Inclusion! This is a very common buzz word used in every day work with this target group. It has in many circles of society (particularly those aspiring to political correctness) replaced the word exclusion which was in recent years the typical terminology, with phrases such as; socially excluded, at risk of exclusion, school exclusion etc. It was felt by many that this word gave negative connotations and that we should rephrase these terms, emphasising inclusion, but,... inclusion in what?
Helping young people in this target group to overcome their obstacles, empower themselves and become included in society at large is a part of the process of "social inclusion".
Social inclusion involves providing opportunities for those members of society who do not enjoy the same level of privilege as others and striving to ensure that all aspects of society are "open to all".
Social inclusion is difficult to quantify. How can it be said with certainty that someone has been "included" and what is such a conclusion based on? We are often lead to expect that inclusion should be a big achievement - a kind of "hallelujah" moment where all problems are solved and the individual lives happily ever after. Professionals working with fewer-opportunity young people know that inclusion, especially in the early phases, can take much simpler forms and is an ongoing process.
Young persons can be said to be "included" when they...
smile - take their own initiative
voluntarily take part in an activity - make friends
can concentrate on a task - are accepted by the rest of the group
observe the rules - show up on time
ask for help - help or praise another young people
contribute to a discussion - are not afraid of physical contact
show patience - are happy
Some of these examples may appear to be "small" or insignificant achievements, but it should be remembered that achievements which are easy for so-called "regular" young people can be major accomplishments for young people from the fewer-opportunity group. Having said that, another interesting aspect is to look at inclusion as a process rather than a goal in itself which obviously adds new ambitions and through that also challenges to this kind of work.