An international perspective


According to Canadian academic, Professor Shirley R Steinberg PhD, Scotland is a great model for youth work in practice and the empowerment of young people. Shirley is currently Director of the Institute for Youth and Community Research at the University of the West of Scotland.

My past year in Scotland has become one of amazement, not just for the hills, the lochs, my colleagues, and the culture, but for the commitment I have seen first hand to the empowerment and engagement with young people. Scotland leads in the way that young people are celebrated, included and respected, and the Expo was a packed day doing exactly that.

A country that sustains and supports its young people is a country destined to succeed and thrive. This is an easy concept to understand, but few nations believe in the urgency and importance in sustaining our youth. My day at the recent Youth Work Expo, organised by YouthLink Scotland and Education Scotland, gave me hope; it gave me power, and made me recommit myself to youth work. I have always been committed, but found myself working in countries where young people were discussed in terms of being: marginalised; at risk; a problem; a deficit; impossible to lead; lazy, and/or a challenge. The conferences and expos I have attended in the past focused on what they perceived as a societal breakdown, a threat, and a management issue, a need to control the youth population.

The strength and reach that YouthLink Scotland has achieved as the national agency for youth work is a sign that the Scottish people have indeed got it right. My own speech that day was centered on the notion of ‘Keepin’ it Real’, a phrase borrowed from the international hip hop culture of youth. It demands that we do not work on youth, we do not research youth, and we do not try to change youth. Instead, we keep it real by working with, researching with, and facilitating youth. We do not judge nor determine what needs to be changed. We work with the evolution of a healthy youth population. We see young people as partners in our desire to create a sustainable and safe world, and that can only be done with and by our young people.

Through societal and cultural arrogance most societies indulge in the notion that adults, by definition, are correct, including the wielding of power and decision-making. However, there is seldom a dialogue as to how to create a partnership with those who will take up the next generation. The youth work sector in Scotland is serious in creating those much needed conversations and spaces in which to include young people in society and the decisions that affect them. Good youth work is not about a need to maintain an often failing status quo, but to demand that our young people are nurtured, believed in, and supported to become good citizens and our next leaders, which in turn will take us to a more humane and socially just world.

Shirley Steinberg’s article is taken from the latest The Link, the youth work sector’s magazine, you can read the full magazine here:



Creativity of purpose


Launch of ScotlandÕs Youth ArtÕs Strategy Time To Shine

Time To Shine. Strangetown Youth Theatre, Edinburgh Picture : Drew Farrell

Joan Parr, Head of Creative Learning at Creative Scotland, talks about the special synergy between the arts and youth work.

Joan Parr needs cropped

The value of youth work

Looking at the youth work outcomes and at what we want to achieve at Creative Scotland through ‘Time To Shine’, our youth art strategy for young people, there is real common purpose and shared approach. We all want to support and empower young people to be confident individuals, to have the opportunity to contribute and have their voice heard, to have fun and to be responsible citizens. We at Creative Scotland know that arts can effectively bring about these outcomes and that partnership with the youth work sector extends and adds value to what we do.

The benefits of youth work and the arts working together

In order to deliver high quality programmes that achieve the best outcomes for young people partnering with the youth work sector is crucial. Both youth workers and artists bring extensive skills and expertise to bear that can transform the lives of young people. Working together they can achieve more than they could separately. The value of professional collaboration is clear at every level, from looking at the similarities in desired outcomes in youth work strategic documents and youth arts strategic documents, to seeing the impact on young people taking part in youth arts activity. We are particularly pleased at the increase over the last few years in the levels of youth empowerment in decision-making.

Shared ambitions

The ambition of ‘Time To Shine’, our youth arts strategy, is that all young people in Scotland have access to high quality arts experiences and we believe very strongly that equality underpins all that we do. We want every young person in Scotland to have access to those opportunities and to have that enrichment in their lives. I think it’s that partnership between ourselves and the youth work sector, with our shared ambitions, that can really achieve that.

Case Studies

Artcore (Edinburgh) – have worked to develop a youth training initiative which builds on the ‘Out of the Blue Drill Hall’ cafe training model. 16 young people will undertake training and work experience integrated into #artcore programmes. The project is aimed at the most excluded groups who face the most barriers to involvement in the arts, and capitalises on the work of the #artcore project partners throughout the city, specifically with the Thistle Foundation who work with people with disabilities to support their independence. The first Thistle Foundation supported trainee started in March 2016. A bespoke training programme has been designed for the young person’s needs.

FreshCreations – this project offers free travel and workshops for all. They work closely with other youth organisations and services to target some of the hardest to reach/disengaged young people in West Dunbartonshire. They work in partnership with children’s units (Prep For Life) and alternative educational services (The Choices Programme), to work with young people at risk of antisocial behaviour or isolation. They are also using the ‘Y Sort It’ youth project bus to travel to smaller communities to deliver art workshops in more isolated communities.

T: 0330 333 2000 | W: | E: | Tw: @CreativeScots

Joan Parr’s article is taken from the latest The Link, the youth work sector’s magazine, you can read the full magazine here: