How can we spark the interest of young youth workers to become engaged as leaders in our field? What avenues will the next generation of leadership use to create networking opportunities to meet and learn from each other? In the new world of social networking, will technology become a vehicle for hosting forums and addressing the crucial issues in the field through blogs, Facebook, Twitter? What conversations will be relevant and helpful to connect youth work peers?
As I celebrate my 37th year in the field of youth work - seven years working directly with young people and 30 years at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, I am impressed with the tremendous amount of growth and change the field has endured. For the most part, these changes have been a positive evolution for a field that strives to be inclusive of sub-sectors including school age care, afterschool, youth development, and summer programming.
But change creates pressures as well. We now face some of the greatest challenges to our field and its survival, including declining resources and an ever increasing need to prepare the next generation of youth workers for success. As financial markets wobble, local and state government continue to experience increased deficits, the impending retirement of a generation of baby boomers looms. The impact of these trends on the social sector, and in particular, services for children and youth, is clear.
Normally I am a very optimistic person, confident that we will figure it out and the next generation will step up to the responsibility of leading the way. Yet after attending this year's National After School Association (NAA) Annual Convention, I am not so sure. I looked for younger youth workers in my sessions but didn't find many. Instead, I was surrounded by veterans, many of whom are baby boomers just like me. Are national conferences obsolete? And if they aren't, what keynotes speakers will resonate with them? Concerned, I sought the advice of my "younger colleague" Jackie Jainga Hyllseth, professional development director at School's Out Washington, who helped me articulate the problem. She shared a report by the Annie E Casey Foundation (2005) called: "Up Next - Generation Change and the Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations." I appreciated the No. 1 recommendation in this report: "Invest in Younger Leaders."
How can the Next Generation Youth Work Coalition invest in the development of the future leaders in the field? What do the baby boomers need to do differently as we prepare to pass the torch to our younger colleagues? Let's hear your ideas! Link this blog to other online networks and start a national conversation!
Director, National Institute on Out-of-School Time