Some readers of this blog will know that I penned the Open Letter, which initiated the Defence of Youth Work campaign in early 2009. For a decade I coordinated the campaign and maintained its website. It took up a big chunk of my life but I was privileged that it did so. By a twist of fate, I had the time and space to do so. I stepped down from my leading role in 2019 but no one was able to fill the gap. No one had the time and space. I cannot escape from the fact that my withdrawal in part sapped the energy and slowed the momentum of the campaign. As it was the restrictions on social existence imposed in the name of COVID brought things almost to a standstill. Thus on Friday, October 7 the Steering Group agreed to bring IDYW’s life to a close. Below is the Steering Group’s statement, first published on the IDYW website. More thoughts to follow.
IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK CLOSES ITS BOOKS IN SADNESS BUT WITH MUCH PRIDE
In Defence of Youth Work as a campaign and critical forum is no more. At an Open Steering Group meeting held in Manchester on Friday, October 7th, amidst smiles, frowns and tears, it was agreed that IDYW had run its course, having lost its impetus and energy. In exploring why this was so and where we were up to, it became plain we had much of which to be proud. The evidence for this assertion is to be found on this website with its 1500+ posts recording our collective activity since our appearance in early 2009. We are committed to preserving the website as a historical archive and as a testament to the impact of our small ‘unauthorised’ and independent group, ‘punching above its weight’, upon the national and indeed international youth work scene.
Whilst IDYW will cease to be an organised presence in the youth work arena, it is vital to recognise that its existence was always of its time. It was no more and no less than a particular expression over the last thirteen years of a centuries-old struggle for a truly democratic and ‘popular’ education. Without questioning, democratically inclined citizens, young and old, there can be no democracy. In this context, the humanist philosophy and practice of a secular and religious disposition that inspired IDYW’s resistance to the behavioural and instrumental neoliberal agenda remain a universal treasury of hope. The ideas live on. In the face of an increasingly technocratic and authoritarian capitalism, we hope that our endeavour will be taken up afresh and reimagined by a new wave of workers and activists. We hope too that the archive of our efforts will provide a moment or two of inspiration.
For now, we will take a deep breath, tinged with sadness, bursting with pride. In the coming months, from time to time, we will highlight anew memories worth remembering. Tony Taylor at email@example.com has agreed to be a Keeper of the Records, to use an old-fashioned title, and will welcome approaches from students, academics, researchers and practitioners seeking to explore our ‘books’.
A Pragmatic Postscript
Over the years our Facebook page has taken on a life of its own. At this moment it boasts 6,800 members. It has become the go-to place for sharing information and ideas about youth work in general. In many ways, the page has lost touch with its original purpose of encouraging debate focused on IDYW’s cornerstones. Nevertheless, it is clearly an important resource and a marketplace for youth workers and projects. Respecting this our moderators will continue to keep watch on its contents and are considering ways of perhaps filtering the daily waterfall of varied material.
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES LA LUTTA CONTINUA Ο Αγώνας Συνεχίζεται