As we work with young people, we find that there are distinct ways of approaching youth work. Here, I share four such lenses that I have come across.
While they may be similar or even overlapping, this currently is my seeing of these different approaches. I hope to use this piece to clarify these approaches. I also hope to share these without significant bias.
A. Youth in alternatives
This approach looks at young people in the social space, particularly in the space of alternatives. Here, we look at how young people are engaging in walking out and energizing alternatives to the mainstream. We work with them to develop their capacity and enable sharing of ideas between them.
I see Vikalp Sangam as pre-domiantly being a space for such an exchange, and hence one aspect of youth vikalp sangam being about sharing across alternatives. The primary methodology in this case would be dialogue.
B. Bringing a youth development lens to alternative and social work (as well as society)
This approach is distinguished as being youth development (rather than youth in development). Here, we look at co-led spaces that enrich young people and bringing in a youth lens to the society in different spheres.
Here we work on building capacity among young people to take charge of their own lives and create spaces where they can discover themselves. This approach is exemplified by the work of Pravah-CYC and the 5th space. The primary methodology here would be through workshops, campaigns and events organized by young people
C. Youth as a part of community
Looking at the limitations of carving out a seperate constitutency called ‘youth’ and the treating them as if they are disemowered or marginalized takes away from the fact that they are a part of a community, and that in reality what we are trying to do is bring in various types of wisdom into organizing.
In this space this, we look at inter-generational learning, doing and being which involves everyone and depending on the context and situation allows leadership to flow and move. This space would be close to LSUC where there are young people as a part of a larger community that is constantly in negotiation and co-creation.
D. Radically empowering youth
Presence of (chronologically) older people can subtly influence young people to act in certain fixed ways. While there is wisdom in having older people, there is also more likelihood of walking the same paths that they always have.
Hence, the way to truly see what youth would do when they are empowered is to radically empower them, by moving away from the decision making table. Instead we allow the youth to decide when they want to draw out the wisdom of other generations and trust their wisdom to decide.
In such an approach then, the methodology is through events and organizations that are youth run (allowing them to make mistakes first hand and learn from them). An attempt like 2069? The youth fest clearly intends to create such a space.
The actual actioning of youth work on the ground involves different degrees of each of these lenses. Each of them bring important perspectives forward and eventually, they can not only co-exist but support each other in service of empowered youth.