Civic Youth Work

a youth work approach to social justice

Presented at Child & Youth Care Conference 2014

Alexander Fink
Michael Baizerman
Ross VeLure Roholt

1. Where does the idea of civic youth work come from?

“Why is it that these young people’s actual civic interests, capacities, and accomplishments are largely overlooked?” 

(Civic Youth Work, 2013, 1)

images of young person

    Creative Commons - BY-NC-SA - Jonas Seaman

Creative Commons - BY-NC - Owen Lin

Creative Commons - BY-NC-SA - David Humpohl

Citizens for the future 


Citizens now

Participation and Non-Participation

Young people are able and encouraged to express personal opinions and thoughts and these shape the joint work that is done.
Young people are used to express the ideas and opinions of adults. Their opinion is secondary.
Young people have the opportunity to participate in many different ways and can choose which of these is best for them.
Young people are not asked to participate but are told.
Structures for young people’s participation are explicit and open for review. Young people’s participation role is clear, as is adults’.
Structures for young people’s participation are implicit and not discussed. young people’s participation role is unclear, and adults’ role is denied.
Young people know both the why and the what of their participation.
Young people are simply told what to do.

overview of yCE approaches

Youth Civic Engagement Type
How to Understand Engagement
Who are Citizens?
Who are Young People?
Civic Education
Providing a “back to the basics” education, emphasizing founding documents and history of US.
Individuals educated on politics and government.
Individuals who have not received sufficient education on politics and government.
Providing Service to Others
Helping their communities and those in need.
Community caregivers.
Becoming community caregivers.
Social/Community Change
Participating in political and social action.
Change agents.
Potential problems solvers.
Individual Development
Participating in extracurricular activities.
Individuals with a developed civic identity.
Individuals in the process of developing a civic identity.

democracy week message

From Canada's Governor General
His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston

2. What does it mean TO BE A CIVIC YOUTH WORKER? What does one do?

“It is about the (almost) invisible--the collective practice of small-group work with youth that is grounded in young people’s interest, concern, commitment, and desire “to make a difference” to something larger than self or friends, i.e., “to make the world a better place.”

(Primer, 2013, 13)

steps in Civic youth work practice

  1. "Something needs to change"
  2. "Let's do something about it, together."
  3. Understanding what needs to change.
  4. Deciding what to do.
  5. Figuring out how to do it and rehearsing.
  6. Doing it!
  7. Celebrating, reflecting on, evaluating, and improving what was done.
  8. What to do next?
  9. Working on the issue.
  10. Spreading the word.

3. What are the aims and desired outcomes of the practice?

Civic Youth work logic model

Outcomes (by different levels of analysis)
Youth worker

Young people

Program context and policy

Philosophy of civic youth work practice

Practice approaches and methods
Group work

Team building

Critical questioning

Joint decision making

Building shared understanding
Changes in youth worker skills

Changes in young person

Changes in program

Changes in youth work philosophy

Changes in practice methods and approaches
- Individuals (e.g., young people taking on citizen role)
- Group (e.g. improved ability to work as a team, handle conflicts, implement social action)
- Theory (e.g. ongoing refinement of civic youth development theory)
- Program (e.g., increase support for democratic and CYW)
- Strategy for organization development (e.g., increased commitment to democratic ways of working with young people)
- Youth worker (e.g. increased skill in co-creating, co-sustaining social action, strengthening  belief in civic youth work).
- Civic youth work practice (e.g., increased clarity of why to do this work, what the work entails, and how to do it)

4. How does it relate to and fit with other forms of Youth WOrk?

comparing classical & civic YW

Classical and/or typical youth work                          
Civic youth work                                    
Youth centered and youth involved                                       
Young people are citizens now!                                       
Supports personal and social development                              
Invite and support young people’s civic and political development, and community and social change                          
Value nexus
Accepting and valuing young people                                    
Cocreating, community change, social justice                                    
Informal and nonformal learning, experiential education, conversation, relationship building                                    
Experiential and community-based learning, democratic group work, youth participatory action research and evaluation, critical education                          
Animating, facilitating
Cocreating, cosustaining, reflecting on the effectiveness of social action, reading the external sociopolitical environment.                              

classical vs social action group work

Classic Group Work
Social-Action Group Work
Collaborative, individual, and group development.
Group development for group action.
Craft Orientation
Working together for individual and group benefit (mutual aid).
Working together to respond to a meaningful public issue.
Group theory and stages of group development, facilitating group.
Developing members’ citizen knowledge and skills for engaging an issue publicly.
How to form a group, organize a group, facilitate a meeting, build group agendas.
Selecting, planning, doing, assessing, deciding on next steps, and evaluating what was done.
Group building, fostering individual and group development.
Issue research, planning civic and political action, ally building, evaluating and planning again, celebrating.

5. what questions do you have listening about what this work is?


Notes & Resources 


PGP ID 4B96 271EFINGERPRINT 7E36 743A F1BC E71F 66B4  A308 8002 557B 4B96 271E

Civic Youth Work: A Youth Work Approach to Social Justice

By Alex Fink

Civic Youth Work: A Youth Work Approach to Social Justice

Talk given at Child & Youth Care Conference 2014. Civic Youth Work is our name for, and the subject of, our three books on youthwork for youth civic education and citizenship development. This practice is grounded in the belief that young people are full citizens now and they are not living primarily in preparation for their future, adult citizenship opportunities and obligations. Civic Youth Work and its main youthwork process of youth civic engagement will be placed in the family of youthwork practices and grounded in modified informal/experiential education pedagogies. It will be argued that Civic Youth Work is an appropriate, even natural home, for engaging young people in social justice.

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