Perspectives – Opportunities
Perspectives and opportunities provide the understanding necessary for sustainability of the Open the Doors project. Reflecting on what happened during the life of the project enables us to impart our experiences to others with the intention of providing insight and practical knowledge. In a similar way, projection of ideas both in the particular, related to individual missions, and in the general allows us to demonstrate how we envisage working with this approach. Since Open the Doors aims to be practical and future oriented, reflection and projection are both essential. More information related to the points raised here can be found in the narratives in the Annex. As with the themes above, each of the aspects below are not discrete but dependent on and interact with each other.
Understanding a mission is key to working with young people in this approach. As indicated in the narratives later in these Guidelines, grasping the nature of a mission required experimenting. Through this experiential process, practice partners gradually developed insight into how a mission was different from traditional ways of working with young people, including some that purport to offer a degree of autonomy to youngsters. The main realisation for teachers and youth workers was that it is not enough to give young people choice from a menu, they must generate the menu themselves.
Confidence and Trust
Developing confidence and trust around a mission was, perhaps, the most significant issue for adults working with youth at risk. Youth workers and teachers grew in confidence in the young people to create ideas but also trust in them to pursue their ideas to successful conclusion. Similarly, they had to cultivate confidence and trust in their own skills and abilities to work in this way with young people. Visible positive impact of the missions on young people had a significant influence on adults’ confidence and trust.
Members of the wider community, influential individuals, local and national political figures and the media played significant roles across the missions. Young people previously hidden, became visible and valued members of the community. The young people came to appreciate others with whom they might otherwise not have engaged, consequently forming a different opinion of them. Likewise, the people with whom they worked saw the young people in a new light, even offering further opportunities for engagement in the community. In some cases, media reports on the missions not only brought the projects to the forefront of the community but enhanced the positive profile of the young people and the second chance schools.
Working towards a mission
A consensus among partners is that working in a mission requires taking a long-term perspective. Change is gradual and does not happen overnight. Experimenting with and experience of several missions helps change young people’s perspective regarding themselves and others. It also helps adults change and shift their mindsets and ways of working with young people. There is no substitute for experience. Setting up a mission group requires teachers and youth workers to be proactive, identify appropriate young people for the group and consider the group dynamic carefully. When considering with whom in the community you will work, remember that other generations, younger and older, tend to be less judgemental of our young people.