In 2013 Youth Link reached the milestone of 21 years of interchurch youth work and action.
What follows is a narrative of those years. It is presented as a time-line with significant developments grouped in a succession of eras. Each era begins with the social and political context in which the Youth Link developmental process took place. The time line narrative recalls therefore, the key events in Northern Ireland and the significant developments in the Youth Link story.
It is a narrative worth celebrating. Gratitude is due to founding visionaries, staff, management, stakeholders and funders over the years who have made Youth Link what it is at 21. Youth Link is now a high profile and significant player in the youth sector in Northern Ireland.
In the beginning 1987-1991
- Talks about talks. – Early political negotiations.
- Church youth departments in conversation.
- The challenge of the Department of Education.
- The Lund Principle – “Act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately”.
- 1991 the four larger Churches agreed a Youth Link Constitution.
The Early Years (1992 – 1999)
- Continuing atrocities and loss of life.
- The Good Friday Agreement.
- Launch of Youth Link.
- Building cross-sectional partnerships.
- Developing training programmes in youth work and community relations.
- A fragile partnership.
- Improving communications and management mechanisms.
- American President’s Prize awarded to Youth Link.
Developing the process further (2000 – 2005)
- A stop – start peace process.
- More inclusive negotiations.
- Youth Link’s 10th Anniversary.
- Building networks at national and international levels.
- Articulating a new vision.
- External help with contextual strategic planning.
- Enhancing professional development.
- Consolidating partnerships.
- First Investors in People Award.
Enlarging The Horizons (2006-2009)
- The St. Andrew’s Agreement.
- Devolved Government restored to Northern Ireland.
- Further strategic planning and implementation.
- Engaging with rural communities and border counties.
- Introduction of BA Honours Degree in Youth & Community Work and Practical Theology.
- JNC professionally endorsed through NSETS and NYA.
- Education and Training Inspection Report (Department of Education) Received Grade 1 Report in the category of Excellence. (2008)
- Capital secured towards new and larger premises.
- Youth Link invited to White House to meet the American President.
New Site, New Development (2010 – 2013)
- Economic recession.
- The shared future continues to be illusive.
- Opening of the new Training and Resource Centre in interface area.
- Youth Link recognised as the largest provider of accredited training in youth work in Northern Ireland.
- 650 participants engaged in accredited programmes (2013).
- Implementation of Community Relations, Equality and Diversity (CRED) Policy.
- First graduates of the Degree programme (2011).
- Launch of Apprenticeship Peace Programme for marginalised young people.
- Continuing professional development of youth workers.
- The development of a coherent training route and pathways into youth work and ministry.
- Youth Link at 21 has processed in excess of 8,000 accredited participants.
The journey will continue (2014 – 2020)
- The Good Friday Agreement 15 years on.
- The Third Northern Ireland Assembly.
- Continuing difficulties in dealing with the past.
- The reluctant peace.
- An on-going decades long peace process.
- Priorities for Youth – collaborative implementation of new Government Policy.
- Youth Link as a civil society organisation contributing towards a shared future.
- Nurturing through education and training a sustainable faith and a sustainable peace.
- Building positive and sustainable relationships within and between communities.
- Profile enhancement of Youth Link as a unique model of faith based collaborative youth work.
- Open to new questions, new challenges and new developments.