10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work
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Youth work in Malta is recognized through national law as a fully regulated profession. In this regard the Youth Work Profession Act – Chapter 533 of the Laws of Malta acts as a quality assurance mechanism for youth workers as it lays down the professional standards for youth workers and states what is youth work and who can or cannot profess youth work. Moreover to ensure quality youth work the law established a Youth Work Profession Board. This Board is responsible for establishing and assessing existing youth work standards and as well as keep an official register of all registered youth workers and youth work associations. The Board also made recommendations to the Minister for Youth so as to publish a Code of Ethics for the professional behaviour of youth workers. The aim of the Code of Ethics is to provide youth workers with a benchmark for good professional behaviour and practice. It is intended to guide and support youth workers in fulfilling their professional duties and responsibilities and to uphold professional standards and the continuous improvement of such standards. The Board can also inquire into any allegation of professional misconduct, negligence or incompetence by a youth worker and recommend to the Minister to take action against that youth worker.
Also Legal notice 522 of 2010 that established Aġenzija Żgħażagħ – the national youth agency - states that the agency is to carry out functions related to youth affairs and specifically to ensure the highest standards in youth work as well as to formulate, co-ordinate, manage and evaluate youthwork programmes. In this regard the agency set up a system of quality assurance by providing supervision services for all its youth workers. Such a system provides a space where youth workers are able to put forward any challenges or difficulties encountered in their practice, where good practice can be affirmed and where they can voice concerns to a senior youth worker. Supervision promotes learning, considers action and facilitates reflective practice. This process aims at underpinning youth safety, well-being and care, which allows for the effective and efficient achieving of the desired outcomes, goals and purposes, while emphasizing ethical and moral aspects of youth work. It is a foundational means to assess the quality of and judgement being made by the practitioner about and with young people. Thus, the process of supervision is based on sound youth work principles. Supervisors, working with and alongside supervisees identify areas and skills that need developing and situations where interventions from other professionals may be required or appropriate. Youth workers operate within the agency structure and supervision is a central means of ensuring that each youth worker understands where the potential and limits of their responsibility and activity lie.
In 2016 Aġenzija Żgħażagħ and the University of Malta, through the Faculty of Social Well-Being, signed a Memorandum of Understanding guided by the aims and strategies of the National Youth Policy Towards 2020. The Agreement was intended to consolidate and increase the collaboration between the two entities in research and the development of supervision.
In this regard the agency published 2 research documents, Mirrors and Windows 2: Maltese Young People’s perceptions, experiences ad expectations of Education Employment and Lifestyles and Voices of the Young and Vulnerable in Malta. Both studies look at young people as they face the most significant transitions into adulthood and were intended to be used by policy makers when developing youth policies and in particular by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ while developing youth work programmes.
Similarly when the agency introduced the concept of detached youth work in Malta it engaged in a project with 2 other international youth work providers and part of the project was a research that laid the ground work for the eventual development of the guidelines for the detached youth work in Malta.
Aġenzija Żgħażagħ, the National Youth Agency, was established under the Public Administration Act, and in this regard, the Minister for Education and Employment, being the Minister responsible for the agency, appointed an Advisory Board. The role of the Advisory Board is to advise and support the Chief Executive Officer of Aġenzija Żgħażagħ in the discharge of her duties and responsibilities. In this regard to ensure that young people are actively participative in all the matters that concern them including the formulation, implementation and evaluation of national youth work programmes and activities the only 2 requisites for being eligible to this be chosen as a member of this Advisory Board is to be a young people aged between 16 and 30 years of age and have an interest in and commitment to helping young people determine their future. Prospective members are invited to send the curriculum vitae to the agency who in turn recommend the Minister their appointment.
Kellimni.Com is an online space where young people can communicate in real time with youth workers and trained volunteers on issues that are of the young person’s concern. Contact with Kellimni.Com can be made in realtime 24/7 though email, smart messaging or online chat. The website also features an information section called Inform Yourself where the young person can find resources relating to the self, relating to others and what’s around me.
As a response to the Covid-19 pandemic Aġenzija Żgħażagħ shifted some of its services online. These services, falling within the agency’s Digital Youth Work Services, created safe online spaces where young people can engage with youth workers. The Virtual Youth Hub is an interactive space where young people aged 16 to18 and over can come together virtually to engage between themselves and with a youth worker. This project was intended to replace the physical youth hubs that the agency has in post-secondary schools in Malta.
Similar to this was the creation of a virtual youth café. Beat the Boredom, is a safe online space for young people between the ages of 13 and 15. This project was intended to replace the physical youth cafes that the agency has around Malta, to ensure that young people still have the opportunity to benefit from the services of youth workers
Another digital project is called Alone? #inthistogether. Through this project the agency provided an online space where young people aged 18 and over can interact.
