similarly, in 1960 the Albemarle Report (HMSO 1960) declared that the primary aims of the youth service should be association, training and challenge (ibid.: 36-41 and 52-64):

To encourage young people to come together into groups of their own choosing is the fundamental task of the Service... (W)e want to call attention to:

a) an opportunity for commitment....

b) an opportunity for counsel....

c) an opportunity for self-determination. [page 51]

For Matthews, writing a few years later, the purpose of youth work neatly matched that of Green and his followers, being 'to help young people develop their potentialities more fully as individuals and become better able to contribute to the life of the community' (1966: 103).

More recently Konrad Elsdon and his colleagues (1995) undertook a large scale survey of local voluntary organizations in Britain which demonstrated the growth in confidence that involvement brought. People talked about the way in which participation enabled 'self-discovery, freedom in forging relationships and undertaking tasks, belief in oneself and in one's potential as a human being and an agent, and ability to learn and change both in the context of the organization's objectives and in others' (ibid.: 47). Alongside these socializing effects, there are also important political gains. It isn't only that participation in groups and associations is a means of learning about democracy, they are a crucial means of participating in larger political processes. Frequently, they are part of wider networks and have some representative function. What is more, many local groups can be thought of as mutual aid organizations. They involve 'organizing around enthusiasms' - people joining together to produce goods and services for their own enjoyment (Bishop and Hoggett, 1985).

The growing literature of the group work movement in the United States was picked up in various ways in Britain and Ireland. The work of writers like Mary Parker Follett (1918; 1924) with her concern for group life, local democracy and creative experience made a considerable impact on key practitioners within the community centre and settlement movements. In groups, she wrote:

the centre of consciousness is transferred from our private life to our associate life. Thus through our group activities does neighbourhood life become a preparation for neighbourhood life; thus does it prepare us for the pouring out of strength and strain and effort in the common cause. (Follett 1918: 368)

Later, Grace L. Coyle's work (1930; 1947; 1948) was influential among some youth workers, and Wilson and Ryland's (1949) classic discussion of social group work practice, for example, was a key reference point in some social work circles. However, it was not until the mid 1950s that developments in North American group work theory found a proper place in British youth work discussions - for example through the work of Peter Kuenstler (1955) and Josephine Macalister Brew (1957). With growing professionalization there came a flood of influential texts (Batten, 1967; Button, 1974; Davies, 1975; Matthews, 1966; Milson, 1963; 1973) - and the emergence of a range of training programmes for part-time youth workers, and the inclusion of group work within qualifying training programmes. [page 52]

Subsequently, there has been relatively little written about the process of group work within youth work, and the training for group work that exists for part-time youth workers is now usually linked to work around some moral panic such as drug abuse and sexual health. There has been a general movement away from a concern with groups as a means of democratic advance and socialisation within youth work (i.e. a fully-rounded understanding of social group work). Where groups now feature the rationale for their existence is increasingly linked to ameliorative ends and case-management. To some extent this is a result of a loss of faith within youth work in the notion of 'club' and in the ideas of process (Robertson, 2000; Smith, 2001 b) - but it is also, we believe, part of a wider movement. This reflects social changes that are re-ordering the environment within which youth workers and informal educators operate. It is to these changes we will now look.

The new individualism

As noted earlier a conviction that 'community' is in terminal decline has been commonplace for at least over two centuries. Youth workers and community workers alike have for much of that time engaged in an ongoing, some might say fruitless, campaign to protect and resuscitate 'communities'. During the last two decades or so the case regarding the erosion of community has acquired renewed vigour (Sennett 1974, 1996, 1998; Lasch 1979; Etzioni 1993; Bauman 2001). Tempting as it may be to dismiss such pronouncements as ahistorical and repetitious it would be cavalier to do so. Youth workers certainly would be wise to pay attention to the prognostications of these new prophets of doom. Their pessimism flows from what are perceived as three overarching social transformations - globalisation, the emergence of a risk society, and the appearance of new forms of individualisation. All are intricately inter-woven.

