Ipyet/Introduction to Youth Development Practice

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Module 1.1: Introduction to Youth Development Practice

A discussion paper by
Andrew Tandeo

Welcome to module 1.1! This exciting and interesting module offers you an excellent opportunity to prepare as youth development practitioners before engaging with young people, particularly entrepreneurship development interventions. We get to define youth at three levels- age, ability, and status and behaviour. Once we define youth, we dare ourselves to examine their rights and how they are linked to the idea of decent work. Youth development practice is all about building a trusting relationship with young people. Again, it allows us to ask ourselves what the best principles of practice are and invites us to reflect on what is “OK” in this relationship. We will end our session with exploring power and influence as the most useful resources in unlocking their potential as successful entrepreneurs’ and contributors to national economy.

Course Outline:

The course is divided into five sections and is delivered over a period of three days.

  • Definition and dynamism of young people
  • Rights of young people
  • Decent work
  • Code of Ethics and Conduct
  • Young People Power and Influence

Aim of the course:

To Introduce the Fundamentals of Youth Development Practice to Participants.

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At the end of this session, you should be able to:
  • define “youth” and explain the dynamics of young people
  • explain the rights of young people, especially to decent work
  • explain the best principles of practice and conduct in youth development practice and
  • understand young people’s power and influence.

Day One: Definition and Dynamism of Young People

Definition of Youth

Welcome to Day one, we will discuss the definition of youth and look at their dynamism. To start with I invite you to define youth in your own words and briefly write on their dynamism.

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I am sure most of you defined youth by age, ability, is able for example, if a youth is able to perform tasks for adults he or her is deemed to be an adult especially in the rural context and status and behaviour. We all know that in this course we come from different countries with different definition of youth by age. For example, in Tanzania a youth is defined as 15-35 years , Zambia 18-35 years, Namibia 15- 35 years, to mention a few. Just as countries differ in defining youth by age, so do organizations. For instance, Commonwealth Youth Programme defines youth as 15-29 years, United Nations 15-24 years and African Union 15-35 years. This suggests that there is no universally agreed definition of youth.

What have you observed from our discussions?

  • Across countries, a youth is defined by age
  • Definition of youth differs from place to place
  • Different organizations define youth differently

Take time to think through why youth is mostly defined by age. What are possible reasons? Some of the possible reasons you could have come up with may include:

  • Statistical use
  • For Planning purposes
  • Delivering youth specific developmental programs/project

However, youth can also be defined by functional (ability) and socially constructed ideas (status and behaviour). A case study below demonstrates this.

What can you learn from the case study above?
One of the things you notice is that though age is the commonly used criteria of defining youth, there are functional definitions that classify youth in terms of ability to perform certain tasks reserved for adults rather than age. On the other hand, youth can be defined socially with the notion that youth has nothing to do with age or ability than status and behaviour.

Dynamism of Young People

We have successfully dealt with the definition of youth. Let us now shift our attention to the dynamism of the young people we will be working with. Let us start by asking ourselves a question. Are young people the same? The possible answer could be NO. Let us introduce two concepts here, homogeneous and heterogeneous.

  • Homogeneous: as you work with young people remember that they have similar traits. i.e., energetic, vibrant, etc.
  • Heterogeneous: as you work with young people, be aware of their heterogeneous nature. Let us look at some of the things to illustrate the heterogeneous nature of young people:
    • some come from well to do families, others do not;
    • some are in school, others are not;
    • some have children of their own, others do not;
    • some face the difficulties of living with HIV and AIDS or caring for people who are infected;
    • some have formal businesses, others do businesses in the streets and still others do not do business at all.

This heterogeneous nature of young people requires you to have some basic skills and knowledge in the following areas:

  • Empathy- ability to put yourself in the shoes of young people to better understand them and effectively work with them on entrepreneurship activities;
  • Communication- ability to clearly communicate the principles of fairness, equality, participation regardless of socio-economic status, religion, race or colour, gender, HIV status, and political affiliation;
  • Conflict management- ability to manage diversity, aware of possible potential for conflicts and handling conflicts when they arise both at personal and group level.

Key Lessons to Carry Home
Under this session we have learnt the following:

  • There is no universally agreed definition of youth;
  • Age is a common criteria of defining youth and that the definition of youth differ from place to place, and organization to organization;
  • Age criteria is useful in national statistics, planning and delivering youth development programmes;
  • In other settings especially rural areas youth is defined by their Functionality (ability) to assume adult roles, as well as by socially constructed (status and behaviour) in society
  • Young people are not necessarily homogeneous (Same) but heterogeneous ( Different)
  • Certain Skills are necessary to manage young people’s heterogeneous nature - empathy, communication and conflict management.

Day Two: Young Peoples’ Rights and Decent Work

Welcome to day two of our training! Today we shift our focus to young peoples’ rights and decent work. Under this section, we will discuss rights as they relate to young people and employment/livelihoods.

Discussion: Before we engage in our discussion take time to define rights and decent work in your own words and bring your definition to discussions. Young people’s rights are Human rights that we all share; they are about recognising the value and dignity of all young people. Let us explore the world’s agreed basic rights. Basic rights that people from around the world have agreed on are as follows:

  • the right to life
  • freedom from torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment
  • right to a fair trial
  • right to free speech
  • freedom of religion
  • right to health, education and an adequate standard of living.

