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Partnerships and networks in work with young people
Partnerships and networks in work with young people

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3.3.2 Being clear about your role, purpose and professional identity

Howard Sercombe acknowledges that there are potential difficulties, including ethical dilemmas, presented by partnership working. Nevertheless, he argues that it is something that youth workers need to do:

We can’t provide all the knowledge, skill and resources that a young person needs, and even if we could, it wouldn’t be a good idea.

(Sercombe, 2010, p. 88)

Engaging in partnerships and interdisciplinary processes, he suggests, ‘takes some maturity, some diplomatic skill, courage to work in the face of sometimes unsympathetic environments’ (Sercombe, 2010, p. 89).

He also highlights the importance of being clear about your own role and professional identity as a basis for working collaboratively with others:

It works if you understand clearly who you are, and what your professional mandate is, and what other participants are, and what their professional mandate is. …

If you know who you are, are confident in what you have to contribute, and know who you are there for, then a lot of the ethical problems take care of themselves. Not that it will be easy, but the issues will be clearer.

(Sercombe, 2010, pp. 86–7)


Maria, one of the practitioners we interviewed when we were developing this course, reflects on some of her own experiences of being involved in partnership working, and what she has learned as a result, echoing some of the points made by Sercombe:

I think, choose your partners carefully … And I think, consider everything, but don’t feel you have to take on everything. And if you have decided that you want to be involved in a partnership, be clear about what your inputs and outputs are going to be, make sure that other people are clear as to what they are and ensure that you all have this common goal, and this common thread working through it. And again, it’s about organisational behaviour, and culture, and I think that you really need to go back to your basics, the stuff that you learn on your course, never forget it. Because it’s hard sometimes, and difficult once you’re in the middle of something, to understand what’s happening. But the biggest advice I would give to anybody, and it’s about most of the work, not just partnership working, just keep that reflection up. When you go away, reflect on it and think, ‘What went wrong there, what was right, and what could I do to make it better?’