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Although there is no exact equivalent of the notion of “evidence-based youth policies” in French, experimentation and scientific assessment of public policies and the empirical evidence-based approach both exist and have been increasingly developed in France over the past few years, in particular in the field of youth policies.
Experimentation is regarded as a new tool for public action, necessary if we are to transform it and make it more effective, and assess the impact of various youth schemes before universalising them. Created in 2008, the Youth Experimentation Fund (Fonds d’Expérimentation pour la Jeunesse – FEJ) is intended to finance experimental programmes aiming to foster “pupils’ academic success, contribute to equality of opportunities and improve lasting social and professional integration of young people under twenty-five years of age”.
Youth policies are also analysed and assessed by the National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (Institut national de la jeunesse et de l’éducation populaire – INJEP), which is an observatory and resource and expertise centre whose mission is to “contribute to improvement of knowledge in these fields by production of statistic and analyses, observation, experimentation and assessment”.
INJEP – National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education
Cooperation between research and the public authorities finds concrete form in the action of the INJEP – National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education, under the aegis of the Director of the DJEPVA, which “draws up analyses via the carrying out of research, studies and assessments, and produces statistical data, in collaboration with the SSP_ Public Statistical Department, in the fields of youth, non-formal education, community life and sport”.
FEJ – Youth Experimentation Fund
The FEJ organization
Cooperation between research and policy-making also found concrete expression in 2009 with setup of the FEJ – Youth Experimentation Fund ( Fonds d’Expérimentation pour la Jeunesse), to finance “innovative actions in favour of youth, implemented at a limited level and assessed”.
The Article 25 of the law n° 2008-1249 of december 2008 is at the origin of the FEJ which seeks to support experimental youth schemes. Experiments consist of limited implementation of an action or scheme to be tested out before it is mainstreamed. The FEJ aims to finance "experimental programs aimed at promoting the academic success of students, contribute to equal opportunities and to improve sustainable social and professional integration ”for young people under the age of twenty-five. In total, between 2015 and 2017, 650 (last available figures) project reviews were analyzed and evaluated, in particular to determine whether the continuation of the project is authorized. 81 projects are still going during the period 2019-2020
The FEJ is overseen by a Management Committee that sets major guidelines and general themes, and is chaired by the minister responsible for youth affairs. Its secretariat and animation is provided by the INJEP which also prepares and selects calls for projects and coordinates the regional and national animation of the selected experimentations.
The FEJ Mission
The FEJ works through the launch of national calls for projects reserved for associations, public or private structures proposing "an innovative action or to contribute to reform existing systems to make them more effective".These actions are then evaluated by expert structures in qualitative and quantitative evaluation: university laboratories, research centers or even evaluation firms. The evaluation is funded by the FEJ.
Assessment plays a major role in the social experiment initiative promoted by the FEJ. It is carried out by an independent external body and may be 100% financed by the FEJ. Assessment of experimental schemes must enable decisions to be taken on their effectiveness (in other words, their ability to achieve goals), and therefore on whether or not to mainstream them.
The FEJ’s main focuses include :
- school dropout,
- professional integration,
- local and international mobility,
- civic commitment ( most experiments bear on youth commitment),
Example of FEJ experimental
Among these projects, the experimental Regional platforms for European and international mobility (“Plateformes régionales de mobilité européenne et internationale”) were extended to the whole of France following a call for projects launched by the Ministry responsible for the youth via the FEJ : the FEJ has funded 17 experiments bearing on international youth mobility. Implementation and assessment of these projects on mobility provided a good deal of useful knowledge in such areas as governance and accompaniment of young people, and they have consequently been extended to a number of regions, including Centre-Val de Loire.
Between 2015 and 2017, a total of 650 project reviews (latest available figures) were analysed and assessed, in particular to determine whether or not implementation of the projects in question was pointful and might be applied more widely in territorial terms or among the population.
The French State has a SSP – Public Statistical Department (Service Statistique Public) that regularly produces data as a basis for drafting public policies. It develops indicators enabling assessments of French society and its population’s demographic, economic, social and environmental situations. The key text as far as public statistics are concerned is Law no.51-711 of 7 June 1951.
The Public Statistical Department is made up of the INSEE – National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, and others SSMs – Ministerial Statistical Departments.
INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies)
INSEE is one of the ministry responsible for of the economy’s General Departments; it is tasked with collecting, analysing and disseminating information on French society across the country, and carrying out annual surveys.
INSEE has no specific youth division, but, through its focuses on such themes as work, school education and higher education, and surveys carried out in certain areas by its regional departments, it collects information on young people’s living conditions. Such is the case with its Portraits of Youth (“Portraits de Jeunesse”) , which are statistical studies (regular reports) bearing on young people’s social conditions in given regions.
SSM – Ministerial Statistical Department
Each ministry also has its own SSM – Ministerial Statistical Department, which may produce data on ministry policies as seen by young people. Data collected on youth bears essentially on education, school dropout, employment, accommodation, health and student mobility.
The Ministry of National Education and Youth’s Surveys, Data and Statistical Studies Mission, (Mission des enquêtes, des données et des études statistiques – MEDES) is responsible for producing and disseminating public statistics on youth, non-formal education, voluntary organisations and sport. (See Assessment and monitoring of public policies).
The list may also be extended to include other public institutions that produce and disseminate data on youth, including :
- the CNAF – National Family Allowances Fund (Caisse Nationale d'Allocations Familiales),
- the Urban Policy Observatory’s Bureau of Statistics,
- the CEREQ – Centre for Studies and Research on Qualifications (Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur les Qualifications), which collaborates regularly with the National Institute of Youth and Non-Formal Education (INJEP).
It is difficult to estimate total sums allocated to research on youth, as the research budget also finances such bodies as higher education institutions, as the CNRS – National Centre for Scientific Research, the ANR – National Research whose areas of study do not necessarily include youth.
In application of the 2020 Finance Act’s “Youth and Voluntary Organisations” (Jeunesse et vie associative) financial programme for 2020, the public resources allocated to INJEP and the Youth Experimentation Fund for production of data and drafting of studies aiming to “guide public decision-making by producing data, carrying out studies and conducting rigorously assessed experiments” come to a total of one million euros.
- Programme 163 “Youth and Voluntary Organisations” 2020 Finance Act.
- Draft Finance bill 2020, Ministry of National Education. Program 163 Youth