Following a successful stint at the Playwork Conference in Eastbourne earlier this month, the momentum towards establishing a new playwork body continues to grow.
Around 150 people have now broadly agreed on the purpose and nature of the kind of vehicle that the field wants to create. A new playwork body could, for example:
- Represent playworkers UK-wide, giving them a collective voice.
- Be a focus for good practice: supporting research and other areas that develop playwork.
- Promote playwork nationally and support local campaigns.
- Lobby for policy change to create a legal and regulatory framework conducive to playwork services.
- Provide support and benefits for playworkers, such as networking, information, skills sharing, events and resources.
- Be outward looking, building links with other professions and sectors.
The discussions have also led to a broad consensus on what kind of vehicle the playwork community needs, with some general principles giving us a clear direction of travel: -
- Based on a cohesive narrative of playwork
A new vehicle should be founded on clear and up-to-date knowledge, skills and understandings of playwork.
It should develop its aims and activities in a way that is fully consistent with playwork principles, regardless of market forces or policy trends.
It should be an agent for change, unafraid to challenge the status quo.
It should be independent of other agencies, owned by and accountable only to its members, however it may be funded and administered.
It should work with other organisations in the sector, aiming to complement existing activities that support playwork, rather than competing with them.
It should aim to mirror the values and ethos of the playwork approach: including, supporting and responding to the field rather than seeking to control or direct it.
It should work always to make playwork as available and as accessible as possible to the widest range of children, from the fullest diversity of their communities, whatever the barriers.
It should act only with a clear mandate from its members, through transparent, representative structures and processes.
- A champion for play
It should be an advocate for playwork and the value of playing in general, working with and supporting play champions everywhere.
- Credible and united
It should build unity and consensus within the playwork field, so as to speak with a credible and authoritative voice.
It must be non-commercial, securing only such funds as it needs to further its aims for playwork.
This is an organic process: nothing is carved in stone and these aspirations will, no doubt, continue to evolve as a new organisation starts to take shape.
Karen Benjamin and I are both very keen to stress that, whilst we have, up until now, led this process from a practical point of view, it has been a collective initiative from the start. We intend to continue to organise open meetings to involve as many people as possible in building this thing, and we have also proposed a steering group to share more of the tasks ahead.
In the meantime, we would like to see the numbers expressing an interest in the initiative, continue to grow. If you can broadly endorse the approach outlined here, would like to see a new body established on this basis, and might, in principle, be interested in joining it once it is formed, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with “playwork vehicle” as the subject. We will then add you to the mailing list.