10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work
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There is no national quality assurance framework for youth work. However, the parliament act of 20 January 2012 on revised youth and children’s rights policy plan ensures structural support for youth work organisations at community level. It sets out funding conditions for Flemish youth organisations and requires that the organisations operate in line with the national-level priorities. In this connection, each structural subsidized youth organization must submit an annual progress report which entails amongst others a financial report and an activity report.
The Flemish government is mapping the youth work and youth policy of the local governments in the so-called ‘Book of numbers’ (‘Cijferboek’). This book appears every three years. It’s a questionnaire, which monitors the policy of local governments concerning youth. This questionnaire results in quantitative figures on the local youth policy, such as political responsibilities, youth councils, presence and support of youth work, infrastructure of youth work, youth space, information for youth and communication and cooperation with other sectors.
Additionally, the Flemish Parliament Act of 20 January 2012 on a renewed Flemish policy on youth and children’s rights mentions that the Youth Monitor (JOP-monitor) is one of the instruments for a youth and children’s right policy. The Youth Monitor is a scientific report with statistical data on youth gathered by the Flemish Youth Research Platform. The Youth Research Platform (Jeugdonderzoeksplatform) is an interdisciplinary and interuniversity collaboration between Ghent University, KU Leuven and Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
The Youth Research Platform periodically gathers own empirical data on the conduct, convictions and life circumstances of contemporary Flemish youth through this Youth Monitor. Therefore, a standardized questionnaire has been developed, which monitors the life-conditions and activities of young people. The Youth Monitor appears at least every five years. One of the topics covered in this monitor is young people’s participation in youth work.
Participative Youth Work
The Flemish Youth Council is involved in the design of youth work programmes and initiatives. For example, currently the Decree of 20 January 2012 on a renewed youth and children's rights policy, is being reformed. This is done in discussion with the Flemish Youth Council and youth workers delegated by the Flemish Youth Council via the Youth Work Committee.
On the other hand, the Minister himself chooses certain focuses in his policy and, for example, a project line can be written on which we then have a little less influence purely in terms of focus or subject matter, the elaboration of which and, for example, calls, can sometimes be discussed.
For more information see section 5.4 of chapter 5.
Smart youth work: youth work in the digital world
To date, digital youth work has not yet been included in the decrees of the Flemish government regarding youth work and therefore the current regulations on youth work are still geared to physical activities. The Department of Culture, Youth and Media does recognise the importance of digital youth work. To get more insight into the multitude and diversity of initiatives in this area, the Department outsourced a study on digital youth work in Flanders (Vermeire et al., 2022). The report of this study confirms that Flemish youth work organisations have already rolled out many interesting and innovative digital youth work initiatives, yet a number of barriers could stand in the way of further growth. The research formulates recommendations to tackle these barriers and to further stimulate digital youth work.
Policy support is also provided through international and European cooperation, study visits, exchange of good practices, creating the right environment and opportunities for the development and promotion of smart youth work and stimulating transversal partnerships. For instance, a new cooperation agreement 2019-2022 was concluded between Flanders and the Baltic States on smart youth work. On the agenda are study visits, development and dissemination of the concept of smart youth work, international conferences, exchange of good practices, web seminars etc., …The cooperation programme between Flanders and Luxembourg 2018-2019 also paid attention to the development of a maker culture. These international and European practices offer inspiration to support and inspire Flemish youth work.
During 2021-2022 the Department of Culture, Youth and Media, De Ambrassade, Knowledge centre Mediawijs and JINT brought together a learning network to exchange knowledge and experiences on themes relating to digital youth work. The network was aimed to detect the challenges and needs of youth workers and young people.
There is an increasing attention for digital youth work in Flanders, which has had an extra stimulus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ambrassade has taken the initiative to support youth work organisations in their search for digital possibilities. Together with Mediawijs, JEF, publiq, FARO and De Vlaamse Vereniging voor Bibliotheek, Archief & Documentatie (VVBAD), it has been organising ‘Dig It Up!’. This is an inspiration festival that explores the horizons of digital and online tools for art and culture experiences every year. However, youth work organizations also feel the need to focus on digital youth work. Since the online world is no longer separated from the world in which young people spend their time, youth work must also be given a place in the digital world of children and young people. There is consensus in youth work on the fact that, considering the digital innovations, a kind of catch-up is needed that enables youth work to organise itself differently, to cooperate more with other organisations that are already more educated.
The Ambrassade offers them a step-by-step plan in 3 steps:
1) Investigate what digital youth work means and what possibilities it offers for their own organisation; 2) Get inspired by examples of digital youth work at different levels; 3) Set up cooperation across sectors.
The initiative comes from the youth sector itself.
The Ambrassade explicitly calls for experts to be on hand, to set up collaborations, to experiment and to learn, so to get inspired at Dig It Up, the inspiration day for digital innovation.
Mediaraven vzw aims to be a platform for youth work and youth information on the internet. The association provides services for youth work and youth in information and communication technology. Mediaraven vzw seizes the opportunities of digital media with children, young people and the broad youth work. They create an experimental space in which children, young people and youth workers: develop their media competences and media literacy; share online information about or for youth or youth work; supporting broad youth work in working with digital media. Mediaraven pays special attention to youth work: together with them they look for ways to use digital media to strengthen their own functioning.