The youth work relationship

Building relationships with young people could be described as the currency of youth work. The success of all of our other activities with young people depends on the rapport and trust created in this way. Our values and our perspectives on young people are central to this process. A concept developed by the psychologist, Carl Rogers, is useful in this context; ‘unconditional positive regard’ refers to the respect we hold for young people, a respect that is not based on their behaviour or attainment. Relationships are also central to how young people experience community. A way of understanding community is to consider the ‘three S’s of community’ – security, solidarity and significance – often thought of as the key requirements for human beings to experience a positive sense of community with each other. It is also worth reflecting on how far these are present in our own youth and non-formal learning activities with young people. Security means safety – not just physical, but also emotional and social safety to express fears or concerns, plus the extent to which young people feel they can be themselves when they are part of a group. Solidarity is that shared understanding of group purpose – and the accompanying feelings of belonging and being supported. Significance refers to a young person’s sense of being valued and listened to by others in the group – the sense that their existence and their contribution matters. (based on Clark, 1996) The GROW model The GROW model is a coaching model developed in the 1980s for use by youth workers to support individual young people in setting goals, solving problems and identifying appropriate actions to achieve their goals. The model guides a participant through a four-step process where GROW is an acronym for Goals, Reality, Options, and Will. See opposite link for a case study on how young people can be supported through mentoring.

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