An organisational review means your youth organisation should undertake a planning process when adopting an intercultural approach to youth work. This involves collecting information on the demographics of the local area, such as the cultural and ethnic groups living in your local community. Your membership form should include details on the ethnic background of the young people attending to facilitate planning. Your youth organisation, staff and volunteers should aim to reflect the cultural diversity of the community. Research could also include information on languages spoken, culture, religious background, minority ethnic groups, churches, schools and so on. It is useful to map other services in the area, and identify any gaps to avoid duplication. The organisational review should also include an honest evaluation of both the capacity of the organisation to meet the different needs of young people in the area, as well as the willingness of staff to adopt the new approach.
Organisational Review in detail…
The primary concern for youth work is the education of young people in non-formal settings and meeting the self-esteem, physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental and sexual health needs of young people. When targeting a young person from a minority ethnic background, it is important to look at their needs as a ‘young person’ first, and as a young person from a minority ethnic background second. It is important to keep in mind the ethos of the organisation, and remain consistent in the type of service you run and what you offer to young people attending. When deciding to actively target young people from minority ethnic backgrounds, your organisation should review your mission statement and guiding principles, as well as any other policies and procedures which would affect intercultural youth work in your organisations. For instance, Bishopstown Youth Project (Ógra Chorcaí) was already working with young people, many of whom were at risk or marginalised. Working with young Travellers who were also at risk in similar circumstances was a natural progression.
“My own attitude, like everyone else out here, was these are young people, they have the same needs - yes a different culture but they have the same needs - as any other young person in the area. I would have been familiar with Travellers but I wouldn’t have said I had any cultural awareness, training or anything. You’re always going to be fearful, is there going to be issues – of staff accepting the Travellers, of young people mixing together…. These were fleeting thoughts but these are thoughts you have with any new young person who joins the youth group”.
(Bishopstown youth worker)
Many youth organisationshave a defined target group and specific programmes designed to target young people at risk. However young people can be “at risk” in different ways and therefore you have to be clear on who they are targeting, why, and how they respond to the needs of those young people. In Ireland, the life situation or characteristics that render a young person at risk include involvement in criminal behaviour; being “in care”; poverty and/or poor quality housing; family difficulties or abuse; academic difficulties and/or a bad experience of school; and homelessness, among others. Young people from a minority ethnic background may be at risk of the above, and in need of similar supports to other young people you work with. However, young people from a minority ethnic background may be at risk from other factors related to the reasons why they and/or their family originally came to Ireland, such as uncertainty about their future; isolation; confusion over their identity; suffering from stress/trauma; vulnerable to exploitation; and so on. It is also important that you meet the needs of the individual, and not just a ‘group’. Can your organisationmeet the needs of young people at risk in those circumstances? Due to the increased ethnic diversity in Castlebar, the Foróige Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP) identified young asylum seekers and refugees as a new group of young people at risk and they developed intercultural groups that focused on increasing the social networks of newcomers to Castlebar as well as discussing and facilitating sessions on culture and identity.
“Our target group was separated children but we had a huge number of foreign exchange students coming and we had to take a step back and ask ourselves – should we be working with this group? We discussed it and decided that they also had a need as they were starved of things to do and they were a very positive influence on the group but also we wanted Ninos to be a place that wasn’t labelled as being just for one group”.
(YMCA youth worker)
Many young people from a minority ethnic background are not ‘at risk’but youth organisations can be a fantastic opportunity for settling into a new community, offering recreational activities, such as issue-based programmes (for example justice, social awareness, development education); personal welfare and wellbeing; support in education and improving English; intercultural and international activities and exchanges such as the youth exchanges organised by VSI (Voluntary Service International) Teenage Programme. If your organisationdoes not offer what the young person is looking for, you should refer them on to another relevant youth organisation. (See Step 7 Activities; Step 8 Networking)
“Over time we realised that we offer a particular service and some of the young people getting involved were getting involved because it involved something, an activity, but they weren’t necessarily that motivated about the activity itself”…. “We’re still a very particular type of organisation. We’re not about art or GAA so we don’t want to stretch ourselves too far outside our own ethos and aims and goals and activities”…”We realised probably the ideal way to go is to actually start putting other organisations in contact through partnership projects. It’s proven quite successful with ECO-UNESCO our partner organisation in the Easter project”. “We realised that just because they’re from the ‘target group’ and they’re marginalised doesn’t mean they have to join our activity.”
(VSI Teenage Programme Coordinator)
It is important to adhere to the mission of the youth organisation, and remain consistent in the type of service you run and what you offer to young people attending. VSI has found it important to reconcile the interests of the young people – such as sport - and the organisational ethos of VSI which focuses on volunteering and non-formal education on peace, environment, community and conflict resolution. VSI discovered that while the first separated children they worked with were interested in carrying out voluntary work, as more and more joined through ‘word of mouth’, there were different expectations of what activities could be done. VSI is now investigating options for how young people could move on to other relevant youth clubs and organisations, if they wish, and is looking at the possibility of doing this through a peer education system (which would empower the young people as well). In the case of YMCA Cork, the staff conceived a specific project for immigrant youth but it fit in with the YMCA ethos and practice – especially in light of their educational programmes.
