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Outcomes for youth work : coming of age or master’s bidding?

MacKie, Gordon and McGinley, Brian (2012) Outcomes for youth work : coming of age or master’s bidding? A Journal of Youth Work, 2012 (10). pp. 7-22. ISSN 1469-0780

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Abstract Providing evidence in youth work is a current and important debate. Modern youth work has, at least to some degree, recognised the need to produce practice information, through its various guises, with limited success as requirements and terminology have continually changed. In Scotland, the current demands for youth work to “prove” itself are through a performance management system that promotes outcome-based practice. There are some difficulties with this position because outcome-based practice lacks methodological rigour, is aligned with national governmental commitments and does not adequately capture the impact of youth work practice. This paper argues that youth workers need to develop both a theoretical and methodological approach to data collection and management,which is in keeping with practice values, captures the voice of the young person and enhances youth work practice. Youth work should not be used as a mechanism to deliver the government’s policies but be liberated from centralist control to become a “free practice” so that some of the perennial problems, such as democratic disillusionment, partly caused by this “performance management industry”, can be effectively dealt with. The generation of evidence for youth work should enable it to freely investigate and capture its impact, within the practice, based on the learning that has taken place, the articulation of the learners’ voice with the most appropriate form of data presentation.