The first, globalisation, refers to a process of convergence and compression with the boundaries between individuals and between states becoming ever more porous. Economic, cultural and social differences are decreasingly visible as the world shrinks and trans-national organisations, social movements, cultural phenomena and businesses come to dominate, creating global markets, cultures, and so on. The second, risk, refers to a shift that is producing a world that is ever less secure and predictable in terms of outcomes. It requires individuals to place themselves at the centre of their plans and reflexively forge their own 'biographies'. They must survive in a 'post-modern' and globalized environment where all are obliged with regards to every segment of their lives to make choices, even regarding the social groups and communities they affiliate to and lifestyle they opt for. Less and less is determined by birth, family or place of origin. The downside of being blessed with such choice is that we are as a consequence perpetually at risk of making an erroneous [page 53] selection. Failure and misfortune, therefore, become explained not by structural causes but as the direct consequence of personal failings and ill-informed choices. Poor health becomes the result of a failure to exercise, eat properly or adopt a 'healthy lifestyle'; unemployment is seen as a result of a lack of skills, the wrong attitude or laziness. Risk never leaves one's side: failure awaits at every turn. Risk, like danger may be a good teacher, but the lessons learnt may not be those that make for a 'good society' or 'virtuous life'.

These two foster and breed the third, individualism. As the global economy erodes difference it imposes a universal culture no longer linked to place, producing in its wake not just the eradication of autonomous cultures, but simultaneously the elimination of the boundaries within which communities are or were constructed. Paradoxically 'sameness' does not cultivate security, it spawns the opposite. For individuals a precarious life results, devoid of the certainties once imparted by mutuality, community and emotional commitment and attachment to place and locality. This manufactures what Beck (1999) terms 'rootless new cosmopolitans', obliged to live in a world wherein 'no one stops anyone from being what one is and no one seems to stop anyone from being someone other than one is' (Bauman, 2001: 61). Fragmentation, we are told, leads to matters relating to meaning, identity and ethics being removed from the public domain and recast as the responsibility of the individual. Yet individuals must increasingly co-exist with these responsibilities whilst, as noted earlier, building their own biographies and charting their own destiny within a world where more and more aspects of life are marketized; where global forces erode the agencies that offer the promise of collective control; where risk sets individuals at war with each in a constant struggle for advancement and survival; where the safety nets of family, community, state welfare and friendship are destabilised and commodified. Consequently, the individual may gain a spurious independence from the old ties that bound - the family, the local community, even the nation state - but they become manacled to and dependent upon a market that invades every aspect of their lives. They must consume to be free, but that dependency enslaves them to a market bent upon restricting their choice and closing down their options in the interests of efficiency and product standardisation.

As individuals within this context construct and re-construct themselves, so youth itself, although it may remain linked to chronological age, is no longer axiomatically 'determined by it' (Miles, 2000: 11; see also Jeffs and Smith, 1998, 2001). As a growing number of experiences are uncoupled from locality and age so youth is dispersed across different ages (Oswell, 1998). Not only do those seeking to target a discrete youth market find it ever more difficult to hit their target so too do youth workers anxious to identify their client group (Jeffs and Smith, 1999). As 'youth' [page 54] becomes a commodity which can be purchased and that seemingly stretches into the mid- to late 30s, where can the youth be found, how can they be categorised? According to Bennett youth culture and identity are being speedily eroded to the extent that young people no longer relate in traditional ways to sub-cultural groups. For:

the group is no longer the central focus for the individual but rather one of a series of foci or sites within which the individual can live out a selected, temporal role or identity before relocating to an alternative site and assuming a different identity. It follows then that the term group can also no longer be regarded as having a necessarily permanent or tangible quality, the characteristics, visibility and lifespan of a group being wholly dependent upon the particular forms of interaction which it used to stage. (1999: 605)

Within this context youth workers who wish to do so must create, rather than as in the past, find, groups to work with. No longer will they have off-the-peg youth sub-cultures to fasten their practice to, nor even youth as an unproblematic concept to focus upon. Similarly the community worker is recast as someone who constructs communities, perpetually required to sustain as much as service them, rather than someone who attaches themselves to long established groupings. Workers may perceive these changes as creating individualised young people who have no need for either group or community experiences, who wish merely to be left alone to negotiate the lifestyles unimpeded by ties of locality, family or community.

It is through recognition of factors such as these that researchers like Robert Putnam (1995; 2000) have made the case for public policies that foster civic engagement. His research revealed growing levels of disconnection amongst Americans from family, friends, neighbours, and social and political structures. He found that, for example, voting, political knowledge, political trust, and grassroots political activism were all down. Declines were equally visible in non-political community life: membership and activity in all sorts of local clubs and civic and religious organisations have been falling at an accelerating pace. In the mid-i 970s the average American attended some club meeting every month, by 1998 that rate of attendance had been cut by nearly 60 per cent. He discusses various factors that have led to this shift - especially the growth of television watching and the movement to the suburbs - but the impact of inter-cohort change was very significant.

