INTEGRATE Principles series: #2 Not Knowing (again!)
By Kiaron Jones-Hewitt, Youth Engagement Practitioner at MAC-UK
This month we’re sticking with the principle of ‘Not Knowing’, and this time Kiaron Jones-Hewitt, Youth Engagement Practitioner at the MAC-UK project PAE (Positive Adolescent Engagement), tells us how he has used this principle on the frontline. Aspects of not knowing such as tentativeness and curiosity are important aspects of our therapeutic practice. At MAC-UK and TIM this practice is supported by AMBIT, a framework to support developing clinical practice that has been created by our partner The Anna Freud Centre.
Hi, I’m Kiaron and I’m passionate about this work as it is something I believe in and have experienced first-hand. I first started my journey back in 2010 as a service user and have now transitioned to being the Youth Engagement Practitioner at the PAE project. This is more than a job or an opportunity, it’s part of my life now. My role requires me to work on multiple levels, from on the ground, drawing upon psychologically informed theories and principles as well as my own experiences to support our young people. I actively work with networks around young people, to support and advocate for both parties, and to be the bridge between young people and services. I inform the project’s strategy, service development, and design from session planning to evaluation and model development.
The principle of ‘not knowing’ is particularly helpful whenever I start working with a young person I haven’t met before. Reminding myself to take a non-expert and curious stance allows me to question the assumption that I know the young person based on information in a referral or something that I have read on a document. Not knowing is an important first step in the process of taking the time to get to know the young person and taking them for what and who they are.
In my work at PAE, as someone with similar experiences to the young people I can understand some of what they are facing, but I also don’t know what’s going on for them day-to-day. They are living a different lifestyle, are part of a different generation and face different challenges. Not knowing enables me to ask questions and remain open to their point of view, which stops me making assumptions based only on my experience.
An example of when this principle helped in my practice was when two different groups were engaging and I used a not knowing stance to avoid making assumptions about their context. By adopting this approach, I allowed them to tell me that they were peers and were able to then work with them together. This built trust in me because I was willing to find out more about their context.