10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work
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There are no quality assurance standards or systems for youth work activities. The only exception to some extent is the work carried out by local and regional youth information and counselling centres. Croatia is a signee of the European Youth Information Charter which lays out basic principles of information and counselling youth work. All organizations running activities in this area are required to adhere to the Charter, and if they wish to receive funding from the Ministry, they must be members of the National association of youth information and counselling centres. The national association is supported by the Ministry to provide accredited training for its members to ensure a certain level of quality of work as well as the adherence to the Charter.
Association of Cities in Croatia together with the State office for Demography and Youth, Agency for Mobility and EU programmes, Institute for Social Research in Zagreb, Croatian youth Network and Alliance Society "Our Children" Croatia started a process of certification of youth friendly cities. The methodology is based on eight thematic areas (participation, demography, youth work, health and sports, employment, culture, education and youth information). The prerequisites for the certification process are: active youth advisory board, signed European charter on local youth work and the appointed certification coordinator. In the first cycle nine cities qualified as Youth cities for the period 2021 - 2024, namely Karlovac, Koprivnica, Labin, Novska, Opatija, Šibenik, Varaždin i Zabok.
Research and evidence supporting Youth Work
There is no institutional framework supporting research and evidence-based youth work. The national authorities fund an occasional general research into the youth population or an evaluation of the implementation of the national youth programme but there is no systematic research approach to youth work by the relevant Ministry.
So far there has been only one attempt at research in the area of youth work – a survey of youth work providers conducted by the Croatian Employment Service in 2016. The survey was standardized and it is used generally with employers as a first step in the process of creating occupational and qualification standards. The survey targeted managers of youth work organizations and it focused on the scope of work of their employees - youth workers - tasks they normally perform, competences necessary for these tasks, working condition, etc.
The Central State Office for Demography and Youth has secured funds from the European Social Fund to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the state of the art of youth work in Croatia within the Supporting the development of youth work in Croatia project. The plan was to use the results of the research, derived from the perspectives of youth work providers, other youth organizations and young people themselves, as a basis for the development of a coherent occupational and qualification framework for the youth worker profession. Originally, the research was supposed to be implemented by the end of 2017 but it was finalized in 2020. The Central Office organized several online presentations of the findings, mainly to representatives of youth organizations, the research report is expected to be published in 2021.
Meanwhile, due to the slowness of the process, other stakeholders (Institute for Social Research Zagreb and its partners) got involved and initiated a similar research in 2019 in the framework of the SEEYW project. The findings, which are expected to be published in 2021, will be used in the process of professionalization of youth work and the development of formal youth work study programmes.
It should be noted that the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes collects and publishes youth work best practices in order to facilitate learning in the sector and to contribute to better quality of youth work activities.
Participative youth work
There are no specific youth work policies but a few measures targeting youth work in the expired National Youth Programme (2013-2017). National youth programmes are usually developed in a participative way, with young people taking part in several ways. Usually, they are targeted in research which precedes the development of a youth programme. Representatives of youth organizations normally make up the majority of thematic working groups in the process of drafting measures for the programme. They are also present as members of the Youth Council of the Croatian Government which is involved in the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of a youth programme and other youth policy strategic documents.
Increasingly, young people are participating in youth policy issues, which include youth work, through the mechanism of the EU Youth Dialogue.
There are no top-level initiatives in the area of smart or digital youth work initiated or supported by national authorities. The only exception are international training opportunities organized within the Erasmus+ programme and facilitated for Croatian youth workers by the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes. The Erasmus+ programme also offers funding opportunities for innovative projects in the area of digital youth work.