Why we do this…

Here’s some words from the Project Manager, Rich Martin:

What we are doing and why StreetSpace is uniquely able to make a Difference

StreetSpace is located in the centre of the estate in Filwood on the Broadway. The basic underlying theme of what we try to do is values based identity formation through moral philosophy, art, music and dance.  

These are clever ways to say we try to engage young people to become critical thinkers about themselves and the world in which they live. 

We are also trying to engage some of the most challenging young people on the estate, we have to understand and begin to think about how we still offer young people our time and effort even if they spend the first part of our journey together causing problems for themselves and us. They are used to rejection and so spend this first part of the journey trying to take control of that and cause so many problems that they are not being rejected they are choosing to disrupt and leave. There are some problems with this approach because it means that we have to soak up lots of abuse that other youth workers and clubs may not take. They may just take the approach of banning and therefore further rejection. We also have to keep a space safe and also safeguard other young people, but we don’t believe in rejecting anyone. We will try at all times to spend time with any and all young people, but we realise that to accomplish that we have to do things slightly differently. We have programs of work ready to go, at different times during the day, that we can offer the most disengaged young people. The most challenging may not be allowed to the open access sessions to start with until they have completed other schemes of work and projects. 

We use graffiti and art projects to help us talk about safe spaces, how they feel, and linking positive action and thought through the respect program and the friends 4 life graffiti project. We work on the premise that you can’t think your way into new ways of living you have to live your way into new ways of thinking and we promote ways of doing that positively. 

We use Music and DJ-ing to engage young people in a fun and positive activity that we can use to explore their emotions and the situations they find themselves in, due to the normal everyday reality of living in Knowle West. We get them to create music and write their own lyrics, again to explore the above. 

Key projects and sessions we have been delivering are our Monday night open access Group. This is predominantly to invite young people to so we can begin to access the needs of various individuals. We see lots of groups of young people joining this session who can be very challenging to work with, however it has enabled us to target young people very successfully with other pieces of work and sessions. This leads to our smaller group targeted work. 

Tuesday is our community action night, at the moment the group are trying to imagine what a 21st century library looks like and have some input to the consultation that is going on locally about what to do with the library that’s here in its current form. That is also trying in a much more strategic way to involve young volunteers. 

We also are running a Girls group on a Wednesday night, this is a safe space for a small group of girls who have shown that they really want to engage and take part in the sessions that are planned. The young people also have a real say in what they do in future sessions. 

How many people we are working with – We are spending time with about 50 young people a week across those three sessions with the majority seen on the Monday. 

They are all from Filwood and Knowle, the needs are many and complex but all start with the need of a trusted adult in their lives who they can call on, who is there for them and accepting them for who they are. The young people we are spending time with are at risk of committing crimes, vulnerable to being groomed into committing crimes, or at risk of being the victim of crimes. We also recognise we are spending time with young people who are vulnerable to CSE, drugs and alcohol, theft, robbery, and knife crime.  

What we plan to do next year (and what it will mean for us as an organisation) 

Next year we will be trying to work much more strategically, this means a more joined up approach to what we are doing and what we are offering young people. For example, we will be developing a detached youth work program to meet young people where they are. We will work with them on the street, trying to engage the peer groups where they are hanging out. This will lead to being able to feed into other programs of work, whether that’s identifying one to one work with specific young people or bringing them into StreetSpace to do small group project work.  

We will develop the pathways by which young people move through the organisation, enhancing their opportunities to contribute at the same time. We will be using our cardboard city program to develop schemes of work tailored to specific groups of young people but also individual young people. 

We have also recruited three additional Youth Workers into our team to help us increase our capacity and offer more variety of creative opportunities throughout the year. This will mean an increase in what we are offering in terms of in-house training and development of practice and skills for Youth Workers, and also for young people on the estate.