What is youth work without innovation and risk?

As a youth worker in the current neo-liberal regime we are told to play it safe, cover your arse and don’t do anything that could get you in trouble. We are living in a world of risk aversion! We see our young people as always at risk. We are at risk of losing our job. Our organisation is at risk of losing funding. There are risks everywhere and it is our job to minimise these risks.
When I began as a youth worker camps and daytrips were a staple of almost every youth service. A bit of a wrestle at a Friday night youth group wasn’t unheard of. Leaving a male youth worker alone with a group of young people was seen as ok. I remember going on a snow camp where the campsite we were staying at unexpectedly ended up with a mud pit after a torrential downpour. That mud pit ended up as our very own wrestling ring and young people and leaders alike wrestled to their hearts content and washed it off with a dip in the local dam. 
In our current risk averse way of doing things we are at-risk of doing nothing to support our young people lest we end up getting in trouble. Its a vicious cycle. Youth work was innovative and ahead of the curve. Today it seems sterile and unimpressive. Aside from a few canny outlaws the whole service sector is becoming bland.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

Youth workers are innovators! We improvise, adapt and overcome. We have big ideas and some of them require risk. Calculated risks can bring great rewards. I don’t want any youth worker I work with to get twenty years into their career only to look back and believe they haven’t achieved. I want explorers. I want dreamers and I want discoveries. We are in one of the most exciting times known to the human race and if our work is bland we have no one but ourselves to blame. Make your work exciting!  

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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