Former Chief Executive of Scouts Scotland, Jim Duffy, on the benefits behind the National Youth Worker of the Year Awards.
“This is so unexpected. I’m lost for words. So, I’d just like to thank my mother, my father, my auntie Jemima, my two goldfish that helped me through a challenging childhood, inspiration provided by Paulo Freire, my best friend… etc., etc., etc., all of whom have contributed to my marvellous achievement in securing this prestigious award tonight…”
Thankfully, the YouthLink Scotland National Youth Worker of the Year Awards Ceremony doesn’t suffer from insincere over-the-top Oscar-type speeches by overwrought Award recipients. Coming up to their 10th year, these national awards are now very much part of the youth work sector landscape in Scotland. But apart from providing an excuse for a good night out and a very enjoyable social occasion for the sector, do these Awards serve any useful purpose? Do they matter? The answer to both questions, I believe, is a firm ‘yes’.
The stated aim of the awards is to “celebrate the outstanding commitment, service and impact that youth workers, managers and partners have on the lives of the young people of Scotland.” With awards for paid and volunteer staff, teamwork, leadership, innovation and youth work practice in a variety of settings, the Awards provide an opportunity to showcase the reach and diversity of youth work and the incredible work that is carried out to develop, support and deliver life-changing experiences for our young people.
Significant benefits can accrue to organisations that recognise and celebrate success, commitment and positive endeavour on the part of those who work on their behalf. Some have long established systems for recognising length and depth of service provided by their volunteers and professional staff. There are, however, many that do not and for that alone there is merit in having the Youth Worker of the Year Awards. For those who individuals and organisations nominated, and particularly for those lucky enough to secure Awards, the recognition and accolade is rightly merited and hugely appreciated.
But the impact of the Awards goes beyond the superficial ‘moment in the limelight’ at the ceremony itself, with these Awards serving to engage young people and workers in reflection through the nomination process; to engender a feeling of worth and value across a workforce; to motivate individuals and teams to strive for improvement in practice and outcomes; to encourage innovation and sharing.
I was delighted when Eleanor Lyall MBE, the then Scout Chief Commissioner of Scotland, received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, a fitting recognition of huge personal commitment to the development of young people and Scouting sustained over many years. However, the Award was also a very public recognition by the sector as a whole of the wider contribution of Scouting and its volunteers to youth work in Scotland. Internally it provided a welcome boost to morale and served to reinforce messaging around value and sector collaboration.
In recent years I recall Awards to individuals that have served to highlight fantastic personal journeys from youth participant to youth worker. To YouthLink Scotland’s credit, the Awards have not been set in stone. Over the years there has been the opportunity to celebrate different aspects of our work, from faith-based to intergenerational, climate change and the arts. More recently, the Youth Work Supporting Attainment Award serves to capture the vitally important contribution that our sector is making to address the attainment gap and to challenge us to do more to evidence impact.
In my current role with The Awards Network, I am privileged to help promote and foster recognition of the wider achievements of young people. The National Youth Worker of the Year Awards provides a vital vehicle for capturing and celebrating the work of many who make such achievements possible.
If you have a story of success that can inspire others, people you know who deserve wider recognition for the positive impact their work has on young people, or even simply a desire to raise brand profile, I would encourage you to spread the word about the YouthLink Scotland National Youth Worker of the Year Awards and get those nominations rolling in by the deadline of 17:00 on Monday 16 January 2017! Nominate at www.youthlinkscotland.org.
Jim Duffy is currently engaged in supporting the development of The Awards Network. He served as Chief Executive of Scouts Scotland from 1997 to 2015 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award and Fellowship of YouthLink Scotland Award in 2016.