Acceptance-based youth work with right wing youth groups
The Association to promote acceptance-based youth work (VAJA e.V.) was founded in Bremen, Germany in 1992. At the very beginning the main goal of the NGO was designed for the work with youngsters showing right wing tendencies. Using the streetwork approach exclusively for right wing orientated young people was a unique method at that time. The work is focused on right wing orientated youth groups and youngsters in the ages of 14-20, who are attracted by extremely intolerant behaviour in terms of group-focused enmity, misanthropic attitudes and/or are susceptible to violence in general. The social workers do not deal with ideologically established right wing extremists.
Working on the basis of a streetwork approach the team mainly frequents the youngsters at their own chosen public places; but also runs prevention and deradicalising activities in a range of different social sectors and institutions – for example in information centres, youth centres, schools and public spaces in local communities.
The long experience in working with right wing orientation in peergroups has shown, that this extremist attitude, intolerant approach, xenophobic violence and self-destructive behaviour pattern can change. This happens only, when the young people get to know other positive alternatives to their lives which they themselves can consider as meaningful. This process as well as the development of personal responsibility and the valuation of and respect to others is accompanied by the social workers.
The approach includes clique work, individual aid and parental involvement as well as project and community work. A fundamental prerequisite for the method is building trustful relationships with the concerned young persons. This social work focuses the problems that the youngsters have, rather than those they cause. The work thus creates trust at the youths’ end, which makes it possible to discuss attitudes openly, reflect on the social workers’ arguments, and take their alternatives seriously. As part of the work, the young people are confronted with their negative behaviour, and are shown alternative ways to experience membership, recognition and participation, and be integrated (in peer groups, school, suburb etc.). The staff members are experienced social education professionals.
A particularly promising aspect of the approach might be the biographical work, concentrating on the individual biographical and life-related aspects of various clique members, which can be identified by staff as critical elements of right-extremist or other extremely intolerant orientation. Those elements are either addressed based on discussions, activities and needs or are pursued further through mediation and assistance with other, e.g. therapeutic, services.
The work with right wing orientated youngsters or youth groups has clear boundaries. They are found:
- Where youth follow radical politics or ideologies.
- Where youth activities are exploited or misused for right oriented proposes or right extremist interests.
- Where other persons are threatened.
- Where the partiality to the victim has to have priority.
- Where other young people cannot find place anymore.
- Where the youth does not respect the youth workers anymore.
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