Doing it differently: youth leadership and the arts in a creative learning programme

Bragg, Sara and Manchester, Helen (2011). Doing it differently: youth leadership and the arts in a creative learning programme. UNESCO Observatory: Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Research in the Arts, 2(2)



Notions of youth ‘leadership’, partnership or collaborating with young people as ‘service users’, are currently being endorsed and elaborated across a very broad spectrum of thinking, policymaking and provision. This paper argues that if we want to understand this phenomenon, we should not look in the first instance to young people as the prime source of commentary or agency: instead, we need to understand it as a way of ‘doing’ – in this instance - the arts or education differently. The paper draws on research into how one organization, the flagship English ‘creative learning’ programme Creative Partnerships run in schools between 2002 and 2011, attempted to ‘put young people at the heart’ of its work. It argues that youth leadership should be analysed as it is enacted within and through specific sites and practices, and in terms of the subjectivities, capacities and narratives it offers to teachers, students, artists and others involved. The result is a more ambivalent account of participatory approaches, acknowledging their dilemmas as well as their achievements, and observing that they reconfigure power relations in sometimes unexpected, and sometimes all-too-familiar, ways.

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