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The extracurricular child and youth work is to provide facilities and services that are conducive to the socialisation of young people. It therefore focuses primarily on their interests and needs. At the same time, extracurricular child and youth work claims to empower these young people to self-determination and to motivate them to shape society. By discovering the own abilities, but also the own limits, young people have the chance to develop their own life perspectives. Building relationships - be it with other children or young people or with people working in extracurricular child and youth work - develop personal communication skills and strengthens social skills. By allowing children and young people to experience different opinions and interests, different cultural orientations and religious beliefs, the basis for a reflected treatment of such differences is created. This strengthens the basis for solidarity with one another. Through personal involvement in extracurricular child and youth work, participation in projects and participation in community activities of youth participation, children and young people experience creative power; they experience themselves as publicly effective. The experience that one's own opinion counts and everyone can contribute to the success of a project is a central basis for political participation and thus for shaping society. Reflective learning is made possible by the fact that children and young people discuss and re-think their current experiences together with other young people and adults and then transfer these experiences into their own lifeworld. In this way, extracurricular child and youth work provides life-like learning experiences that, unlike formal education, are not graded. According to the National Youth Council "Non-formal education is an organised process in which young people have the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills as well as to develop skills of many kinds".
Extracurricular child and youth work has at least a "double mandate": on the one hand, it has the task of representing the diverse expectations and needs of young people in public and towards politics; on the other hand, it should address the concerns and expectations of the institutions and the sponsoring bodies, who may also be different.
A differentiation of extracurricular child and youth work can also be made according to their respective institutions. These organisations reflect the whole range of public and civil society actors. They range from private associations and NGOs to municipal institutions as well as nationally and internationally active institutions. Differentiation is possible by activity. The structures of extracurricular child and youth work are extremely diverse, and there is hardly any field of action or topic that is not covered. The offers and activities have the claim to fulfil the diversity of the adolescent worlds.
In Austria, non-profit associations, self-governing youth clubs or social organisations act as providers of child and youth work. The municipalities and confessional or party political institutions can also assume this role. A large number of Austrian sports and cultural associations, social organisations or public emergency services have their own youth groups or corresponding departments and are therefore also involved in child and youth work.
The following section describes the forms of Austrian child and youth work. Essentially, there are three areas: the associative child and youth work, the youth information and the open child and youth work. After describing the respective area, the principles of action and the objectives, the target groups and the thematic orientations are described. Methods, offers and networking activities, as well as an overview of the structure and qualification of the employees, complete the overview.
The associative child and youth work
When the public is talking about the extracurricular child and youth work, most people first think of the associative child and youth work. For the most part, the organisations that provide child and youth work in Austria have existed for several decades and cover a very broad spectrum. Their goals and ideological backgrounds are confessional, cultural, ecological or party political. Most affiliated child and youth organisations not only provide age-appropriate services for children, adolescents and young adults, but also act as socio-political actors and publicly campaign for the diverse concerns of children and young people, for example with their own campaigns and events. Child and youth organisations are an important learning place for social participation, especially for those young people who are involved in the respective organisation. The voluntary commitment of largely young people is an important basis and therefore central to the child and youth organisations. With its offers and activities, the association's child and youth work reaches around 1.5 million young people up to the age of 30 (Federal Chancellery, 2019).
Associated child and youth organisations pursue a holistic and participatory educational approach and see themselves as a space for social development in which young people can discover and develop their talents. They take the concerns and interests of young people seriously and support them in the development of personal skills. Above all, professional child and youth organisations are also important places of learning for understanding democracy and participation in which children and adolescents can experience self-efficacy.
Offers and methods
The services and methods available in the association's child and youth work are as diverse as the organisations themselves. They convey a great variety of skills and knowledge. Starting with the so-called soft skills up to technical and organisational skills, young people are supported in their personal development and their civic engagement. A systematic collection and presentation is not possible due to the diversity of organisations at this point. A presentation that deals with the characteristics and priorities of each organisation exists with the publication provided by the Austrian Youth Council (Kinder- und Jugendorganisationen IN ÖSTERREICH).
The networking and cooperation of the associated child and youth Organisations takes place at different levels: horizontally between the organisations and vertically between the associations and other youth-related institutions. The Austrian Youth Council, in which most of the Austrian child and youth organisations are members, offers a variety of opportunities for networking and cooperation. In addition, many organisations are connected internationally via European or worldwide associations.
As part of internal education and training, numerous seminars, courses, workshops and training courses are held, attended by thousands of volunteers and multipliers. These non-formal educational offers make a significant contribution to quality assurance in association with child and youth work. A detailed overview of the education and training measures in the field of association children and youth organisations can be found in the publication "Hier geht’s lang! Navigationshilfe Kinder- und Jugendorganisationen"(National Youth Council).
The funding of child and youth work activities and offers is provided through own funds (own contributions of honorary employees, funds contributed or material assets), through self-financing (income from events and activities, membership fees, donations and sponsorship services) and through outside financing (subsidies of the public sector or the carrier such as churches and parties). In Austria, municipalities, states, and the federal government are by far the most important sponsors of extracurricular child and youth work.
