10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work
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Open youth work, outreach youth work, youth information centres and youth organisations relay on so called performance contracts, that are agreed upon between the government, the local authorities and board members of the youth organisation. These performance contracts specify how their concept, that has been approved by the government and assures the funding of the organisation, has to be implemented on the field. The implementation of those performance contracts is monitored either annually (for youth organisations) or twice a year (for open youth work, youth information, outreach youth work).
Research and evidence supporting Youth Work
In 2018, the first Youth Report (Jugendbericht) of the German-speaking Community was published. This is the first report that entirely focuses on the situation of youth and young adults in the German-speaking Community of Belgium. It has been prepared in response to the growing interest in the reality of life of young people and adults. It is intended to provide a broad perspective on this subject, following the trajectory of young people from the educational system to the labour market. By sketching the reality of life of young people and adults, the main objective of the report is to provide a sound basis for policy discussions on youth issues.
The report is broadly structured along the trajectory of young people and adults. The first part gives a general introduction of the investigated group in the German-speaking Community, based on demographic data. Having shed light on these general characteristics, part two particularly examines youth enrolled in education. After a general overview of the educational system, the report focuses on competences, school well-being and learning as well as educational career ambitions and educational attainment. Part three deals with school-to-work transitions as well as young adults’ labour market positions and career ambitions. Part four examines the cross-cutting topics well-being and socio-cultural activities of youth and young adults in the German-speaking Community. The last part summarizes the main findings and develops recommendations, particularly linked to data and a possible monitoring of youth matters.
While this Youth Report focused on educational topics, the focus of future Youth Reports are to be discussed with the sector.
Participative youth work
As described in Chapter 5 - Participation, participative youth work is a key element in the youth policy of the German-speaking Community. The youth decree anchors many instruments for participation and dialogue of young people and the youth sector in youth work and policy shaping. They contribute to evidence and knowledge-based policy making in the German-speaking Community.
Participatory youth involvement ensures that the needs and wishes of young people are reflected in policy development and evolution, as well as the priorities and concerns of the policy makers.
The Youth Council of the German-speaking Community (Rat der deutschsprachigen Jugend - RDJ) is an independent federation of individual young people, youth centres, local youth councils, youth organisations of the political parties, youth organisations and youth services in the German-Speaking Community. It aims to promote all activities which are useful to enable the participation of young people in the German-Speaking Community on decisions and measures which concern them. The Youth Council considers itself as a platform that gives young people the opportunity for active participation in the design of youth policy, for developing projects and for experiencing (European) democracy.
The Youth Council is steered by a Steering Committee and a General Assembly. Members must not be older than 35 years by the time that they are nominated. Different working groups develop projects and contribute to the overall work of the Youth Council. To fulfil its tasks, the Youth Council receives attendance fees and the secretarial and organisational work is done by two persons working for the Youth Office. Moreover the Youth Council can get funding for specific projects.
The Youth Council gives young people the opportunity to actively shape their future. To this end, it helps creating further possibilities for participation and promoting political education. The Youth Council promotes participation through different projects. The Youth Council tries to strengthen its own membership in other committees, such as administrative boards and advisory bodies.
"Smart" youth work: youth work in the digital world
The German-speaking Community has decided to tackle the new challenges brought by the digital world for young people and youth workers, in order to be able to support and strengthen them adequately.
One of the main challenges to make youth work more efficient through digital solutions is the fear that young people are already spending too much time with digital devices, and that the increased use of devices in youth work could intensify this effect. However, study results show that this anxiety may not always be justified - young people are usually not isolated. Young people are active users of social media. Their aim is to be in contact with others - on a larger scale, more regularly and more quickly. It is therefore important that digital solutions and their potential skillful use by youth workers are seen and recognised as new opportunities in youth work and their potential skillful use by youth workers.
A second major challenge is the digital divide that prevails in society: the different skills of each individual and access to information and digital opportunities within the population. Technology is also underused in East Belgian youth work. For young people, information technology is inextricably linked with everyday life, which is why it is important to develop or introduce new digital solutions in youth work as well. There is a need for modern digital devices and solutions to increase digital literacy and the improved ability to use digital solutions, also in cooperation with different parties.
Various technological solutions enable youth workers to reach young people more effectively and productively. The place of residence of the young people also plays an important role, because in some villages, young people are not given the opportunity to visit youth work facilities. For today's "digital natives", information technology is a suitable environment, as they "feel at home" with the devices and use them to offer opportunities and services in an appropriate way and "language" based on the objectives of youth work.
The Regional Development Concept III (Regionales Entwicklungskonzept III - REK III) project "smart youth work" consists of the following topics:
- The communication of critical digital competence;
- The promotion of participation;
- Education of values and democracy in digital environments;
- The qualification of voluntary and full-time staff for the development of "Smart Youth Work";
- To make visible the perspectives of young people on how to digitisation and network policy can be designed to meet the needs of young people.
The following measures are planned for the period 2020-2024:
- Development of a concept for the implementation of the basic idea "Smart Youth Work" through the participation of the youth sector. This includes an inventory of the media and digital technologies currently used in youth work. Cooperation between the education system and youth work: which digital competences are already taught in school education, which should be taught within the framework of youth work?
- To consolidate the digital skills of youth workers. This can be done through further training.
- To support the physical work of youth workers through the use of digital technologies and media in the form of a pilot project.
As part of the "smart youth work" project, a study "Fachliche Begleitung Digitale Jugendarbeit" (professional accompaniment smart youth work) has been carried out in early 2021.