The downside of this for democracy is obvious - but there are also very significant personal and social costs involved. There is a decline in social capital - and this is of great significance. For example, Putnam (2000: 307-1 8) was able to marshal [page 55] evidence to show that in high social-capital areas public spaces are cleaner, people are friendlier, and the streets are safer (even when we strip out traditional 'risk factors' such as high poverty). He was also able to show a strong relationship between the possession of social capital and better health. Regular club attendance, volunteering, entertaining, or church attendance, Putnam argued, 'is the happiness equivalent of getting a college degree or more than doubling your income. Civic connections rival marriage and affluence as predictors of life happiness' (ibid: 333). Given the growing mass of evidence with regard to the membership of groups it is all the more surprising that government youth policy in Britain and Northern Ireland - especially in England - has taken a major turn away from the fostering of associational activity. Policy-makers have chosen instead to re-brand youth work as a form of individualised case-management, and youth workers as specialists blessed with skills or personalities uniquely fitting them to control, monitor, distract, 'develop' and oversee 'troublesome' young people.

It is a shift that reflects a deep pessimism, on the part of this and the previous government, regarding the capacity of social welfare and education to change the behaviour and social mores of what has been termed the 'underclass' (Jeffs and Smith, 1994; Jeffs, 1997). As we note elsewhere it has led to the wholesale jettisoning of social group work in a variety of settings including the youth justice system, social work and Probation. This rejection emanates from a conviction that everything has been tried to 'convert' the underclass and it has failed (see Murray 1994: Wilson, 1987; 1996). The result, according to such writers, is that after fifty years of 'universal welfare' those with the ability and talent to 'escape' the working class did so long ago, leaving behind a virtually irredeemable residue. This thesis nourishes a belief that the families, communities and groups our 'troubled and troublesome young people' affiliate with or emerge from are essentially dysfunctional and debased. It follows from this that the optimum that policy-makers (and respectable taxpayers) can hope for is that, via a war of attrition, some will be weaned away, some will be put away, and what's left cowed into submission and discouraged from procreating.

This profoundly bleak analysis leads inexorably towards 'individualised' intercessions such as mentoring, advice work, guidance and counselling. Such interventions are designed to bring 'socially excluded' young people into direct contact with the 'model' adults they should aspire to emulate. The individual, not the group, according to this analysis, becomes the centre of attention. The group, the gang, the community, the collective are seen as beyond redemption. They are impediments to individuals 'moving on', 'becoming socially included', 'achieving their dream' and so on. Consequently, if the group is worked with, or upon, according to this model it is to manage the anti-social behaviour of members or as a pre-requisite to wean away [page 56] only the better elements. Little wonder, then, that so many contemporary youth workers are bemused and amazed when they encounter the enthusiasm of earlier practitioners such as Baden-Powell or Macalister Brew for the gang and group. These were men and women for whom the adventure of youth work lay in studying and working with the natural groupings that young people propagate, and around which they construct so many of their leisure and learning experiences. As Baden-Powell explained, educators should 'become the students, and ... study the marvellous boy-life which they are at present trying vainly to curb and repress'. He went on 'why push against the stream, when the stream, after all, is running in the right direction?' (1930: 40). Indeed.

From members to clients; from connections to Connexions

Before the Labour Party came to power in 1997 there was some talk of reforming the careers and youth services in England. This was given fresh impetus following the establishment of the Social Exclusion Unit by the new Government, and their much-trumpeted concern with 'joined-up thinking'. By 1999, the Government was indicating that it wanted to establish a 'comprehensive structure for advice and support of all young people beyond 13' (DfEE, 1999: 51). The idea was that every young person would be allotted a personal adviser who could provide one-to-one support, and information, advice and guidance. However, talk of a universal service was largely a matter of rhetoric. The primary interest laid in those young people who were deemed to be at risk of social exclusion - and what was seen as the ineffectiveness of then current provision (due in significant part to the proliferation of specialist agencies and a lack of coordination between them). It was out of this that the Connexions strategy was developed (at the heart of which is the Connexions Service). Attention was to be given to 'those facing substantial, multiple problems preventing them from engaging with learning' or 'those at risk of not participating effectively in education and training'. This means, that resources are being taken away from the vast bulk of young people who do not pose a threat to order and to economic development. It means they will receive less guidance and help around career choice, and that fewer resources are channelled into their leisure. It also entails a shift of resources from young women to young men - for it is the latter that are largely seen as problematic in terms of behaviour and educational achievement. Third, it involves an increasing focus upon targeting interventions at named individuals.

