Digital Youth Work:
A Practical, Non-Techie Guide

 

At the end of 2019, when I was reflecting on the year that was and planning for the year ahead, I never could have anticipated the drastic changes that COVID-19 would bring. Let alone anticipating such a drastic change happening in the space of time that it did. It is time for me to use the most cliche but apt word that sums up the current situation; unprecedented.

I have been a youth worker since 2008, and have been heavily involved with digital engagement of young people. In 2019, I thought it was great that there were small groups of people making leaps and bounds to online engagement of youth. I never could have guessed that nearly the entire sector would be online, even if only for a short period, within a matter of weeks.

This article digs into the why of online youth work, and the downloadable PDF guide gets into the nitty-gritty of what and how.

Together, they are my attempt to distill insights from my work in digital engagement, through the lens of youth work, into a practical, non-techie guide.

I have made this non-techie because for many, this time has such a steep learning curve and we need as many youth workers picking up new tools as possible, because there are young people who all of a sudden are isolated.

(Side-note: If you wanted a techie guide, feel free to get in touch in our Facebook group and we can talk chatbots, APIs & automation 😆)

Get the PDF Guide
online youth work

Getting clear on what you are trying to achieve

 

Before we get into the practical online tools for youth work (those are in the PDF Guide), I feel it is important to reiterate the most important part of that phrase; for youth work. Although the world has radically shifted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and though we need to learn new skills and master new tools, the core focus remains the same. 

As youth workers we are strengths-based practitioners, looking to build up protective factors in the lives of young people. 

We don't need to reinvent youth work. We are just doing it with a new vehicle.

Now, let's take a moment to consider the life of a young person. We'll call him Jimmy. 

 

Jimmy loves to play football. He is the goalie in the local team and loves the rush of jumping in the air as a ball flying towards him, even if it means that he thuds right down on the ground after. He gets on really well with his team mates. 

He doesn't like being at home very much, so when he isn't playing or training for football he hangs out at the local youth centre. He spends afternoons playing FIFA with other youth there and with the youth workers. They give him a big feed when he arrives, which is awesome, because there isn't always a full cupboard at home. "You are a part of the family Jimmy." The youth worker told him, "And everyone in a family needs to pitch in to clean up." Jimmy does feel like a part of the family at the youth centre, so he happily cleans up.

 

Jimmy is the reason why I am so concerned during the pandemic and the reason that I am taking the time to create this guide. Because as a youth worker when I hear a story like that I am trained to take mental notes of all of the protective factors in a young person's life. Lives for football, tick. Physical exercise, tick. Gets on well with his team mates, tick. Feels at home at the local youth centre, tick.

You get the picture.

As youth workers we know the power of protective factors. It is this strengths-based lens that guides our practice.

In a matter of days, hundreds of thousands of young people like Jimmy, millions even, have had those protective factors removed. The scales of risk and protective factors that was once tenderly balanced thrown right off. 

 

Get the PDF Guide

We don't need to reinvent youth work. We are just doing it with a new vehicle. That is why before you start picking up the tools, you need to get clear on what it is you are trying to achieve.

For me, there are three clear aims for online youth work during this time:

1. Maintain fun & engaging regular activities for young people as a protective factor for youth during lockdown

2. Maintain positive, therapeutic youth work connections with young people as a protective factor during lockdown

3. Provide positive, healthy spaces for peer-to-peer connection during lockdown

 

Three aims of online youth work during the COVID-19 pandemic

online youth work

1. Maintain fun & engaging regular activities for young people as a protective factor for youth during lockdown

online youth work

2. Maintain positive, therapeutic youth work connections with young people as a protective factor during lockdown

3. Provide positive, healthy spaces for peer-to-peer connection during lockdown

Get the PDF Guide

What is included in the PDF guide

 

  1. A detailed outline of 4 creative digital youth work ideas to draw inspiration from

  2. Access to the crowd-sourced Digital Youth Work Activities Database

  3. YouthWork.io's framework to creating a Comprehensive Digital Youth Work Activity Plan in 3 simple steps

  4. Activity Matrix Worksheet

  5. Youth Workers Quick-Guide to Zoom

  6. A detailed comparison of Zoom alternatives

 

By the end of this guide you will:

  1. Be clear on what you are trying to achieve with digital youth work during this time
  2. Have some inspiration about activities you could run
  3. A framework for organising your digital youth work activities
  4. Receive practical tips on tools for digital youth work

Get the PDF Guide
Digital Youth Work: A Practical, Non-Techie Guide

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