Press and news agencies guilty

Yesterday FYT launched the findings from the Labels are for Jars not young people, which researches the views adults have of young people. The findings (see here for full details or below for a snapshot) are critical of the media. So it is not really surprising that none of the invited media showed up to press launch despite 6-7 foot jar being driven down Fleet Street. The research shows strong evidence that adults opinions are being distorted by media representation, had been a trial and the defendant failed to show a guilty verdict would have been passed.

Overall the research shows categorically that young people are viewed negatively by adults in England and it goes on to offer ideas about how the negative labels might be challenged and replaced with positive ideas for change.

The research offers significant evidence that when adults are thinking of young people as ‘perpetrators’ there is an overestimation relating to levels of anti social and criminal behaviour (in some cases very significantly). However, when thinking about young people as ‘victims’ adults are underestimating the extent of young people’s vulnerability. The research clearly shows that adult opinions are being distorted by media representations that are creating a negative spiral in attitudes and beliefs across different generations.

P.S. I Love You rip

change and the insider

Can you really change a system from inside? I was wondering how inside the system Jesus was? Yes he was Jewish but choose mainly not to preach in the synagogue. There is no such thing as free lunch and if we try to work from inside there is an inevitable need for politics etc. In an age when many of our institutions are still strong although on the demise I wonder if the cultural layers built up can really be changed from the inside?

Meals for Families

Following on from my thoughts that lead to this idea I would like to explore a measure that might help and also encourage families to spend more time together.

What I’m imagining (speaking as a non-cook! Oh dear!) is the provision of cheap, reasonable quality meals, for families. To qualify for access to such meals you would need to turn up as a minimum of one adult and one child. The meals would be on one or more weekdays and would be available between 5pm and 8pm. Payment for the meals would be necessary except in exceptional circumstances. It would be attractive because the family would need to make less effort to have a meal and yet still have a meal at a very reasonable price.

This would appear to improve contact between family members (addressing the issues outlined here) and also be a way to create relationships between church people and non-church people.

Would be interested in your comments.

What Poverty Today?

If we strip out the UK government definition of poverty as being those households with an income of lower than 60% of the average UK income, then we are left with the question of what poverty is there in the UK today?

In theory UK welfare and bankruptcy laws should provide for the needs of daily life, such as food and shelter. However, I do recognise that the application of this theory is fraught – I have personally had to spend time helping a friend claim what was due her (after she had suffered injuries that had made her unable to work). It’s as if our society wants to make it as hard as possible to keep one’s head above water in difficult circumstances.

So apart from money troubles due to the lack of help available to get the benefits of bankruptcy or welfare (and these are far from insignificant matters) what poverty do we have today?

My post the other day about the well-being of our children made me think that perhaps a large problem was the amount of time that family members spend with each other.

This is essentially what is behind the ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign – the idea that families need to spend more time together. However, because I don’t see any theological reason for Sunday actually being a special day, then I would rather tackle the issue directly rather than attempt to tell people that they shouldn’t work on Sunday. The church needs to wake up to the needs of those that work on a Sunday and change from having what is generally regarded as a key time within the church on a Sunday morning.

So I guess it comes down to providing for people’s poverty. If the poverty is a lack of quality time together then do things that enable people, from diverse backgrounds, to be able to have that time together.

Whilst I’m not sure that I would back a ‘keep dinner special’ campaign or a ‘play boardgames instead of watching TV’ campaign there are surely things we can do.

What are the things that are eating into people’s family time?

  • Sports
  • Watching sports
  • TV viewing
  • Ready meals and easy snacking
  • I’m sure that there are many others…

… but that last one gives me an idea:
Meals for Families

I think that that will need to be my next post!

Charity Fundraising Costs

As we all know, most charities spend a proportion of their income on generating further income. Also, we are aware that charities cannot spend 100% of their income on fundraising, otherwise they would not be spending any money on their charitable purpose. So there must be a level at which fundraising expenses are acceptable.