Essentially a form of case management is seen as the dominant way of working within the English Connexions Service. Instead of being members of clubs, groups and projects, young people are clients, being given 'individually tailored support' (Lewis, 2002: 12). Individuals are identified who are in need of intervention so that [page 57] they may re-enter education, training or work. Action programmes are devised and implemented, records kept. Personal advisers and workers associated with the Connexions Service may well use groups - but the central concern is not the development of group life and learning but rather the enhancement of individual functioning. Programmes are then assessed on whether these named individuals return to learning or enter work - rather than on any contribution made to the quality of civic life, personal flourishing or social relationships that arise out of the process.

Alongside the rise of Connexions has appeared something dubbed 'Intelligence Led' youth work. This is frequently, but not exclusively, funded by YOTs and entails assigning youth workers to target individuals or groups. Police surveillance, which sometimes amounts to officers driving around an area in an unmarked van filming young people or studying CCTV footage, identifies hot spots of juvenile activity and 'threatening' young people. The names and haunts of these young people are then supplied to youth workers who are required to contact and befriend them in the expectation that the workers will discourage their anti-social behaviour and offer alternatives to 'hanging about in public areas'. Another example of this orientation is the Youth Inclusion Programmes funded by the Youth Justice Board. The YIP manager asks schools, police, youth organisations, social services and housing officers to identify the 'worse fifty young people' in the area. These are then invited to receive, in the terminology of the programme, 'a dosage' of intense contact with youth workers. Similarly, the Prince's Trust xl Programme is 'delivered' in schools where the 'most troublesome' are selected for intensive contact with 'youth workers' in order to:

Not surprisingly research showed that this programme gained the reputation of being a 'sin-bin' or last chance before exclusion amongst the young people in the schools where it operates.

The emphasis on surveillance and control, case management, and on individualized ways of working, in these and so many other programmes, run counter to the key characteristics of youth work we discussed earlier. Within them we find a shift from voluntary participation to more coercive forms; from association to individualized activity; from education to case management (and not even casework); and from informal to bureaucratic relationships. [page 58]

diagram showing the movements in youth service work

(diagram reprinted from Smith 2001 b)

This movement is not simply a change within youth work - it is a leap away from it. It serves to remind us that we have allowed the definitional boundaries of youth work to be breached. Not everyone who works with young people is a youth worker; that has always been taken as self-evident. What has not been acknowledged, because it is much less comfortable to do so, is that many of the activities undertaken by individuals qualified and trained as youth workers can no longer be legitimately categorised as youth work. Rounding up truants is the job of the police and EWO not youth workers; sitting beside bored pupils in a classroom to persuade and prevent them from misbehaving is not youth work, it is the function of a classroom assistant, a security guard or at best a school counsellor. Little wonder that one researcher, when looking at partnership between schools and the youth service, found that 'the youth workers were unable to articulate any desired outcomes other than the school's - that is, outcomes relating to attendance, behaviour, exam entries and pass marks' (CEDC, 2001: 15). You can't find what isn't there.


