Tuesday, November 01, 2005

formalising the informal

This is something thats been bugging me for a while now. Formalising the informal. It can be really frustrating. Let me explain.....

There's a group of youth workers in Sheffield, of which I am one, who meet together every so often to pray, chat, share news, mainly chatting it seems. It's generally good, but every so often the question of what we're doing is raised. Why are we meeting? What are we trying to do? What is this going to achieve? Should it be a priority in my diary?

Every so often these times together are incredibly productive, people share something that's on their heart, people get to seek advice about issues that are real in their lives. But a fair amount of the time, to the outsider, and sometimes to those on the inside, it kinda looks like we're wasting time.

Now to be fair sometimes we do waste our time chatting about stuff, but I think it's important to just be together, to be in one another's company. These relationships that build up, create a safe space for us to share, to make ourselves vulnerable. I just don't think it would work if every session had an agenda, demanding set aims and objectives.

In one of these sessions (this afternoon as it happens) we were talking about certain elements of the statutory youth provision in Sheffield. This got us talking about the need to 'tick boxes', to count how many people we are working with in various contexts, etc etc - you get the picture. But for me this just isn't what youth work is about. Youth work should be to do with informal education, and I have to ask myself if this is really happening in its true sense of the term, when there are so many boxes to tick, so many generalised, non-context specific outcomes to be achieved.

I can't help but feel that formalising things that are meant to have a certain amount of informality to them, just doesn't work.

Now I know I'm rambling here, and I know I've made some generalisations. I also think that this rant could be condensed somewhat. But I do think that in this strive for efficiency (yeah I've read stuff about McDonaldization of society as well as of the Church), we lose the focus, we lose touch with reality, with the real people we are working alongside, with their real issues in their real lives.

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