However, there are hidden fundraising ‘costs’ that are not on the accounts sheet. For example Christian Aid displays the following figures on their site:
Out of every pound we receive, we spend:
* 52p on long-term development projects
* 17p on responding to emergencies
* 12p on campaigning and education
* 18p on fundraising
* 1p on administration

The unseen item is how much resource do external fundraisers contribute. We can see that Christian Aid spend 18p in the pound on fundraising, but in addition to that we have the time and money that external fundraisers (the people who do sponsored bungee jumps, etc) commit to fundraising for Christian Aid. This time and money only adds to the 18p in the pound fundraising figure above – the money raised is already accounted for in the above figures. So even though these people are acting on behalf of Christian Aid, their expenses (and time) are conveniently off the accounting sheet.

To better appreciate the amount of resource that a charity (including it’s supporters) is actually spending on fundraising you need to estimate the time and money that is off the record.

From the figures available for Christian Aid (for example) it is very difficult to assess this cost as their income stream does not differentiate between income from external fundraisers and income from fundraising where the costs are directly to the Charity itself (e.g. the cost of letters asking for money).

For the estimate it is worth including both the time and money of the external fundraisers (this is what is accounted for if the fundraiser is an employee of the charity, after all). If we monetise the time spent by fundraisers then at a guess I would estimate that the final figures must fall into the range of 20p to 35p in the pound compared to the 18p in the pound published figure.

Please don’t assume that I’m questioning the published figure – I’m not. I’m just trying to add to that figure the fundraising costs that are external to the official Christian Aid organisation as incurred by it’s external fundraisers.

So, if we could actually have a reliable estimate of the true costs of fundraising by charities what would our response be? Charities that spend a large proportion of income on fundraising are criticised for that and they usually attempt to reduce that proportion.

There are probably some charities that have no ‘off account’ expenses for fundraising, but probably also other charities that have no ‘accounted for’ fundraising costs because it’s members freely give of their own time and resources to fundraising (i.e. it is all ‘off account’). Just because they can claim zero pence in the pound fundraising costs does not mean that they (in the larger sense than just the accounted for organisation) has zero fundraising costs – it always costs money to receive money even if it is just to check your bank statement and to write it into the accounts. The time and money of voluntary fundraisers should be taken into account by donors, in just the same way donors are interested in the official figures.

So bear in mind that a charity with a zero fundraising cost may, in this slightly different way of looking at things, actually have a 50% or higher fundraising cost.

Here the Charity Commission states that it will take up complaints where people identify that “fund-raising or administration costs that are excessive”.

An inclusive bike ride

June continues to be mad, however one project we now have underway is the FYT virtual Cycle ride who I work for. FYT have a strong history of working with young people on the edge, and working to include them in the church and kingdom. As such we wanted to do an event that everyone could be involved in, regardless of age or ability. So we have come up with a wacky concept that is all inclusive and are looking for people to join in this slightly twisted idea of the old favourite – a sponsored bike ride. Go here Once Bitten dvd for more details. If you want to sponsor me, or become a virtual cyclist please let me know via the blog. I would love to set a target of getting 50 virtual cyclists via the blog. FYT never really push themselves PR wise, for example few people would know that in the last year we have had contact with over 7000 people doing direct youth work, and 2000 youth work management. With the size of our team, to say we were punching above our weight would be an understatement. So please get behind this thing, and sign up and start linking. Thanks

Going Live


Protest4 has gone live. Well worth checking out, and I think an important way forward. Particularly in the light of recent thoughts I have been having on the impact of individualism in current culture and the impact this has on the possibility of social change. A quote I have held close to my heart for a while is from Fiske who said

    “The people are neither cultural dupes nor silenced victims, but are vital, resilient, varied, contradictory, and, as a constant source of contestation of dominance, are a vital social resource, the only one that can fuel social changeâ€?

However the question remains what has the impact of a declining meta narrative and the increase of individualism been on this? Can people still be the social resource for change?

What about the truth?!?!

