Inclusive Youth Work Practices and Approaches
What are the main reasons for which young people in different European countries are excluded from taking part in employment, education and society?
Background of the study
In various strategic documents the EU has expressed the clear mandate to encourage social inclusion, value diversity and promote equality of opportunities for young people (e.g. EU Youth Strategy, Erasmus+ Inclusion and Diversity Strategy). Also, in many European countries these principles are at the basis of youth work (for example, in the UK’s National Occupational Standards for Youth Work). Despite of this, a lack of high-quality youth work resources for universities, training providers and youth work practitioners can be diagnosed. The RIDE study researches on the current status of youth work and the reasons for which young people might be excluded from taking part in employment, education and society. It collects basic information about principles and approaches towards inclusion, diversity and equality, existing good practices in inclusive youth work and identifies extra support measures put in place by youth work practitioners for those who may be marginalised and encounter challenges. Further, it develops contents for a University module and a training course for youth work practitioners.
Youth work in European countries
The RIDE study first looked at the current status of youth work and needs of young people in the five European partner countries (United Kingdom, Croatia, Italy, Slovakia and Turkey) through a literature review and interviews and focus groups with youth workers. It found that there is no common understanding even about the definition of a “young person”. While the United Nations (UN), the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) and World Bank (WB) define those aged 15 to 24 as “young”, the European Union defines all people between 15 and 29 years as youngsters; in some countries, for example in Italy, even persons above 30 years are considered as “young” – depending from their socio-economic status, especially when they still depend economically from their parents. Also, “youth work” is defined only in some countries, for example in the UK, where clear occupational standards were stipulated. In Italy and also on Croatia, on the contrary, there is no such definition of youth work and “youth worker” is not a recognised profession. In Croatia, however, the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth initiated a long-term process which aims to establish a common ground for a coordinated strategy towards recognition of youth work. The goal is to develop occupational standards for youth workers and encourage the creation of targeted educational programmes in the formal education system in order to increase the overall availability and quality of youth work activities.
Similarly to the differences in formal recognition and policies for youth work, also training and education for youth workers differ widely: while in UK specialist trainings on different educational levels, including University degrees for youth workers exist, there is no specific educational path for youth workers in Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Slovakia. Thus, youth workers in in these countries are mainly trained through practice after or during University studies in different fields, such as educational sciences, psychology, social sciences. For this reason it is difficult to determine the weight inclusion, diversity and equality issues have in the education and training for youth workers in these countries, as it depends on the specific studies future youth workers take, and also on the various trainings offered by state and non-state organisations. In the UK there can be found a clear mandate for the promotion of these values in the “Subject Benchmark Statement for Youth and Community Work” developed by the Quality Assurance Agency for the Bachelor’s Degree with Honours: inclusion, diversity and equality are seen as integral knowledge and skills for youth and community courses to develop in their students.
Main issues affecting young people
What are the main issues affecting young people today that prevent them from taking part in employment, education, democratic process and society at large? In the UK young people are affected particularly by issues connected to disability (which is linked to lower education and higher risk of poverty), by poverty and, consequently, less opportunities, educational difficulties and cultural differences. In Turkey, unemployment and harmful habits as well as lack of foreign language skills and lack of international experiences are identified as issues affecting young people. In Italy, there are big differences between North and South: in Northern Italy the unemployment rates are much lower than in the South, and so young people are less affected by economic problems there; however, in general, the young generation in Italy suffers from socio-economic problems and an insecure future. This can be also seen in the high NEET rate, which is one of the highest in Europe. In the last years, due to high immigration rates, cultural differences have become an additional issue for Italian youngsters.
Practical resources for inclusive youth work
In all countries analysed – United Kingdom, Croatia, Slovakia, Turkey and Greece, youth work is seen in a similar way by practitioners: as an accompaniment of young people in a decisive period of their life, where they are in need of orientation and support. The personal relationship between youngsters and youth workers is seen as crucial basis for such an accompaniment. Youth workers use various approaches and methods to promote inclusion, diversity and equality of opportunities. Among these, arts, crafts and other practical activities were mentioned in the focus groups and interviews. The complete Needs Analysis Report with more detailed results will be published soon.
In a second step of the RIDE study, Principles and Approaches guiding practice are being analysed – this includes historical hints to religious and philosophical considerations on inclusion, diversity, equality, legislation (both EU and national legislation), specific guiding principles for youth workers, and insights into practical approaches of youth work organisations. The report is currently being finalised and will be published soon.
As the RIDE study is still a work in progress – it started at the end of 2015 and will end in 2017 – other results are going to be elaborated: at the moment, Good Practices of inclusive youth work organisations and projects are being analysed and compiled. Then, Practical Resources, as for example activities, session plans, useful websites, will be collected and compiled. Finally, the study will also prepare an education proposal for higher education institutions and a training course for youth workers.
- To provide a means for youth work educators, trainers and practitioners to develop both products and processes that will support further the development of youth work practice that is inclusive, diverse and which promotes equality of opportunity
- To produce a network of partners and thus a community of practice across the partners involved in the project in order to develop knowledge and skills related to develop quality youth work practice
- Researching which of the following domains, from the Erasmus+ Inclusion and Diversity Strategy in the Field of Youth, prevent young people from taking part in employment, formal and non-formal education, trans-national mobility, democratic process and society at large, i.e. disability, health problems, educational difficulties, cultural differences, economic, social obstacles and geographical obstacles
- Researching how youth practitioners/organisations are seeking to make their services more inclusive, and what policies, approaches and methods are they seeking to use/adopt
- Researching what extra support are youth work projects/organisations seeking to put in place for those who may be marginalised and encounter challenges
- Identifying specific education and training programmes that seek to encourage inclusion, equality and diversity across: young people; student youth practitioners; and youth workers/youth professionals
- Needs analysis report – to assess the relevant issues of inclusivity, diversity and equality
- Principles and approaches report – to explore the rationale in each partner county as to why those involved in youth work should adopt an approach which is inclusive, diverse and equal
- Good practice directory – sharing examples of good practice so that projects developing such an approach can discuss common issues
- Practice resource – reference to current resources available to youth practitioners and further resources produced so that youth practitioners will feel further equipped to tackle challenges that prevent approaches based on inclusion, diversity and equality
- Resource for educators and trainers – to support work for youth work students and current practitioners
- Coordinator: University of Gloucestershire (United Kingdom)
- University of Trnava (Slovakia)
- Akdeniz University (Turkey)
- Mreža mladih Hrvatske (Croatia)
Follow the project IN ACTION
Date of project: 01/11/2015 – 01/11/2017
DG of reference: DG EAC, Education and Training, Key Action 2: Co-operation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices – Strategic Partnership in the field of YOUTH
Contact: CESIE: firstname.lastname@example.org