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Young Men

Why Young MenWhy Young Men

Traditionally work with young men has been about keeping young men out of trouble, distraction and deflection from the streets. Increasing evidence that this type of provision was not meeting the developmental needs of young men led the agency to explore new and more imaginative approaches to working with young men. YouthAction Northern Ireland has engaged young men.

The Work with Young Men Unit works strategically with young men and community organisations to:

  • Gain a better understanding of masculinity and its impact on young men
  • Carry out research and pilot projects on areas of specific relevance to young men’s lives i.e. violence, mental and emotional well being
  • Create opportunities for young men to have their voices heard
  • Work in partnership with locally based initiatives
  • Increase relevant knowledge and skills amongst those who are developing work with young men
  • Inform policy makers and curriculum on issues affecting young men

The key elements of our current approach include:

  • Value and respect for young men
  • Appreciation of young men’s potential
  • A supportive approach
  • An inclusive approach
  • An innovative and flexible approach
  • Being prepared to take risks

Understanding the issues affecting young men

We believe that attitudes and expectations around masculinity play a significant part in how young men see the world and themselves. We believe, too, that all young men have their own issues and their own potential. Our ability to work with young men requires an understanding of the issue of masculinity and knowledge that is specific to each individual and the areas that they live.

Meeting young men where they are

The idea of going out to meet the young men ‘on their own ground’ is the practical expression of our commitment to listening to young men. Detached and outreach work is often the starting point. Time spent with young men where they hang out enables workers to develop relationships and identify some of the issues they face in the community.

Establishing a climate of safety

We work from an understanding of the vulnerability of young men - contrary to their image of 'hardness' - and we strive to create a safe environment where young men feel secure enough to interact in a positive way. We link safety in the group to the importance of community safety and work with them to build skills to avoid violence.

Making yourself vulnerable

For male workers, especially, working with young men can be a personal challenge. We need to demonstrate our ability to step out of stereotyped male leadership styles. Our experience has shown that male workers can best address issues of masculinity with young men once they have addressed this for themselves. For many men, this means working in a new way and it is this that creates a sense of vulnerability, rather than being physically vulnerable in the company of young men.

Giving some control to the young menWhy Young Men

Our whole approach is based on creating a sense of partnership with young men. In practice, this means involving them in project planning, encouraging them to take ownership of the programme. Typically, this is likely to mean handing over tasks like planning the programme for residentials, even down to working out the food requirements and the timing of sessions.

Offering skills development and leadership opportunities

We use practical and creative exercises to draw out ideas and concerns. We give young men the opportunity to try things they’ve never tried before. We aim to do everything in a ‘fun’ way, so it’s not seen as an extension to schooling. Through all our projects - and especially through the Young Male Volunteer Scheme - young men have opportunities for training and personal development.

Involving members of the community

Our approach is to work by stimulating and supporting innovative local programmes and then ‘embed’ them locally, with the support of local organisations. We do this right from the start by involving local workers in the outreach work. We also offer training opportunities to workers from local community organisations that are in a position to support the long-term goals of young men.

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