Should youth workers follow the path of least resistance? Must they accept as inevitable the triumph of individualism and abandon social group work as irrelevant? Likewise should they bow to a barely restrained free market and a risk society in which a disproportionate share of the risks fall upon the shoulders of the economically and socially vulnerable? Within social work and Probation this process is not merely underway but virtually completed. In both spheres during the last two decades we have witnessed the virtual destruction of social group work as a mode of [page 59] practice. Workers have found their forms of intervention to be both more regulated and standardised, or as Ritzer (1998) might put it, MacDonaldized. Output driven, the educational and democratic elements linked to social group work have been eradicated leaving the workers to enforce management-determined behavioural norms upon clients coerced into obedience by fear of the loss of their freedom or access to essential financial or welfare support, or leisure resources. Indeed so low have some projects fallen that they are willing to bribe young people to attend and 'deliver' specified outcomes. Much as the COS and other organisations reigned in 'visiting' in the nineteenth century to reduce the autonomy of the practitioner, so a similar process has been taking place within social work and Probation. The eradication of the creative and humane elements drives many from working in these areas and discourages the most talented, innovative and potentially most committed from entering in the first place. Pay has never been the lure attracting people to social work, teaching and youth work. The finest workers were always fascinated by the prospect of joining a crusade for social justice, an opportunity to help create a fairer society, to save souls - to 'make a difference' via the creative use of their accomplishments. That was what drew workers to the Ragged Schools, clubs and Settlements located in the 'Courts of King Cholera'. Until recently it still worked it's charm but now less and less so. The National Curriculum, OFSTED and centralised control in teaching and regimentation plus crass managerialism in social work have broken the link. The inevitable result is that a vicious circle of decline has set in. More and more training places go unfilled, resulting in the less well qualified and less well motivated being drafted in to fill the gaps. This inevitably justifies the expansion of managerial control, the further erosion of personal autonomy from workers and the imposition of more standardised procedures and practices.

It is not inevitable that youth work will go down the same path: it has avoided doing so in the past. However all the signs are there that it might not escape the same fate. Youth work courses are beginning to follow a pattern already entrenched in teaching, Probation and social work. These are falling numbers, course closures, a servile willingness to deliver 'easy-option' routes of entry, such as the Connexions Advisors Diploma, and pressure to collaborate with employer-led centralised bodies anxious to remove the educational elements from professional education and replace them with 'skills training'. The flight from theory and rigorous standards in training is reflected in the field. There, many services and agencies, like Pavlov's dogs, are now trained to respond to the bell activated by financial incentives and government pressure. In so doing they have lost sight of youth work essentials.

One of the frustrating things about the situation is that there is a clear associational alternative that has strong empirical support in terms of its long-term impact upon [page 60] the lives of communities. Robert Putnam's discussion of social capital, for example, provides youth workers and informal educators with a powerful rationale for their activities. His evidence and analysis also provide a striking case against those who want to target work towards those who present the most significant problems and tie workers' activities to the achievement of specific outcomes in individuals (Smith, 2001 b). However, it takes a particular mindset (and some courage) to pick up on these arguments and to make them work for youth work.

Patrick and Schuller (1999: 84) are probably right when they argue that citizenship (and we would add fellowship) cannot be learnt in the formal sector. Therein lies the importance of youth work and community work. Clubs and groups are places where individuals can apply 'principles and maxims which have for their reason of existence the common good' (Mill, 1977: 412). They are settings where dialogue, conversation and what Samuel Johnson called 'good talk' can flourish. For most people it is still, as Mary Parker Follett found, 'in the small group ... where we shall find the inner meaning of democracy, its heart and core' (1924: 225-6). Only by creating opportunities for groups to prosper will we overcome what her seminal work, called 'civic apathy' (1918). Yet if 'citizenship' and democracy are offered by youth workers and community workers it must be by those passionately committed to such ideas for they cannot make others 'what they themselves are not' (Mill quoted Garforth, 1980:114). For democratic governance is ultimately government by discussion, at all times deliberative, demanding the engagement of autonomous, argumentative, tough-minded citizens. Consequently education of the type required to prepare people for a liberal democracy is never 'painless'. Nor as writers from Aristotle onwards have warned can it be left to the mercies of those whose desired end is profit or military aggrandisement. For genuine democracy requires people with attributes such as scepticism, critical intelligence and tough-minded independence, not those desired by employers or generals.

Democracy is largely excluded from all the major institutions that shape our lives - work, schools, health services, even parliament where MPs are whipped into subservience. Therefore, most of us only encounter genuine democracy in autonomous organisations, clubs and associations, where profit or 'servitude' is not the prime objective; settings where strong leadership is mistrusted and dialogue nurtured. Little has changed since Cole wrote that

The real democracy that does exist in Great Britain ... is to be found for the most part not in Parliament or in institutions of local government, but in small groups, formal and informal, in which men and women join together out of decent fellowship or for the pursuit of a common social purpose - [page 61] societies, clubs, churches, and not least, informal neighbourhood groups. It is in these groups and in the capacity to form them swiftly under pressure of immediate needs that the real spirit of democracy resides. (1941: 162)

Whilst there may well have been a decline in involvement in such groups and associations, the scale of participation is still significant. Around 12 million women and men are involved in running 1 .3 million bodies or 'small democracies' (Elsdon, 1995: 39). The challenge must surely be to sustain and extend those levels of involvement.

