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‘Oh yeah that’s awful, that’s terrible.
Somebody should do something about
it ...
.......... but not me!’
Revisiting ‘Standpoints’: Attitudes to
Global Justice Among Young People and
Youth Workers in Ireland
Hilary Tierney, Maynooth University
Dublin Castle 8th October 2014
Development Education in
youth work aims to:
Increase young people’s
awareness and understanding
of the interdependent and
unequal world in which we live…
Challenges perceptions of the
world and encourages young
people to act for a more just
and equal society at a national
and an international level.
Research Aims
• Identify and explore the awareness levels of,
and attitudes towards, a range of development
and global issues among youth workers and
young people
• To give a voice to participants’ in framing
definitions and interpretations of ‘development
and global issues’ and identifying youth work’s
role in relation to them
Research Approach - Qualitative
• Focus groups with youth workers/young people
• Groups purposively sampled from national youth
work organisations
• Group members: attempt to reflect the range and
diversity of young people involved in youth work –
not specifically those involved in Dev. Ed
• Three areas selected: Mayo (West), Waterford
(South East) & Dublin (South)
• Advisory Group
Focus Groups Questions
1. How do participants see the world: what type of
knowledge/information do they have about (different parts
of) the world, and where do they get it?
2. What do they see as the main relationships/links
between and within different parts of the world?
3. What do participants identify as the key ‘global justice
issues’? (did not pre-define the concept)
4. What do they think is being done/should be done about
these issues, and what is (or should be) the youth work
Mapping the world…
is the one you normally get and
one is the one how everything is, like
the true shape of everything, Ireland is
a lot smaller than it is actually shown
on the one that we [usually] get’.
‘You realise how many more people
would be affected by Africa I suppose,
because in this one it looks a hell of a lot
smaller and in this one it looks huge and
then obviously it means that…it just
seems like a really big place to have
droughts and famine’.
‘It would probably be [people from] the
northern hemisphere making maps’.
Global Justice Issues
• It’s (the world) divided up between rich and poor
– North/South
• Poverty
• Inequality
• Injustice
• Human Rights
• War
• Environmental damage
• Trade and Fair Trade esp. Coffee
• Child Labour
• Cultural Differences
• Employment/migration
Global Relationships
• Unequal power relations (aid, trade, charity)
e.g. ‘America or Ireland wouldn’t like to see
Africa being the wealthiest country in the world
because it’s [about] power’
• Ireland: aligned with powerful countries but not
powerful itself (neutrality) ‘not really though’
• Political change: little political will to upset the
‘balance of power’ e.g. ‘It’s about who has the
most money and who has the most weapons I
think nowadays, has the most power like’
Responding to Global Justice Issues
• Many – perhaps most – do not necessarily make concrete
connections between their own locality and the wider
global context
• More general sense of powerlessness as young people individually or collectively though some cited individual
choices re consumption/environmental activism
• Motivation to act problematic - perceptions of ‘global
issues’ as ‘far away’ ‘People are in their own little world,
that’s very far away and it happened somewhere else’
• Equally poor perception of ‘mainstream’ politics and charities
Issues emerging
• Formal Education significant e.g. Geog/CPSE,
diversity in classrooms. Question of how ‘global’ is
perceived & taught.
• Very varied degree of knowledge and awareness,
opinions and interest e.g. positive & negative about
Ireland in relation to global issues- Ambivalence
• Limited reference to youth work as a context to
explore global issues (Scouts the exception)
• Fieldwork highlighted the capacity* of young
people to engage in discussion and debate of
complex issues
Youth Workers
• More nuanced understanding of different
representations of the world
• Knowledge and information organised with a
distinctive focus e.g. travel, migrants, emerging
economies, own ‘development work’
• Conscious that their experience is a different
perspective to ‘mainstream’ view e.g. impact
of trade agreements on self sufficiency,
stereotyped views
Global Justice Issues
Minority control of resources
Capitalism as a system
Human Rights (China, Guantanamo, Child
Slavery, Asylum Seekers)
• Gender (prostitution, trafficking, general cultural
• Racism in Ireland ‘my sister was going to get a flat
and she didn’t because ….’
Responding to Global Justice Issues
A need to link global issues with the localised
context of young people’s everyday lives
How individuals can change their own behaviour and
encourage those around them to do the same?
Fair Traded products not a simple option because of
Complexities of making the ‘right choices’ in
consumption and other aspects of lifestyle e,g Coca
Cola, donations
Challenges to engaging with global justice issues
• Cited lack of organisational supports/lack of knowledge of
• Apprehension about getting into discussions with young
people – or beginning more structured sessions with them –
finding that they were not sufficiently ‘informed’ to handle
questions arising
• Structured programme on a given theme in the youth group is
a sure way of losing young people’s interest – finding another
way in …
‘Justice’ a loaded term for some young people
• Examples of planned and purposeful
interventions e.g. one world week, international
food fair, recycling project *
• In youth work context adults can learn with young
people and indeed from them .. shift focus from
individual to collective
• Appropriate youth work approach might involve
enabling the young people to put the entire
project in social and global context
Points to highlight
• Talk of what could be done or what should be done
rather than what is being done and what has been
learned from that
• Ambivalence - not just mixed views within the group
but ‘mixed feelings’ on the part of individual
• Need to interrogate key concepts & articulate the
connection between them in youth work contexts e.g.
youth work, global justice, development education, global
youth work, power and agency
Some Recommendations
• Awareness raising within the youth work sector about the
overlapping objectives of both global justice and youth work can
be best pursued and achieved
• Immediate opportunity to utilise Goal 5 (Connected & Respected) of
the National Policy Framework for Children & Young People (2014) to
develop an overarching strategy for a global justice dimension of
youth work
• Maximise young people’s and youth work participation in the
implantation of the National Strategy for Education for Sustainable
Development (2014) and Post 2015 Development agenda.
• Develop specific continuous professional development
opportunities and work to include specific reference to global
justice/global youth work in any Irish professional youth work
standards and on the curriculum of FE & HE institutions
Dream for the Future
A global justice dimension is embedded across
youth work policy and practice.
Work with young people in ways that enable them to
make sense of their lives, examine the contexts
within which their experience is shaped and an
understanding of the global forces that shape
those contexts, so that they take action in and on
those contexts
Global youth work is practiced by all, not just the
passionate and committed few