1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
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Youth policy in the German-speaking Community seeks to be evidence and knowledge based. Knowledge of youth workers and practitioners are included in the strategy plans via their direct participation and especially in the concepts for the delivery of the youth policy.
With the development of an interative statistics portal in 2010 the statistical work in the German-speaking Community has been systematised. Data on population, education, employment, culture and other areas are collected and made available. Pure statistical data is one source of evidence for policy-making, and a second key source is research.
In the past few years various studies have been conducted in the German-speaking Community to provide information on a range of topics. These have included drugs and addiction, social problems, media, violence and poverty. The German-speaking Community also participated in international research like the PISA study of achievement in formal education.
For the establishment of an evidence-based policy development it is not sufficient to react on more or less random research issues. To guarantee the proactive making of evidence youth-policy, strategies for evidence production have to be included in the policy. Therefore, a regular youth report –in combination with the five-year evaluation of the operational youth policy concepts – should improve the quality of youth policy development and implementation for the next five years. The first Youth Report (Jugendbericht) was published in late 2018.
An evidence-based youth policy requires the development and definition of multidisciplinary indicators on well-being and on the future prospects of the young people. The youth policy needs specific research that collects, coordinates, systematically records and evaluates the data about young people.
Strategic Plan on Youth
The Strategic Plan on Youth (Jugendstrategieplan) is based on the analysis of the current life situation of the young people in the German-speaking Community. The quality of the analysis on which it is based is important for the credibility of the strategy. For drawing up the Second Strategic Plan on Youth a very detailed analysis has been conducted. Before measures can be planned in a second stage, the topics of the Strategic Plan on Youth must be defined. The choice of topics builds on knowledge of the youth sector. Specifically this means that the needs of the young people are determined by means of data from the youth sector and corresponding measures drafted. Both the supported youth organisations and the youth information centre (Jugendinfo), the Open Youth Work (Offene Jugendarbeit), the Youth Office (Jugendbüro) and the Council of the German-speaking Youth (Rat der Deutschsprachigen Jugend, RDJ) have made their contribution. For drawing up the Second Strategic Plan on Youth the following have been consulted:
- The results of the effectiveness dialogues that the youth organisations have annually with the ministry and during which the implementation of the concept and what has happened in the previous year are discussed.
- The results of the monitoring committees in the Open Youth Work that have been conducted with representatives of the German-speaking Community, the respective local authority and the agencies of the Open Youth Work.
- The results of the social space analyses that the Open Youth Work agencies have to carry out as well as further various studies, surveys and statistical inquiries.
- The analysis of the current situation of the ongoing Strategic Plan on Youth.
The Second Strategic Plan on Youth was originally planned to cover the period 2016-2020, it has however been prolonged for 2 years, so effectively the covered period is 2016-2022. As of 1 January 2023, the Third Strategic Plan on Youth will enter into force, its implementation period being 2023-2027. The focal points oft he Third Strategic Plan on Youth will be:
- Civic participation;
- Emotions and Self-Awareness;
- Sustainable Development of East Belgium as Living Area
Social space analyses
“The purpose of the social space analysis is to better develop and control the provision as well as to organise the Open Youth Work.” (Spatscheck, Christian: Theory and method discussion)
The social space analyses form an important element for the analysis of the life situation of young people from the German-speaking Community. The Open Youth Work agencies were required by the Decree of 6 December 2011 on the Promotion of Youth Work (Dekret vom 06. Dezember 2011 zur Förderung der Jugendarbeit) to submit the social space analyses by 30 April of the year in which the elections to the Parliament of the German-speaking Community take place. The basis of the Decree provides in concrete terms for one social space analysis to be drawn up per local authority. This is based on the concept of social space youth work. This implies that youth work goes beyond the classical “supervisory function” and a more active role is assigned to the participants. With the major Decree amendments, which were introduced in late 2021 and entered into force on 1 January 2022, Open Youth Work agencies no longer have to submit an annual social space analysis anymore. The social space analyses still need to be carried out by the Open Youth Work Agencies to serve as a basis for the annual programme. This means, the social space analysis are no longer published and presented and there are no corresponding deadlines anymore, but the annual programme still is presented.
The social space of each local authority is to be opened up by means of available information and data. The places and spaces of young people – their qualities, significances and functions – are investigated and the lives of specific target groups, individual in-crowds and cliques (e.g. foreign girls, younger teenagers etc.) examined. This is just a snapshot of the lives of the young people in the German-speaking Community that has no claim to completeness.
The social space analyses are carried out by specialists from youth work itself. In their observer role they develop a style of enquiry that meets their expectations and aims. This may change, become more precise or be completely reformulated in the course of the analyses and interpretation of the results. The research questions may be something like:
- “How should the provision in the youth clubs be organised so that it is accepted by the young people?”
- “How must the OYW in the local authority organise itself so that both sexes use the provision?”
Together with the use of statistical material on the population structure and other relevant data of the respective social space, in an analysis of their lives, “small-scale” field study methods are used or even activities of the youth work itself that can be made usable (e.g. video surveys). Key actors are questioned such as community leaders, young people, associations or schools.
In this way the social space analysis ensures not only better provision for the target group but also supports the youth workers in acquiring comprehensive knowledge about the social space investigated. In concrete terms this means that using this knowledge youth workers can develop focuses and recommendations for action for the youth work in their local authority that is adapted to the local circumstances and corresponds to the lives of the young people.
The social space analyses were carried out in collaboration with an external expert from the Department of Social and Cultural Studies at the University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf and a supervisor and organisation developer, Georg Nebel. The Youth Office of the German-speaking Community was commissioned with acquainting the youth workers with the procedures of the social space analysis and equipping them with the appropriate methods. The methods taught (town walks, auto-photography, questioning experts, group discussions, etc.) have already proved their worth in practice and can be carried out by youth workers.
As the German-speaking Community neither represents a statistical unit nor has universities or other research centres, national and international cooperation and networking is of great importance. Initiatives on participatory youth research have started up in the last few years and young people, experts in youth work and youth policy are working more closely together to build up methodical and sustainable reporting about youth in the German-speaking Community. Furthermore, the reporting of the youth structure has also been correspondingly restructured so that in the meantime a raft of specific approaches for the development of youth reporting is present.
There are no specific budgetary allocations supporting research in the youth field. Eventually, studies are commissioned by the Youth minister on specific topics.