The Lens Model

The Lens Model aims to be flexible and utilitarian. It is a five-stage interconnected framework with continuous interaction between each level which links the processing of information to the complex relationship between gender and young people’s everyday lives.

The model provides a lens through which practitioners and trainers can gain more clarity towards a holistic understanding of gender conscious practice. The model underpins clear value based principles that are complementary to core youth work principles such as valuing young people, empowerment, participation, inclusion, promoting equality and challenging oppression and narrow gender stereotypes.

  • Level One requires practitioners to sharpen their vision towards a better understanding the multi-complex issues associated with living in a gendered society.
  • Level Two encourages practitioners to appreciate and see more clearly the ways in which a gendered society impacts upon the lived experiences of young women and young men in terms of identity, territoriality and culture.
  • Level Three cultivates a deeper understanding of the ‘gendered self’ – that is gaining clarity to how our attitudes and values have been shaped and influenced by gender and how this affects how we relate to others.
  • Level Four focuses in on how practitioners and trainers can purposefully engage young people through gender conscious practice.
  • Level Five is the core of the model as it orientates practitioners towards focusing more sharply on outcomes that result in personal, social and political transformation amongst young people.

Each level is inextricably linked to the next and enables practitioners to see clearly which stage of the model they are functioning at any given time. It allows for a movement from surface learning to a deeper understanding within each level. Whilst the model requires that practitioners possess certain level of expertise, knowledge and skills, it accommodates the fact that practitioners and trainers may be at different stages in their personal development. The following discourse on the Lens Model is not meant to be a critique of theoretical debate on gender, rather it aims to highlight themes that may emerge or need to be understood and appreciated when addressing gender related issues with young people.

When gender conscious principles are applied to practice, what emerges is a gender conscious approach towards personal, social and political transformation of young people; capacity building; empowerment; collective action and social justice. Gender-conscious practice involves therefore more than simply an exploration of one’s own gender, but consciously moves into the realm of exploring the “other”. The intention is to challenge the misconceptions of the “other” that can lead to sexist or discriminatory attitudes and behaviour. It is particularly effective where there are different identities, whereby there is either explicit or implicit rejection by one group of the “other”. The approach works on separating myth from reality, encouraging understanding of difference and acknowledging common features of both. The next stage of this practice involves translating this into anti-sexist and anti-discriminatory behaviour.

Gender-conscious programmes are devised to address specific issues which arise from gender structural inequalities. Gender-conscious programmes challenge these structural inequalities using a three-pronged approach:

  • through raising awareness of the inequality;
  • through providing young people with the skills to overcome potential barriers arising from the inequality;
  • through motivating them, as individuals and as a group, to take positive action in addressing similar inequalities in their own lives.

Agencies who deliver gender conscious practice may develop programmes such as: sexual health; assertiveness; single sex work; gender awareness; pre-vocational programmes for young mothers planning to return to work; programmes focused on young men and violence; young fathers; community development and citizenship; lobbying; consultation, capacity building and advocacy.

Susan Morgan and Ken Harland (2010). The Lens Model. University of Ulster.

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