Youth Promotion (national level)
The financial support of youth organisations, youth initiatives, associations and youth projects is an important instrument of the youth policy of the Federal Chancellery.
Financial support is possible according to the Federal Youth Promotion Act (Bundes-Jugendförderungsgesetz) as well as within the framework of the EU program "ERASMUS +" and the European Solidarity Corps.
The Federal Youth Promotion Act regulates the financial support of extracurricular youth education and youth work by the Federal Chancellery.
According to § 5 of the Federal Youth Promotion Act (Bundes-Jugendförderungsgesetz applications can be submitted for
- projects of child and youth work
- special concerns of child and youth work
- basic funding
and according to the Website of the Federal Chancellery additionally for
- basic and project funding (only for party political youth organisations)
- special concerns of child and youth work - membership fee (only for youth organisations which receive basic funding and are members of the office of the Federal Youth Representative)
The funding applicant must detail the project to be supported or the association structure to be supported (project presentation, type of project, time frame, location, co-organiser, etc.). The applicant for funding must submit a financing plan showing the total costs, own resources, co-financing by the federal states and/or other (public) funding bodies, as well as the amount and purpose of the funding requested by the Federal Chancellery.
All required forms and further information can be found on the website of the Federal Chancellery.
Youth Promotion (federal states level)
According to the Federal Constitution, responsibility for extracurricular child and youth work rests with the federal states. In addition to funding for organisations operating nationwide and for projects of nationwide importance, the funding of the federal states and the municipalities is of crucial importance: they make it possible to provide a nationwide offer for all young people in Austria.
The aim of the Federal Youth Promotion Act is the financial support of measures of the extracurricular youth work, in particular to promote the development of mental, psychological, physical, social, political, religious and ethical competences of children and adolescents.
EU program ERASMUS+ and European Solidarity Corps
In 2020 the OeAD-GmbH — Agentur für Bildung und Internationalisierung (Austria's Agency for Education and Internationalisation) was commissioned by the Austrian government to take over the national agency work for the youth sector and for the European Solidarity Corps from the beginning of the programme period 2021 - 2027, in addition to its existing work as a National Agency for Erasmus+ Education. Nine regional offices in the federal states allow applicants good and low-threshold access to information and advice.
All major youth organisations are part of the Austrian National Youth Council (Bundesjugendvertretung – BJV), that is the official and legally established representative body of children and youth in Austria. Together with its member organisations the National Youth Council is a strong voice for the diverse interests and ideas of young people. Regarding youth issues, the BJV has the status of a social partner. This means that the BJV takes part in political negotiations on behalf of young people. In Austria, the EU Youth Dialogue is located at the BJV.
Furthermore, the National Network of Youth Information Centres, the Centre of Competence for Open Youth Work, the National Youth Council and the National Agency (ERASMUS +) are for example part of the development group of the Austrian Youth Strategy and are members of the Children’s Rights Board. These 4 organisations are invited to most networks, boards, and development groups.
The cooperation with public services dedicated to young people happens on multiple levels, for instance in cooperation with cultural institutions and educational facilities, through information about the labour market, traineeships and other educational offers provided in cooperation with the labour market service and other institutions taking political action on the labour market, through job fairs or try-out days for young people in cooperation with local companies, by accompanying young people to court hearings, in the form of joint workshops with the police on such topics as violence, cyber-crime, self-defence, etc. The more strongly children and youth work is based on social environments, the more important regional and interdisciplinary partners become.
The symposium of the open youth work - Austria wide (bOJA-Fachtagung)
The bOJA symposium has become a fixture in the calendars of numerous youth workers from all over Austria. The unique conference takes place each year in a different federal state and on changing relevant topics.
The three-day event is an excellent opportunity to network, socialize, discuss and engage in a lively exchange of practitioners and experts from science and politics. Each year, the participants can expect an exciting mix of input lectures, discussions, workshops and individual practical project presentations in the context of playgrounds and/or world cafés. A diverse supporting program is provided and the networking event rounds off the bOJA symposium.
The nationwide symposium is a cooperation of bOJA – Centre of Competence for Open Youth Work, the Federal Chancellery, the respective federal state and in some cases with the National Agency ERASMUS+.
Development Group Youth Strategy
The development of the youth strategy is accompanied from the beginning by a working group. The Youth Strategy Development Group meets monthly, discusses priorities and draws up proposals for action. Part of the youth strategy is also youth work.
The development group includes:
- National Youth Council
- National Network Austrian of Youth Information Centres
- Competence Centre for Open Youth Work
- National Agency Erasmus + and European Solidarity Corps
- the National Correspondent at the European Youth Research Network
- Department of Youth Policy (Federal Chancellery)
- Competence Centre Youth (Federal Chancellery)
All these stakeholders are also part of the National Working Group of the EU Youth Dialogue.