Network of Regional Youth Work Units England blog

A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.

An award-winning approach

ncvys group 2013There’s been a feel-good factor in the RYWU-NE office this past week.

Last Saturday, three of our projects travelled down to London to attend the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) Awards ceremony. MoJo Media – the young person led media arm of Truth About Youth, the Young People’s Charter for Arts and Culture (YPCAC), and mental health project Change UR Mind were all shortlisted.

Hosted at Plaisterers Hall, the ceremony was an opportunity for staff and young people alike to don their finest attire and soak up the splendour of the fashionably stylish venue.

Sponsored by BIG Lottery and Participation Works, the NCVYS Young Partners Awards are a celebration of young people and adults working together to make decisions. Winners are chosen by a national panel of young people who visit all shortlisted projects to meet with team members and see their work first-hand.

And the winners are…

We’re thrilled to announce that the YPCAC and Change UR Mind group walked away with the awards in the arts and culture and health and wellbeing categories respectively.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone involved and despite leaving empty handed, MoJo Media were still over the moon about receiving national recognition for their hard work over the past year.

The awards season spirals onwards, with our Truth About Youth programme being shortlisted in the intergenerational category at this year’s Children & Young People Now Awards, which take place late November.

It’s not all about receiving and here at the RYWU-NE we like to hand out awards, too.

We’re in the throes of preparing for this year’s Truth About Youth PoSBO Awards. The awards, now in their fourth year, celebrate the achievements of young people aged 11-25 across the North East region. The awards ceremony takes place in December and will be circus themed complete with clowns, jugglers and candy floss. Look out for updates on our Truth About Youth twitter feed.

starWhat’s in an award?

Across all professions, popular culture and the world of academia, prestigious awards take pride of place on many a mantelpiece. But just how important are all these sparkling trophies and framed certificates? And all things considered, do they actually make a difference?

Awards are, essentially, a big pat on the back from your peers. They recognise and celebrate your achievements, and convey the message that you’re at the top of your game. They instil a mix of envy and disappointment within onlookers, but conjure up sheer pride and joy for those lucky enough to be walking away with the accolade.

From our perspective, awards are always perceived as a bonus – they are never used to incentivise the young people involved in our projects. We never embark on a piece of work with an award viewed as the end game.

Indeed, the voluntary work that young people involved in our projects carry out is altruistic in nature and intended to improve the lives of others. Of course, it’s not truly selfless, as the work provides volunteers with an opportunity to build on their own skills and experience into the bargain.

But if the promise of an award were to be dangled afar like a tantalising carrot, be it a shiny trophy or cash prize, would it actually drive greater commitment, and in turn, improved results from young people?

What the experts say…

There is a school of thought which argues that ‘awards can be seen as a device that, like monetary income and intrinsic motivation, motivates individuals to exert effort’ (Tait & Walker 2000).  We shouldn’t rely on altruism, generosity, solidarity or civic duty – these moral sentiments are scarce resources that deplete over time.

But, there is evidence to support the contrary.

In Michael Sandel’s book ‘What Money Can’t Buy’, he talks of how financial incentives can crowd out public spirit. Paying people to carry out a good deed changes the very character of the activity and displaces moral and civic commitment. Results don’t necessarily improve and an experiment that illustrates this point relates to Israeli students.

piggy bankEach year there is a designated ‘donation day’ where Israeli students go door-to-door to collect donations. In the study, the students were split into three groups – one group was given a motivational speech; the second was offered a monetary reward of 1% based on the donations they collected, and the third were offered 10%, with the rewards coming from a separate source.

The unpaid group raised the most money, followed by the 10% group (the unpaid group raised 9% more than them). This shows that monetary incentives do work, but the unpaid group still outshone the paid groups. Sandel states that turning the good-willed activity into a ‘job’ dampened their commitments and in turn, this impacted on the amount of money they eventually raised.

A worthy accolade?

No matter how modest we are – a little recognition and acknowledgement from our peers is probably something we all secretly crave.

What characterises the people who work in the charity sector is their passion and commitment to initiate change for the better, and if an award can boost morale among volunteers and help to raise the profile of a particular cause – then surely this can only be a good thing.

In our sector, the prospect of an award should never be the primary ingredient of a project – it should be the cherry on top.

Regional Youth Work Unit – North East

Credit ‘star’ photo: Alex Bruda

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This entry was posted on October 28, 2013 by in Youth Focus: North East and tagged , , , , .
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