Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.3 Support to youth work

Last update: 12 March 2024
On this page
  1. Policy legal framework
  2. Funding
  3. Cooperation

Policy legal framework

The goal of youth work is to contribute to the personal and social development of young individuals. This involves supporting them in creating and maintaining quality personal and social relations, providing non-formal learning opportunities, and empowering them to be active participants in society and decision-making. These activities are based on the principles of voluntary participation and non-formal education. This is outlined in the current National Youth Programme 2023-2025, where it is additionally highlighted that the informal education of youth workers occurs as part of the activities of youth organisations and organisations for young people, and is integrated into educational programmes within the projects of these organisations.

There are no official regulations regarding the types of activities considered youth work. Traditionally, these encompass various non-formal education activities, open youth work, volunteering, international exchanges, peer education, leisure-time activities, social inclusion initiatives, health and prevention work with youth, environmental protection activities, and activities promoting active participation, informing, and counselling for young people.

National youth strategic documents typically recognise several main categories of youth work providers. They include local and regional youth information and counselling centres, youth clubs, youth centres, and youth organisations. These are almost exclusively civil society initiatives but there is also a growing number of public youth work providers (youth clubs and youth centres founded by local or regional authorities).

Social inclusion has been the main policy focus in the field of youth work in the last several years. The government has thus encouraged youth work projects targeting various groups of young people at risk of social exclusion, particularly unemployed youth, those categorised as not in education, employment, or training (NEET), young people leaving care, young Roma, and youth living in rural areas.



Youth work organisations in Croatia lack stable and adequate financial support for their work. They are forced to engage in as many projects as possible to ensure basic, mostly one-year, funding for their youth work activities. Since there is no institutional or long-term programme support for youth work organisations, their activities mainly consist of short-term project initiatives heavily influenced by the priorities of various donors and calls for project proposals. Such project dynamics result in less sustainable activities, making it challenging to prioritise the process element of youth work or focus on developing competencies and attitude and behaviour changes, which typically require long-term interventions. Another issue that threatens youth work organisations is the unreliability of funding sources. Although all national public bodies are obliged to schedule their calls for project proposals in advance and publish the tentative dates in a joint calendar, many of them do not adhere to their plans. This makes operational planning for youth work organisations extremely challenging. 

The Central State Office for Demography and Youth (CSODY) is the main source of funding for youth work organisations. The government body for youth typically issues two annual calls for project proposals aimed at youth work providers: one focusing on violence prevention among children and young people, and another for project and programme proposals aimed at youth. The second call typically includes several priorities, such as support for regional and local youth information and counselling centres, youth clubs, and youth centres, as well as projects that promote active participation of young people in society and decision-making. Other areas of support may change according to yearly priorities. For example, in 2023, they included support for young people in rural areas, unemployed youth, NEETs, and prevention of youth addiction. Since 2020, the CSODY merged these two annual calls into one.

Normally, there are no specific criteria for applicants, expect for those competing for support for regional and local youth information and counselling centres, youth clubs, and youth centres. They must meet a comprehensive list of criteria related to their work, including the space where activities take place, types and number of activities and services offered, geographical scope of activities, etc. Sometimes, ministry support may also be contingent upon mandatory project partnerships or membership in organisations. 

Generally, there are no other activities funded (although calls for project proposals typically list potential or preferred activities), except for regional and local youth information and counselling centres, youth clubs, and youth centres, as explained above.

Other ministries also issue calls for project proposals that fall in the category of youth work. For example, the Ministry of Science and Education (MSE) issues an annual call for projects supporting extracurricular activities for students, while the Ministry of Health releases a call for civil society organisations involved in health promotion and prevention. However, these calls are not exclusively targeted at youth work organisations. Many local and regional authorities also provide support for youth work activities. Usually, only larger cities have calls for project proposals specifically aimed at youth work organisations, while in smaller towns and municipalities, youth organisations have to compete with other civil society organisations in a single unified call for project proposals. The same is true for the three-year institutional support provided by the National Foundation for the Development of Civil Society. The Foundation is one of the very few public bodies that offer institutional grants, but there is not one specifically dedicated to youth work organisations. 

European Union (EU) funds are available to youth work organisations within the Erasmus+ programme. Every year, an increasing number of organisations apply for support, and the absorption of funds is almost complete. Other EU funding opportunities come from the European Social Fund and other programmes. However, very few youth work organisations have sufficient operational and financial capacities to implement such demanding projects. Moreover, the extensive administrative burden imposed by the national operating bodies implementing the European Social Fund is so overwhelming that most youth work organisations are discouraged from even attempting to apply.



There are no frameworks for cooperation among youth work stakeholders established or promoted by the national authorities. It is only possible to single out the well-established practice of grant-making public bodies to encourage cooperation by awarding additional scores in the project proposal evaluation if the project involves partnerships between youth work organisations and public bodies, such as schools or social services. Sometimes, these kinds of partnerships are mandatory, which occasionally has negative effects. For example, in previous years, to obtain support for their work, youth information and counselling centres needed to establish a partnership with their local or regional authority. There have been instances when, for political reasons, a local authority refused to cooperate with an organisation, preventing it from applying for the grant even though it had been providing excellent youth work services.

Although encouraged, cooperation with schools is often difficult to establish for youth work organisations because many schools have arbitrary criteria for programmes that may be run by civil society organisations. However, most schools require that youth work extra-curricular programmes be verified by the MSE. Yet, the MSE does not have a defined procedure and publicly known criteria for verification, which is very discouraging for many youth work organisations.