Youth Work Ireland works to develop the potential of young people and to strengthen communities in Ireland through quality youth services. Young people are at the heart of the organisation and are supported with excellent standards in volunteers, leaders, staff and services.
This Strategic Plan provides a planning framework for our entire federal organisation to ensure all young people can have access to a youth service. A process of alignment of our member’s strategic plans in terms of timing and content has already begun and will continue throughout the lifetime of this plan.
In 2014 we engaged in an extensive consultation process meeting with all our local boards, our Youth Action Group, key external and internal stakeholders such as other NGOs, Government Departments and State Agencies. The process was overseen by a steering group comprising representatives of the key stakeholders in the organisation. Over the course of this plan the importance of the outcomes in the Better Outcomes Brighter Futures Framework was apparent. The new National Youth Strategy has its basis in this Framework and reaffirms the five national outcomes for young people. Youth Work Ireland currently delivers under each of these outcomes and seeks to describe its work under in these areas.
1. Strengthen our Integrated Youth Services Model
Integrated Youth Services are the central platform for how we deliver local youth services run by local communities in a seamless and efficient fashion consistent with the new policy framework – Better Outcomes Brighter Futures. Strengthening the model, is then a key aim of our work. The Model is supported by the national organisation and horizontally by exchange between our members. We ensure all our work in this area is guided by principles of youth work and informal learning. We will similarly focus on the best outcomes for young people prioritised in the new National Youth Strategy.
2. Improving and Sharing our Youth Work Practice
Practice is how we primarily deal directly with young people through our network of workers and volunteers. Our practice is increasingly based on high levels of professional qualifications, expectations of quality and proven impact. The values we have set out in this plan are of course brought to bear in all this work. Similarly, we see the strengths and assets of young people and seek to work with them in a rights based fashion. Numerous reports, cited in the introduction to this document, underline the effectiveness of youth work interventions and the evidence for the impact of these. Core to this work in the future will be continuing to develop our evidence base alongside the development of agreed national outcomes with funders.
3. Youth Participation
We have an ambitious agenda in relation to youth participation which not only seeks to involve young people in making decisions within our organisation, but which works towards young people participating more fully in decisions in their own lives, in our practice, their communities and in Irish society and beyond. We are guided by Article 12 of the UNCRC in all our work in this area.
4. Speaking Up for Young People & Youth Services
Our aim is to advocate with and for young people and their rights – we will provide a greater role for unmediated voices of young people. Youth Work Ireland has had a long and distinguished record of speaking out with and on behalf of young people and those who work with them. We believe that this view of our duty to advocate with and for young people and their rights distinguishes our model and approach to youth work. In more recent years we have promoted a greater role for unmediated voices of young people directly in our advocacy work. Our work in this area is informed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and best practice for those over 18. We recognize the different layers in our organisation and the need for advocacy work to reflect these and the work we do in our communities’ day in day out.
We will harness the local lessons and stories form our work on the ground and develop national policy messages form these. We will further utilize social media to illustrate and celebrate our work. We will gather the experiences of young people, volunteers, staff, families and communities and share these with the world around us.
5. Finances and Resources
Youth Work organisations along with many other groups have suffered inordinately from the economic collapse and Government cutbacks resulting from this. Youth Work Ireland recognizes the pressing necessity to secure and improve state funding to support the vital work we do in local communities and at the same time to build new income streams. Our funding from the state is also quite diverse with support coming from the DCYA, The Irish Youth Justice Service, The DSP, The Department of Education and local development organisations via The Department of the Environment and Local Government. As a not for profit we are constantly providing value for money. Such an ambition means changes in the organisation or articulating our work in a different way and a focus on new and different aspects of our work.
6. Acting Together for Great Impact
To deliver on an ambitious plan our structures and procedures must be up to the task. While valuing the huge strength of a federal structure which responds to local needs we also recognize the imperative of acting cohesively together in terms of national policies, the needs of funders and ensuring we are creative and innovative in our work. Greater cohesion and alignment within our federal structure, while respecting its value, will provide better outcomes for young people. There is a responsibility on all elements of the federation locally and nationally to act to achieve this. Our structure provides value for money and has allowed us to survive through some of the most difficult times.