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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

An Everyday Journey: discovering the meaning and value in youth work

A research project of the Department of Sociology.


Over the past five years, there has been a sharp rise in the demand of government funders and other funding bodies for measured evidence of the performance of youth work service providers. Youth work provides a particular challenge when it comes to measuring performance. There is continuing debate over then specific attributes of youth work as a profession. Judgment of its quality and its impact on young people and communities is often undertaken in terms which do not relate to the priorities highlighted in the dialogue between young people and youth workers.

Whilst quantitative measures are indicative of the impact of youth work in terms of specified foci and concrete outcomes, they do not capture the total value of developmental, social and informal educational approaches in the youth work intervention. Most youth workers would claim that the most important aspect of their work is the process of informal engagement with individual young people and groups. This is responsive to young people, involves them in a journey of personal and social understanding travelled in their own terms, on their own route and in their own time.

This research will attempt to develop a model of evaluation of youth work which is sensitive to the fact that youth work is relational and developmental considering the processes of dialogue and the narratives of practice as told by both workers and young people.


The overall aim of the research is:

To assess the manner in which the informal processes of youth work contribute to the journey of some young people towards social inclusion; to contribute towards the creation of more comprehensive methods of evaluation and assessment which are relevant to the value of youth work as understood by young people and youth work practitioners.

The objectives of the research are:

1.To focus upon the 'everyday' in youth work in order to provide a more complete picture of practice;
2.To locate aspects of dialogue and narratives of engagement and organisational experience which reveal meanings and values as expressed by and negotiated between young people and youth workers;
3. To interpret the dialogue and narrative in terms of issues of social exclusion and inclusion;
4. To influence the processes of social and organisational policy-making relating to youth work;
5. To contribute to the reflective practice of youth workers and to the developmental processes of the young people involved in the research.


The intention is that the research would focus upon everyday communication within a range of different types of youth projects in order to attempt to draw out common themes and concerns.

1. Focus Groups: 4 Projects Groups of young people and groups of workers to engage in discussion to identify some key themes and issues
2. Participant Observation (Structured and unstructured) : 15 projects.
3. Textual analysis.




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