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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work

Last update: 28 March 2024
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  1. Quality assurance
  2. Research and evidence supporting Youth Work
  3. Participate Youth Work
  4. Smart youth work: youth work in the digital world

Quality assurance

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 has signed the European Youth Information Charter, which outlines basic principles for youth information and counselling work. All organisations conducting activities in this field are required to adhere to the Charter. Additionally, to be eligible for funding from the governing body, they must be members of the National Association of Youth Information and Counselling Centres. The governing body supports the National Association in providing accredited training for its members. This ensures a certain level of work quality and adherence to the Charter.

The Association of Cities in Croatia, together with the Central State Office for Demography and Youth (CSODY), the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes (AMEUP), the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb (ISRZ), the Croatian Youth Network (CYN), and the Alliance Society ’Naša djeca’ Croatia, has initiated a certification process for 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 include having an active youth advisory board, signing the European Charter on Local Youth Work, and appointing a certification coordinator. In the first cycle, nine cities qualified as Youth Cities for the period 2024-2027: Karlovac, Ozalj, Opatija, Rijeka, Samobor i Šibenik. 


Research and evidence supporting Youth Work

There is no institutional framework supporting research and evidence-based youth work. The national authorities occasionally fund general research into the youth population or an evaluation of the implementation of the National Youth Programme. However, there is no systematic research approach to youth work by the relevant governing bodies.

So far, there has been one research attempt in the area of youth work – a survey of youth work providers conducted by the Croatian Employment Service in 2016. The survey was standardised and it is generally utilised with employers as a first step in the process of establishing occupational and qualification standards. The survey targeted managers of youth work organisations and focused on the scope of work of their employees – youth workers. It examined tasks typically performed, necessary competences for these tasks, working condition, etc. The CSODY has secured funds from the European Social Fund to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the state of youth work in Croatia within the Supporting the Development of Youth Work in Croatia project. The plan was to use the research findings, derived from the perspectives of youth work providers, other youth organisations, and young people themselves, as the basis for developing a coherent occupational and qualification framework for the profession of youth worker. Originally, the research was planned to be implemented by the end of 2017, but it was completed in 2020. The CSODY organised several online presentations of the findings, primarily for representatives of youth organisations. The research report was published in 2021.  

The mentioned research is the second survey in the field of youth work. Specifically, an analysis and research on youth work in Croatia were conducted in 2020 within the study Analysis of the Current State of Work with Young People in the Republic of Croatia and Preparation of Recommendations and Guidelines for its Development. This survey was commissioned by the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy (from July 2020, the CSODY) and conducted by external companies. It represents the first comprehensive mapping of the situation in the field of youth work in Croatia, with a special emphasis on opportunities for professionalization.

The survey included a literature review, orientation group interviews with experts, surveys of a convenient sample of youth and youth organisations, surveys of a convenient sample of users of youth work activities, surveys of a representative sample of the general youth population, and in-depth interviews with representatives of youth organisations and organisations for youth engaged in youth work activities.

The first broad thematic unit covered by this survey refers to the availability and participation of young people in youth work activities. Findings indicate that the very term ‘youth work’ is relatively poorly recognised among young people. Thus, just under a fifth of the representatives of the general youth population and just under a third of respondents from the survey population claim that they fully understand what youth work is. Just under a third of respondents from the general youth population are familiar with the spaces where young people gather, while this share rises to almost two-thirds of respondents in the case of beneficiaries of youth work activities. This underscores the significance of some form of physical ‘centre’, given that youth centres, cultural centres, and social centres were most frequently identified as meeting places for young people among both the general population and the beneficiaries.

Regarding the frequency of participation in activities, the vast majority participated in a smaller number of activities, while a small number of participants engaged in an extremely large number of them. The fact that there is significant interest among the general youth population in future participation in all types of youth work activities (ranging between 52% and 75% of respondents, depending on the type of activity) can be considered very positive.

Respondents from the survey value the personal benefit of participating in youth work activities with very high average scores. The situation is similar when evaluating the benefits of youth work activities in which they participated for society and the community. Young people mostly participate in short-term (one-day) activities, which aligns with assessments of organisation representatives. They caution that project financing, especially from the European Social Fund, incentivises organisations to prioritise coverage over the intensity of participation. Young people point out that they most often encounter youth work activities in educational institutions, which is also consistent with the findings of in-depth interviews. Many  interviewees highlighted high schools as key places for participant recruitment, but also for the implementation of activities.

