Creating responsive inclusive youth work spaces is the route to eradicating racism
Ensuring we are present for young people who experience racism means creating responsive, diverse and inclusive youth work spaces. NYCI’s 8 Steps to Inclusive Youth Work brings youth work teams through the journey of inclusive practice by focusing on 8 key aspects of youth work practice. Merged in each section is a contextual framework, a self-awareness reflection and a practical checklist. We call these:
- Look Out For Injustice
- Look In – Be Honest
We have accompanying posters that you can download or we can send on to you.
Tackling racism through 8 Steps to Inclusive Practice
Core to the 8 Steps resource is an understanding of social justice and the impact of social injustice and inequalities on young people. Key to this is understanding systems of oppression. One of those systems of oppression is racism and before tackling racism it is important to understand what it is and how it manifests. Racism includes microaggressions, those seemingly smaller but incessant messages that tell young people they don’t fully belong. Accounts of racism should never be discounted or dismissed. Armed with this understanding the 8 steps framework will guide your practice. See our e-learning Inclusive Youth Work – Social Justice as a Core Principle E-Learning Course – National Youth Council of Ireland
The first step – organisational review – looks at young people’s needs and your organisations capacity to act. To tackle racism we need to hear and acknowledge young people’s experience of racism – by listening to and/or reading what young people have said. Then we need to look at how, as an organisation, we can best respond. It may involve creating a minority ethnic only youth space or it may involve reaching out to minority ethnic young people in the community. Step one focuses on understanding Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. It is captured in this quote by Derica Blackmore: “Diversity is being asked to the dance, Inclusion is being asked up to dance, Belonging is dancing in the style you want, Equity is getting to choose the DJ every so often”
You can read Make Minority a Priority to hear about young people’s experiences of racism. Make Minority A Priority – Complete Research Report – National Youth Council of Ireland
The second step – policy and guidelines – establishes your commitment to anti-racism work. It says what your organisation believes in, what you stand for, what your values are. Young people who experience racism, and their families, need to see this to build their trust in you. This step lists the headings and sections you need to fill in to populate a policy or set of guidelines. It isn’t nearly as difficult as you think it will be.
The third step focuses on your space and environment and explains that a safer space is a space where racism is prevented. It might be a minority ethnic only space. It will definitely be a space that prioritises respect. The language used in the space will be inclusive language. Space is not only a physical building – it also includes the wider community. It considers how young people at risk of racism travel to and from the building and also how youth workers can meet young people out in the community.
The fourth step looks at staff and volunteers and focuses on the importance of self-awareness. Without self-awareness we cannot fully hear what young people who experience racism are saying, or understand how we can make a difference. Young people ask of youth workers that: “In committing to stand up for us we need you to challenge structural injustice [racism] and [racial] inequalities”.
Step five looks at your direct work with young people – activities and the involvement of young people. We took the 7 personal and social development outcomes and showed what they would look like through an inclusive practice lens. Key to applying this lens is measuring the distance travelled. For young people experiencing racism their ‘journey’ will be a more difficult one. Sometimes just showing up is a win. Young people ask that racism is not ignored during youth work activities, where relevant it is discussed, and it is challenged whenever it happens.
Step six looks at resources. It is about putting your commitment to anti-racism work into practice and finding ways to stay on the journey with young people. Tackling racism is a marathon, not a sprint.
Step seven is about networking – choosing the partners and networks that will support your work and your young people. Key to this is finding networks that support your anti-racist work such as the Irish Network Against Racism to whom you can report racism if it happens.
Step eight is monitoring and evaluating your work through an inclusion lens. A racial justice lens will ask what you have proactively done to prevent, challenge and eradicate racism. A racial justice approach will put minority ethnic young people front and central in that assessment and a self-aware team will hear what further steps can be taken to make your youth space more diverse and inclusive, where solidarity across all minority and marginalised groups is prioritised and where everyone has a sense of belonging.