John Dewey held that individualism must be restructured around the principle that the moral development of each separate self in a democracy is in a profound and specifiable sense dependent on the collective contribution of all other selves (Gunn, 1992: 75). 'The individual in his isolation is nothing; only in and through an absorption of the aims and meaning of organized institutions does he attain true personality' (Dewey, 1916: 94). As we noted earlier the brutality of nineteenth century industrialisation, the first stage of the globalisation we are coming to terms with today, stimulated a range of responses one of which was the struggle of many involved in early youth work to foster community and association. Fear of the dangers posed by unbridled individualism produced a well of creativity that practitioners still draw upon. In some ways that reservoir still serves us well, for many of the old problems they sought to tackle remain, not least poverty. However changes are taking place that mean some of the old strategies by which association and community might be fostered will no longer suffice. That is why the warnings of writers such as Putman (2000) and Sennett (1998) must be taken seriously. The intermediary social institutions and those elements that made for a vibrant civil society fashioned in Victorian times, often as a direct result of the intervention of some the same people who pushed forward the youth work project have, as Gray points out, become for the new modernisers hindrances. They are obstacles that threaten to de-rail their project of reconstruction.

Professional associations, local authorities, mutual societies and stable families were impediments to the mobility and individualism that are required by unfettered markets. They limit the power of markets over people. In a late modern context re-engineering the free market cannot avoid weakening or destroying such intermediary structures, and such was their fate in Britain. (Gray, 1998: 36)

Globalisation scatters inherited traditions and constantly corrodes the agencies and structures fostering association and community leaving in its wake insecurity and a fear and distrust of neighbours that sustains individualism. A risk society, globalisation [page 62] and individualism, except for the very rich cocooned in their gated communities, creates alarm and uncertainty. It can be observed in the fear of young people on the street; a fear of the migrant seeking your job; a fear of the homeless accosting you on the street; a fear of the next wave of technological innovation coming to sweep away white collar jobs (just as blue-collar ones disappeared during the final quarter of the last century).

These corrosive emotions produce unpredictable outcomes. In Europe a sense of loss, and mourning for community, has contributed to the rise of far right parties. Unlike the Fascists of the 1 920s and 30s the fast growth has not been linked to the rise of mass unemployment and political conflict. This time it has occurred in some of the most prosperous corners of Europe, Austria, Denmark, Holland and Northern Italy. These are places where unemployment is lowest; where welfare is of a standard way above the international norm. The new far right are sophisticated advocates of community. Unlike BNP activists on the terraces of Millwall they avoid the obvious pitfalls by being social liberals on issues such as drug use, sexuality and in the case of the Danes and Dutch 'race'. It would be naïve to imagine the BNP or similar groups will not learn the lessons that have served their compatriots well. After all, one of the three seats they secured in Burnley was in a prosperous middle-class area.

This poses a new challenge for informal educators and youth workers who must find ways of working towards building association and community that avoid buttressing exclusivity and distrust of those 'beyond'. For a start this means youth work, community education and adult education must return to being universal services. The dangers of working exclusively, on and with the 'underclass' and the excluded are simply too great. Targeted work fuels resentment amongst those denied the service, stigmatises those who receive it and confirms in the minds of a majority the prejudices they already hold concerning groups of young people and the 'poor'. What is more, it fails to encourage service by, and the social participation of those who have the required social and cultural capital. Dewey argued that 'society is strong, forceful, stable only when all its members can function to the limit of their capacity' (1920: 208). In many respects 'all' is the key word. As youth workers and informal educators we ignore it at our peril.

We will also have to attend to creating (or rediscovering) ways of working with groups that take account of a new environment. One element of this is coming to terms again with the notion of the club. Here three areas present themselves immediately for exploration: the 'club-like' qualities of spontaneous groups; the potential of 'organizing around enthusiasms' especially the enhancing of mutual aid in leisure; and working to open up associational spaces for young people in [page 63] existing organizations and groups. (Smith, 2001 b). We need to look beyond the individual to the possibilities that flow from fostering group and associational life.


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How to cite this piece:  Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. K. 'Individualization and youth work', Youth and Policy 76 pp. 39-65. Available in the informal education archives:

© Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith 2002.
First placed in the archives: May 2004