Are You for Real? Authenticity in Youth Work Practice

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Alan MACKIE, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Ian FYFE, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
The youth work sector in Scotland has become a diverse professional field with practitioners tasked increasingly to deliver key political and policy imperatives with outcomes gauged against pre-determined success criteria. Youth workers increasingly find themselves engaged in practice themes and discrete service delivery formerly the responsibility of other professionals. Progressively, practitioner boundaries are blurred and as such the changing demands on role and social purpose challenges their professional authenticity and the relationships they have with young people.

Over the past few years there has been a great deal of work exploring the notion of ‘authenticity’ in formal schooling with the role and practice of the teacher placed under critical scrutiny. It is our contention that the concept of authenticity is useful in helping explore the identity, practice and ethics of youth work in the current context. The interaction between adult practitioners and young people is commonly mediated by levels of trust, respect, sincerity and above all - authenticity. This relationship is built on notions of an informal learning partnership between the adult practitioners and participating young people. Such a partnership is often marked by an underlying commitment to enabling young people to take more control of their lives through learning critically about the issues and challenges they face. In the current practice context characterised by increasing emphasis on measurement of predetermined outcomes and targeted provision can practitioners still remain authentic?

Through a comprehensive literature review we have developed a four dimensional theory of authenticity for youth work practice. We interviewed seven practitioners about the work they currently undertake with young people and analysed their responses through our model – asking the question, 'to what extent are youth work practitioners encouraged to be/able to be authentic?'