Youth work in Croatia typically operates with very limited capacity, characterised by a smaller number of employees, volunteers, and fiscal resources. Additionally, the geographical organisation of youth work exhibits excessive centralisation. Furthermore, individuals under the age of 30 are not the majority in the management structures, indicating an aging sector and/or a weakness in the capacity of young people. Organisations are mostly oriented towards work with the general population, while high school students are most often recognised as the specific group targeted by youth work programmes. At the same time, there is a practice of implementing extremely high-quality work programmes with young people in the field of social inclusion. However, these programmes are typically implemented by organisations specialised in working with vulnerable groups of youth.

Regarding the individuals who conduct youth work, for most people, youth work is just one element in their job description. The survey concludes that individuals working with young people in youth organisations typically hold higher education qualifications. 

Meanwhile, due to the slow progress of the process, other stakeholders, including the ISRZ and its partners initiated a similar research project in 2019 under the Supporting Evidence-based Education of Youth Workers (SEEYW) framework. The findings, published in 2022, will be used in the process of professionalization of youth work and the development of formal study programmes for youth work.

It should be noted that the AMEUP collects and publishes best practices in youth work to facilitate learning in the sector and to contribute to improving the quality of youth work activities.


Participative youth work

There are no specific youth work policies in Croatia. The National Youth Programme 2023-2025 prioritises youth work as one of its key areas through its measures. Croatian National Youth Programmes are developed in a participatory manner, involving young people in several ways: they are targeted in research preceding the development of youth programmes, and they participate in working groups that develop programmes. Representatives of youth organisations typically form the majority of thematic working groups in the process of drafting measures for the programme. They are also members of the Advisory Board for Youth of the Croatian Government, which is involved in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of youth programmes and other youth policy strategic documents.

Despite youth work being one of the priority areas of the current National Youth Programme 2023-2025, none of the three measures foresees the active involvement of young people:

  • creation of national priorities for the development of work with youth and implementation of complementary activities aimed at enhancing work with youth within the framework of youth policies

  • improving the quality standards of activities of centres, clubs, and youth information centres

  • strengthening the capacity of youth organisations and organisations for youth for youth work

Increasingly, young people are participating in youth policy issues, including 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 exceptions are international training opportunities organised within the Erasmus+ programme and facilitated for Croatian youth workers by the AMEUP. The Erasmus+ programme also offers funding opportunities for innovative projects in the area of digital youth work.


Smart youth work: youth work in the digital world

The National Youth Programme 2023-2025 does not include provisions or themes related to youth work in the digital world. This topic continues to be addressed primarily by the AMEUP and civil society organisations.  Youth work in the digital world is a frequently addressed topic in Erasmus+ programme projects, enabling youth workers and other experts to enhance their professional development with digital competencies.

In 2020, AMEUP organised Digital Work with Youth, a thematic meeting of users of the Erasmus+ programme in the field of youth and the European Solidarity Corps. The goal of the thematic meeting was to bring digital tools and programmes closer to beneficiaries, facilitating the execution of online projects and other activities. AMEUP also organised a training session on this topic, Do IT in Youth Work, in Šibenik in 2022. The main aim of this training course was to educate youth workers about methods and tools necessary for the development of digital competencies among young people.

Civil society organisations also plan and hold seminars and training on the topic of youth work in the digital world. One of them is Croatian Office for Creativity and Innovation. Digital Yin-Yang in Youth Work is a 5-day training course organised in Croatia in 2023, focused on increasing experts’ awareness about the importance of creating a yin-yang balance. It aims to achieve a balance of online and offline activities for young people, providing them with an opportunity to create a strategy for attaining this balance. As part of the Erasmus+ project in which the training was held, an online manual was created that enables youth workers to implement combined activities and use appropriate digital tools.

The CYN has been implementing the Erasmus+ project Blockchained Youth Work since 2023. The project will significantly invigorate youth work with its innovative digital solutions, which are applicable beyond the youth sector and youth work. This project will establish a common language and value base, legitimise the work done by the youth sector, improve understanding of innovation and quality, enhance quality in educational practices, and support the experience that youth workers bring to society. One of the project objectives is focused on creating a quality framework for educational practices in the field of youth and piloting an innovative platform based on blockchain technology for the validation, recognition, quality assurance, and supply of youth work relevant learning outcomes.