Recently I met an old friend of mine. I had not seen him for a long time. We were never on the same side in discussions. He had been over in the States for a couple of years and had been studying the philosophy of religion. (He is really a modernist with all that follows…) He has started a new project back in Sweden. It was about abortion (he probably met some from the moral majority) and he thought that the church was ready to give up about it – maybe thats true, so he felt he should go public with picture of children which had been aborted. First I thoought he was ironic but soon I realised he wasn´t. I think the question of abortion is too tough an issue to use that method of informing people. I think the problem is not that people do not know that stuff but that they think about it in other ways – in a theological language: They do not think like a “christian”. (of course you could reply what is thinking like a christian…let´s discuss!) The problem is not that people are stupid or dumb but that they have other criteria for judging what is true. They judge regarding to their worldview and what they think is true. I think that the truth is in Christ but I have to be humble when I meet other people and their “truths”. And you are certainly not humble if you use that method. First of all we have to live the faith and in this case to show another ways of dealing with our sexuality and taking care of our children in the christian community. The truth is a way of life not a statement or a picture! And people around us have different ways of life and I think we have to give people “the freedom of unbelief”.

Ps. For you englishmen – soon the World Championship in Icehockey starts! Enjoy! Ds.

Teaching Disent

Don’t you just love it when you find a quote to back up your thinking. Currently there is a debate in youth work circles about curriculum and the nature of teaching, Jeffs who is questioning of curriculum cites Stiener “to teach greatly is to awaken doubts in the pupil,…to train for disentâ€? (Youth and Policy Summer 2004) and argues this is a key to education particularly informal education, and curriculum by its very nature hinders this. I love the quote and tend to be in agreement with Jeffs.
I just wonder how much of this critical education goes on in churches or youth work circles. We prop up the status quo so much, when actually called to be a counter cultural movement. The rich young ruler (see eariler post Is the Church the rich young ruler?) had kept the commands but hadn’t been trained to disent and therefore process/critque his actions so was well away from inheriting the kingdom.

One by One

“Poverty is not so much the absence of goods but the absence of power� Robert Linthicum. We live in a world governed by the powerful, those who have power ascribed to them by the nature of where they live, where they were brought up and the education system. This power base is centuries old, is broadly governed by geography, the power and prosperity of the rich countries has been historically founded on the oppression and pillage of the developing nations. Take for example the Philippines, first conquered by the Spanish, colonialised, then the Americans using the islands for military bases, during which teenage prostitution grew into one of the countries largest industries. Now with differing priorities and cut backs the american military is leaving and being replaced by the new imperialists Taiwanese and Korean contractors setting up export processing zones (Kline).

Yet haven’t things changed people say? Aren’t we in the new age of enlightenment and growing social consciousness? History is a force to be reckoned with and a flow that will not be stemmed easily. In these prosperous countries’ systems and structures have been created that reinforce the status quo and protect the powerful, such as trade barriers, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. It is these systems that are at the root of much of the inequality. Campaigns to tackle them have been underway for many years and whilst globalisation may have given rise to much of the current campaigning, it has also compounded the situation making change harder to achieve. These systems and companies have become huge mountains and walls that will not easily be moved. In her conclusion to No Logo Klein says “with globalisation there need to be some common standards and the governments certainly aren’t setting them� whilst this is the case, the question is where do we start. The anti-globalisation movement has pursued common standards, better employment conditions and fairer trade with some success. However when the issues seem insurmountable and the companies are so vast, we need to examine what is achievable. I have a number of questions which need to be explored and propose that alongside governmental lobbying for common standards ect that an alternative focussed approach based on radical community work theories and the model of community organizing should be adopted.

Continuing the wall analogy. The structures and systems as a vast wall, cemented together by companies many of which are now global brands. How do we take on knocking this thing down, many would say it is impossible. The minority of radicals want to give it a go and have spent a lot of time chipping away at the structures often attacking the high profile brands and whilst achieving some success the majority don’t see these successes. The majority however feel it is too big, don’t identify with the radicals, and say it cant be done. A final minority (often the powerful) fuel the argument it can never be done and protect the status quo. We all know that with enough people you could tackle the big corner stones and may even be able to push the wall down. Community Organising is based achieving change by growing a majority that can redress the power balance and thus tackle the issues. Community Organising would take a brick by brick approach, that with time and small successes can grow and take on bigger and bigger issues. What/ How many would it take on a small company first, giving them the option to trade fair or go out business? Could there be longer term view starting small and gaining momentum through small victories?
One By One.doc