What are two instruments that speak to young people’s rights? Take time to search for these documents and establish the difference. You probably found the following two documents:

  1. United Nations Convention on the right of the child (CRC); which was adopted in 1989. The Convention sets out, among other things, children's right to education, health care and economic opportunity; protection from abuse, neglect and sexual and economic exploitation; and
  2. African Youth Charter (AYC); which was adopted in 2006. States Parties of the African Union to the charter urged to recognise the rights, freedoms, and duties enshrined in the charter.

Note: The differences between the two documents are that:

  • CRC is basically based on the child’s welfare and protection;
  • AYC is based on youth development approach.

Let us now turn to the issue of decent work. By now you should have defined it and compared with the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) core definition of decent work. Let us look at how ILO defines decent work. According to ILO, decent work is: “opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity”.

Now that we have got our own definition and core definition of decent work, we can identify Four Pillars of decent work, but the most important to you is Employment Creation and Enterprise Development. The following are the pillars:

  • Employment Creation and Enterprise Development
  • Social Protection
  • Standards and Rights at Work
  • Governance and Social Dialogue

Key Lessons to Carry Home:

Under this section, we have learnt the following:

  • Young people’s rights are human rights that we all share, and that they are about recognising the value and dignity of all young people;
  • Basic Human Rights, are rights that people from around the world have agreed on and that we need to promote and uphold;
  • Two documents that promote young people’s rights are CRC and AYC, and the difference between the two documents are that, CRC is basically based on the child’s welfare and protection, while AYC is based on youth development approach;
  • Decent work is about opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity; and
  • Identified four pillars of decent work - Employment Creation and Enterprise Development, Social Protection, Standards and Rights at Work, and Governance and Social Dialogue. Your attention is specially called the Right to Employment Creation and Enterprise Development.

Day Three: Code of Ethics and Conduct, Young Peoples’ Power and Influence

Welcome to day three the last day of our training in module one. We will discuss the common approaches to youth development practice and explore the code of conduct that you will need to adhere to when working with young people.

Code of Ethics and Conduct

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Most of you may have already had the experience of working with young people. Not all of us may consider ourselves as Youth Development Practitioners or Youth Workers. We may not be aware of the best principles of practice in youth development. Principles are simply aspirations that we strive to achieve whenever we are working with young people, while the code of conduct is mandatory behaviour that is punishable if breached.

Let us first look at the practice. We shall focus on three common approaches to youth development as stated below:

  1. See ourselves as knowledgeable partners rather than mere experts in our work with young people; but see young people as resource and partners;
  2. We avoid control of access to information and control of people by specialist language (Jargon); instead we use the language that young people understand and identify with;
  3. Work co-operatively with other professionals and other agents rather than competing with them, to ensure the best outcomes of young peoples’ entrepreneurship activities.

Some of the values you ought to adhere to and defend when working with young people include:

  • Responsibility: it is your duty to take ownership for the decisions you make or fail to make, the actions you take or fail to take, and the consequences that result from your actions and/or inactions as you work with young people;
  • Respect: it is your duty to show a high regard for yourself, others, and the resources entrusted to you for the purpose of youth development interventions including towards youth entrepreneurship activities;
  • Fairness: it is your duty to make decisions and act impartially and objectively. Your conduct must be free from competing self-interest and prejudice as you deliver entrepreneurship training to young people;
  • Favouritism and Discrimination: you do not reward or punish, or award or deny opportunities based on personal considerations. This is critical in the training class as well as before and after the training.
  • Honesty: it is your duty to understand the truth and act in a truthful manner both in your communications and in your conduct.
  • Boundaries: This means that your relationship is a professional relationship, intentionally limited to protect and advance young peoples’ interest. We do not give gifts to youth or receive gifts from them, we do not give our personal numbers or home addresses to youth, and we do not get youth’s personal numbers or home addresses; .we do not engage in sexual relationships or abuse, we do not hang out with young people after work hours in bars or night clubs, and we do not align ourselves to a particular political party during our interaction with young people.

Furthermore, Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) has identified three principles that are central to the practice of all youth development work. These principles ensure that, as a Youth Worker, your actions are:

  • Enabling
  • Ensuring and
  • Empowering

You need to apply the above principles to the young people you work with.

(Comment.gif: You can read more on this principle on the Commonwealth Website; in Module 3 of the Commonwealth Diploma in Youth Work: Principles and Practice of Youth Development.)

As we wind-up today’s training, let us quickly think of some of the attributes that make young people powerful and influential. Some of the attributes you came up with may include the following:

  • Dynamic character, they easily adapt and move with the changes;
  • Creativeness, they have the ability to be creative and this is a good resource for taping in entrepreneurship activities;
  • Readiness, they are always ready to engage on meaningful activities that enhance their lives, and this is an opportunity to engage them in entrepreneurship activities; and
  • Energetic, they are full of energy that can be channelled into productive activities such as entrepreneurship.

This means that young people are active and they could be easily engaged in productive activities such as economic, political, social, cultural and technological.

Key Lessons to Carry Home

As we conclude our training, under this section we can pin-down some of the key points to carry home. The following are the points worthy to note and carry home: • The best principles of practice in youth development; Youth Workers are partners and not experts, we use language that young people understand and identify with, we work with other professionals in empowering young people; • Values you ought to adhere to and defend when working with young people- responsibility, respect, fairness, non-favouritism and non discrimination, honesty, and boundaries; and • Young peoples’ power and influence- dynamic character, creativity, readiness, and energy.

I hope you have enjoyed the training and hope to see you in Zambia in April!