Your organisation may have an ‘open door’ policy, but does that mean that young people from a minority ethnic background know about or access your organisation? An ‘open door’ policy is often simply not enough. Many young people and their parents will not be familiar with the concept of youth work. They may not know about local youth organisationsor where they can be accessed and by whom. In addition, they may not know if they are ‘safe’ places for their children to attend. Outreach is crucial for reaching young people from minority ethnic families. For the Localise project, the staff didn’t wait for migrant communities to join Localise, but went to meet them directly. YMCA in Cork had already been working on an outreach basis in a Direct Provision Centre in Cork to deliver health programmes. Having seen the lack of services for young people in the Direct Provision Centre, YMCA focused on working with this group. Eventually, YMCA understood the needs of immigrants in Cork and the gap in services for the under-18s. From the outreach work, YMCA had also learnt that many immigrants wanted skills-based courses such as computer and language classes rather than a purely recreational group.
“For the first 3-4 months I made a point of being active where young people were taking part in things in neighbouring areas; music, rap, footballs, computers. So basically showing my face around, speaking with them, asking them what their interests were. I built up a registry. And we also did focus groups locally with the young people in Tyrrelstown to see what their needs were”.
(Tyrrelstown youth worker)
Generally, youth organisationsrespond to the needs of the local community. In the experience of Localise, the local communities where they work are now very diverse in Ireland, so it’s important to meet the needs of all. Some youth groups are set up specifically due to the demographic make-up of the local area, including Tyrrelstown Youth Initiative, which was set up in an area which is very culturally diverse. It is important to collect data on the minority ethnic communities represented in your catchment area, as well as languages spoken. The youth worker in Tyrrelstown spent the initial few months creating a registry of young people in the area. When developing good practice in your organisation, NYCI would also recommend that an ethnic identifier is included on all registration forms, including information such as nationality, ethnicity, place of birth, family background, native language(s). For instance, it is good practice to ask the nationality or ethnic group of the young person, and that of their parent(s)/guardian(s)/primary caregiver(s), in order to plan adequately. Young people over the age of 11 should answer for themselves. For those younger than 11, parent(s), guardian(s) or primary caregiver(s) should be consulted on the nationality/ethnic background of the young person. This can be done on the registration form or in an interview for members. It can also be a good way to begin the needs assessment of the young person.
It is important to liaise with other agencies working in your local area, or with your target group. Make sure to fill gaps in services identified and not duplicate the work of others.
The aim of many of the youth work activities is integration, but it is often not stated as such.The Localise Programme focuses on integration through their programme of ‘Caring in the Community’ whereby they address needs of the local community and do something which will benefit the local community. Their approach is a fundamental education process called ‘Community Service Learning’. The basis is that people of all communities look to the local community and do projects for that local - predominantly Irish - community. This has been very useful for integration in terms of doing something positive. Similarly, the youth worker in Tyrrelstown Youth Initiative never told the young people that the aim of that project was ‘integration’.
You may also need to review organisational policies in your workplace. Do you have an Equality or Intercultural Policy? Are there regulations on racist language or bullying? It is important to discuss issues which may arise, among staff, for instance when can young people speak their native language? Will you provide gender-specific activities? How do you identify and tackle racism? (See Step 6 Group Contract; Step 9 Policy Development)
Additional Resources/Training on Organisational Review:
- NYCI ‘Access All Areas’ Diversity Toolkit for the youth sector http://www.youth.ie/youth_work/resources_for_youth_workers/access_all_areas_diversity_toolkit
- CSO - for breakdown by town (with a population over 5,000 inhabitants) go to http://beyond2020.cso.ie/Census/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=109363
- Department of Education and Science can provide information on the nationality of students attending local schools
How would you rate? /How is your organisation doing?
service? YES NO
service (e.g. NYCI ‘Access all Areas’ Diversity Toolkit checklists)? YES NO
as needed? YES NO
- Castlebar Neighbourhood Youth Project ‘Talking Heads’ project , Foróigehttp://www.foroige.ie/index.cfm?fuseaction=Neighbourhood_Youth_Projects&content_id=22
- Localise, Multicultural School www.localise.ie
- No. 4 Drop-in centre, Galway Diocesan Youth Service (GDYS) http://www.gdys.org/index.php?page=tagaste-house
- Ógra Chorcaí, Bishopstown Youth Project; contactable through this forum: http://homepage.eircom.net/~clvyc/home.html
- Tyrrelstown Youth Initiative, Foróige http://www.foroige.ie/index.cfm?fuseaction=Local_Youth_Services&content_id=16
- VSI (Voluntary Service International), Dublin, Teenage Programme http://www.vsi.ie/volunteer/teenage.html
- Youth Work Ireland, Galway, SPARK (Support Project for Asylum Seeker and Refugee Kids) http://www.youthworkgalway.ie/projects.php?project=24
- YMCA Cork, Ninos Club http://www.ymcacork.org/index.htm
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