ABSTRACT

It is accepted that planning is an essential feature of youth work practice, in that it both helps to set direction in terms of overall strategy, as well as coordinate the decisions required for action on a day-to-day basis. Milburn (2001) reminds us of the importance of ‘planning ahead’ as a managerial task; however, planning in youth work is complex. Despite this there are increasingly simplistic demands on youth workers to plan their work in specific detail. It is assumed there is a specific relationship between those plans and the predicted outcomes of youth work. Furthermore youth workers are increasingly being made accountable for those pre-specified outcomes. It is this highly problematic situation which this chapter will attempt to address. Planning is essentially ‘future focused’ and ‘in all plans … there will be an attempt to

predict what will happen in the future’ (Hannagan, 2008: 182). It could be argued that unless work is well planned one has little control over what will happen in the youth centre or project. Too little planning results in an uncertain future, and the resulting youth work practice can only be reactive, responding to what occurs in the ‘here and now’. Much good youth work results from this ‘reactive’ approach, and this flexibility of being able to respond to what is pertinent to young people at that particular moment – ‘going with the flow’ (Jeffs and Smith, 2005: 33) should never be entirely lost. However:

It is easy for a unit to drift on from week to week. That usually results in the workers and young people becoming bored, because the work is reactive and patterned. The purpose of planning is to move from being reactive to being proactive and to gain some control over your work.