Working with young people: Roles and responsibilities
Working with young people: Roles and responsibilities

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Working with young people: Roles and responsibilities

1.4 Characters: the Catalyst, the Mentor and the Advocate

1.4.1 The Catalyst

Description: A catalyst is something which changes the speed of a reaction. Those who work with young people often need to act at the interface between the young person and the opportunities that are available for their personal and social development. In simpler terms, we can say that the worker as catalyst ‘makes things happen’, providing stimulus, challenges and opportunities.

Issues: Acting as a catalyst can involve taking risks. One worker in an inner city youth club decided to organise an event to which none of the young men would be allowed entry if they weren't wearing a tie. Some would view this as inappropriate, demonstrating how out of touch the worker was with youth culture. However, it did produce all manner of reactions and conversations among the young people. The event was very well attended and was talked about years afterwards.

Being a ‘catalyst’ implies a relationship of power which can be viewed as positive or negative, depending on the outcome of the intervention, and who is doing the judging. So extending young people's experience can be interpreted as ‘workers deciding what is good for young people’, but it can also be seen as ‘opening doors’. On the clips from The Factory project, notice how the workers extend the experiences of the young people they meet through their street project.

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19 year old Kawsar has been involved with The Factory since his mid-teens.

KAWSAR
[00.04] They give us opportunities to do things that we don’t get to do usually. Um, um, when we were younger we didn’t have much money or anything and we never used to organise things and whenever we used to do anything it would just be dossing round the streets or playing football but when they came along they were giving us ideas, do you want to do this, go out for a day, go ice skating, go Laser Quest and do all sorts and that to us it was like, whoa, we don’t usually get to do this so come on let’s go. So it gives you opportunities and on top they do all these workshops and um they make you learn things, they give you advice on things when you aint got a clue what to do they’re there for you, so it is someone to go to when you, when you need anything basically.
ANDREW
[00.49] But not ‘til you seen everything is alright. You should sign the back of them. Sign the back. His experience with The Factory may have helped him gain his place at University.
KAWSAR
[00.53] It’s made me develop my communications skills, help me be, become a more confident kind of person and see wiseness, see what’s actually good for me and you know not to bother with all the dossing around and all that. Its helped me come to because I’d thought about it and they gave me advice on it so all in all I think it has helped me become a better person kind of thing because I was a bit of a – when I was younger I wasn’t all understanding
ANDREW
[01.19] I could pass myself off as you. You do get a lot of freebies as students
MEMBER
Yeah, yeah right…you don’t look like me man…
ANDREW
..I’m not good looking He thinks youth workers need particular skills to make a project like The Factory work well
KAWSAR
[01.28] They need patience for a start, they need to be chilled out, relaxed, you know, take things easy, not take a lot of the things personally because a lot of the kids they like to mess around, they like to you know, take the mickey now and again, you know they like to pick on you and all sorts they’ve got to take it basically. They need to be more confident, yeah, very confident and relaxed basically and they shouldn’t show that oh yeah I’m like someone bigger than you or anything, they should just be on our level, yeah, be able to come down on our level and talk to us basically. He has an excellent relationship with Andrew, the project leader.
KAWSAR
[02.06] Andrew is different from a lot of older people because he knows how we are and right he understands like culture wise and all sorts. So, and, he is not there telling oh do this and do that. And he is always giving us opportunities and giving us advice and when you take it, it’s like, it makes you realise oh this guy is giving you good advice, and this and that, and you get to like him. He's a good guy. Kawsar’s involvement in the project has taken him to places he’d never thought of visiting.
KAWSAR
[02.32] We went to Wales, we went to the Black Mountains, and the Brecon Beacons in Wales and we did loads of activities. We did gorge walking, abseiling, climbing, raft building – all sorts and it was all very good because you learn to, you know, because we all went as friends but basically there were a few people in the group that I didn’t know so it was good for us, giving us team building skills, and you know, we got to talk to each other and how to work things out. A lot of the activities we had to do, we had to work in a group and you know learn and talk to each other without the other group hearing and you know had to do a lot of discussions and things like that so it was good to, you know, to learn more from each other. Some of The Factory’s major achievements arose from their input to Vox Pop, a youth forum with the local council.
KAWSAR
[03.18] Basically when we first went to the Vox Pop we were just told it was some meeting and it’s going to be real big but we just thought it was going to be something um, that, yeah they always say the politicians always say one thing but they never listen to us but when we went um it was quite a huge impact. We are there saying our teachers in our school don’t do anything when people are racist, we haven’t got a youth group and we don’t get any this and we don’t got a youth group and all sorts and basically when they heard things like that it is more more serious basically and the county council leader, he was straight on the case straight away and the college we used to go to, they used to, there was a bit of a problem there. He sorted that out. They also won funding for a dedicated youth centre close to the site of the factory where the project first started
KAWSAR
[04.05] What they’ve decided to do is Moira Centre, the place where they normally hire out so we can chill out and have meetings there for this and that, they’ve decided to build an extension on the side and they’ve given us £100,000 to do so, so and basically we’ve more towards, targeted towards us, so it will be open when the Moira Centre’s closed so we’d be able to go there and chill out and it would be more suited, targeted towards our youth group, so yeah, it’s all good (smile).
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Paul is a one of several non-Bengalis who have become regular members of the Factory Project.

PAUL
[00.05] It’s kept me out of trouble, a lot of trouble. It gives me something to do and if you’ve got nothing to do it ends up in trouble, doesn’t it, usually?
PAUL
[00.15] They don’t just look at you and think you’re a yob on the street and just brush you away sort of thing. He’s changed a lot since his early teens.
PAUL
[00.24] I was a handful at that age, um always getting into trouble, not bothered about anything or anyone and now I’ve grown up and got to get on with it sort of thing.
ANDREW
[00.39] Are you going to do it all proper then?
PAUL
Yeah, I passed my theory….I’ve got the provisional…. Andrew has played an important part in helping Paul’s development as he moves into adulthood.
PAUL
[00.45] Coming here and seeing Andrew has put me on the rails sort of thing, getting me to do certain things and doing different trips and tasks and sort of guidance in the long run isn’t it.
ANDREW
[00.58] Two-thirty. Can you go to Mountfields? Paul values the guidance Andrew gives.
PAUL
[01.02] You can communicate with him, he listens to you no matter what your problem is. He’s always been there for me in the years I’ve known him when I’ve needed him and other people, family haven’t and he has.
ANDREW
[01.13] Do you want to go back to the summer camping thing?
MEMBER
Yeah, that was good man. Cor, can we do that man? ‘Cos that was good man…we saw the pictures Andrew’s inclusive approach is important to Paul.
PAUL
[01.18] He works well with different mixture groups, doesn’t matter,skin colour. Obviously to some people it does. He doesn’t say oh he’s better than him or he’s better than him, everybody is just the same to Andrew. Unlike many other adults, Andrew has won Paul’s trust
PAUL
[01.35] It’s nice to feel he’s got the time for you, and to give you that little extra push ‘cos no-body else does.
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