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Research Design


Abstract and Research Question

As a group of experienced and novice youth workers, we believe that youth work is fundamentally about building trust-filled, mutually respectful relationships with young people. We create safe environments for young people to connect with other supportive adults and peers and to avoid violence in their neighborhoods and their homes. We guide those harmed by oppressive community conditions such as racism, sexism, agism, homophobia, and classism through a process of healing. As we get to know more about young people’s interests, we help them develop knowledge and skills in a variety of areas including: academic, athletic, leadership/civic, the arts, health and wellbeing, and career exploration. In short, we create transformative experiences for young people. In spite of the critical roles we play, we have largely been overlooked in youth development research, policy, and as a professional workforce. We face challenges ‘moving up’ in our careers. We get frustrated by how little money we earn. We are discouraged that despite our knowledge and experience we are not invited to the tables where youth funding, programming, and policy decisions are made. It is true—many of us do not have formal training or degrees in youth work—a reality which at times we regret. Yet, as our colleague communicates in the accompanying passage (see below), we resent that formal education is required for us to get ahead, particularly because we question whether we need it to do our jobs more effectively. Through the “What is the Value of Youth Work?” symposium, we hope to address these concerns through a dialogue about youth work with the following objectives: • Increase awareness of the knowledge, skills, contributions, and professionalism of youth workers; • Advance a youth worker professional development model that integrates a dilemma-focused approach with principles of social justice youth development; • Launch an ongoing Worcester area Youth Worker network. This booklet provides a brief overview of the challenges in ‘professionalizing’ youth work and an alternative approach that we are advancing that puts the knowledge and expertise of youth workers at the center of professional development.


youth work, dilemma-focused approach, professional development, community of practice

If yes, did the research receive Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval?


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Included in

Social Work Commons


Article Location