Love letters to services past: risk and outdoor education in youth work

HARRIS-EVANS, Jean Mary (2017). Love letters to services past: risk and outdoor education in youth work. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Outdoor educators often argue that growing public aversion to, and avoidance of, risk, ironically puts young people further in harm’s way, as they lack the experience of successfully managing risk for themselves. Young people also face more significant, ‘real’ risks from the consequential inactive lifestyles and the attendant health issues. Youth workers and other similar professionals have to manage these tensions in their day-to-day practices as they decide how far to expose young people to risk. These tensions are exacerbated as youth work and outdoor education in the current climate in the UK, specifically England, face unprecedented funding pressures. These pressures impact negatively upon workers' ability to support young people in gaining both the experience of managing risk positively, and of being healthier. This research instantiates many of the current tensions, conflicts and difficulties faced by the wider public sector in England, through an examination of an underexplored area of youth work practice – that of how youth workers perform and manage risk in outdoor education. This is one of the very few studies to examine the intersection between youth work, outdoor education and risk. An embedded multi case study design was used to carry out research in one local authority area, and in a medium sized charity. Thematic analysis was utilised to explore the experiences of managers and youth workers, in relation to their work in the outdoors in the case study areas. Drawing on rich data, each case study explored the value of outdoor education in a youth work context for the development of opportunities for relationship building and for learning. I also report how each of the case study organisations managed risk in this context. This analysis of the contemporary youth work situation explicates the issues experienced by youth workers, facing risk as an all-pervasive phenomenon. Key gaps in the youth work theory of outdoor education are discussed. The analysis draws on a range of theoretical frames from the diverse areas of outdoor education, youth work and risk. I posit the notion of ‘Slow' practice to capture the centrality of relationships to effective youth work practice. Further, I analyse the current situation in youth work and outdoor education through the concepts of precarity, post-neoliberal hegemony and liquid modernity. Slow practice offers a counternarrative to the current post-neoliberal context of precarious short-term funding regimes, by suggesting that relationships developed through Slow practice are more effective ones, and, where they are built on concordance, offer better risk mitigation strategies.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Boylan, Mark [0000-0002-8581-1886]
Additional Information: Director of Studies: Prof. Mark Boylan.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Jill Hazard
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2018 16:24
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:04

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