Aġenzija Żgħażagħ also developed 2 live online programmes focusing on young people using digital social media platforms. Go Live with Malcolm, uses Facebook as a platform. Through this live session a youth worker engages with young people and together they discus current affairs. The other live programme is Instapoint which uses Instagram as a platform. During this live session, youth workers engage with young people and focus on particular life-skills such as teamwork, leadership or critical thinking and explore how youth work can enhance such skills
Also as a reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic Aġenzija Żgħażagħ organised two online school transition programmes aimed at young people who will be starting middle school and secondary school in 2020/2021 scholastic year. These online programmes, intended to smoothen the transition to these new schools through this particular period, were called My Next School Adventure and Secondary School Survival Kit.
My Next School Adventure targeted young people who were transiting from primary to middle school for their first two years of secondary schooling. During the online sessions these students had the opportunity to meet up with other youngsters who are going through the same school transition. The 8 sessions programme aims to explore different issues that these students might face through online interactive games, crafts, drama, quizzes, group work and discussions.
Secondary School Survival Kit aimed at equipping young people with essential life-skills for a smooth transition to their final 3 years of secondary schooling. The kit is presented in the form of a playlist. Each song on the playlist launches a theme that will prompt a discussion around transition, change, celebrating self and friendships, and how to navigate the inevitable stresses associated with these years. The Secondary Schools Survival Kit encourages students to look ahead and start building toward their future goals as individuals and as members of their respective communities.
Aġenzija Żgħażagħ also upgraded all of its social media platforms in particular those related to the digital youth information services. In this regard, the Youth Information One Stop Shop (YIOSS) now has now 3 dedicated websites and Facebook page related to EYCA-MT, Eurodesk MT and YIOSS. These three websites and their respective Facebook pages together provide comprehensive online youth information
Aġenzija Żgħażagħ organised a training, entitled Social Media Training as part of Being Online a Eurodesk MT funded project, for youth workers and other professionals working with young people as part of their professional development. During this training youth workers and other professionals working with young people had the opportunity to explore various effective ways to interact with young people online. Also, during the training youth workers were provided with the opportunities to sharpen their skills when using digital tools such as Zoom, Streamyard, Instagram or Facebook while engaging with young people.
Social media is one of the tools used by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ to reach out to young people. In this regard, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ looks at innovative ways, such as online methods, on how to work with young young people and involve them in the decision-making processes. The OPIN platform is one such mediunm. Through the OPIN platform, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ strives to involve a wider range of young people using online tools including polling, text reviewing, idea generation and agenda setting. Through OPIN Aġenzija Żgħażagħ to collects young people’s views, opinions and ideas on a wide range of issues.
Aġenzija Żgħażagħ uses OPIN mainly through its community services. Young people are invited to participate on OPIN and have a say in the decision-making processes. The platform offers a number of advantages such as the possibility to see and reply to other people’s comments and knowing how this information is going to be used.
As part of this project Aġenzija Żgħażagħ attended the Open Summit in Berlin held in early December to discuss the results of the OPIN platform. During the summit the partiicpants looked at the need for e-participation, active involvement of young people, effective strategies to involve young people in the decision process and the importance of following up on policy makers. During the summit, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ experience was presented as a good practice of an e-participation project.
In October 2019, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ engaged in a project called ‘Digital youth particiption made easy’ (DiGY). Digital youth participation empowers young people to become active citizens from local to European level. The positive effects only unfold when the participation process is run professionally – just to use digital tool is not enough to inspire young people, administrations and youth organisations to collaborate.
The results of the project will be developed by a consortium of 7 partner from all over Europe, who bring in valuable country-specific knowledge and experiences. Nexus will be the coordinator with Liquid Democracy providing technical support. Youth organisation from Macedonia, Slovenia, Georgia and Malta will be working with on the project from a practical aspect. Creativitas will be focusing on project dissemination.
This Erasmus+ strategic partnership project ‘DiGY’ – ‘Digital participation made easy’ aims to tackle this problem by delivering qualification and capacity building to initiators of digital participation projects. The materials designed will be integrated into the OPIN platform, a professional online tool-box for digital youth participation that is already available in 10 European languages. Thus, the European- wide infrastructure is strengthened and enriched by modules to increase the for digital youth participation project. Aġenzija Żgħażagħ’s role in the project will be that of piloting digital participation projects on OPIN, contribute to development of elearnin materials, establishing guidelines for best practices and redesigning of the OPIN platform.