10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work
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The quality of Dutch youth work is not being mapped for the whole country on the basis of one single quality hallmark. Various tools are being used to outline the quality of youth work. More detailed information on some of these tools can be found below:
1. Manual Quality Youth Work
The city of Den Bosch, in cooperation with DSP-groep, with funding from the Ministry of Health Welfare and Sport and in collaboration with other partners like youth organizations, developed the manual Improving youth work: your guide to quality development(2017). The manual helps youth workers, (welfare) organisations and other stakeholders to improve the quality of youth work.
2. Youth Indicator
In 2011 DSP-groep, together with the city of Amsterdam, district administrations and welfare organisations in Amsterdam, developed the Youth Indicator: a quality tool for new style youth work. At present all youth work organisations in Amsterdam work with it.
Professionals working with teenagers and young adults as counsellor, coach, youth worker or street corner worker, can use the Youth Indicator as a tool. The tool contributes to the professionalization of the work and can be applied in various organisations and with diverse target groups. Youth Indicator reports offer an insight into results, goals composed and problems. By means of the Youth Indicator, commissioning agencies such as municipalities gain an idea of the target group reached, their questions, goals and results.
In 2012, The Netherlands Youth Institute (NJi), commissioned by the city of Rotterdam, the municipal service for social development (Dienst MO) and former professional association Social Sector (Branche Organisatie Sociale Sector - BOSSR) developed the Youth Work Hallmark. The Hallmark confirms the effectiveness of the work of professionals in youth work and their organisations as part of the network. Organisations that wish to tender in Rotterdam need to be in possession of such a Hallmark.
Quality criteria have been selected for the city of Rotterdam. These can also be applied in other municipalities, or municipalities (together with an organisation) can look into selecting a different set of criteria. An independent organisation, such as NJi, acts as external auditor.
The process of extending the Hallmark has been laid down in various publications. Among others a manual, a plan of improvement and a checklist have been published.
4. Youth Work visitation committee
The quality of youth work can be mapped through an independent visitation committee. Both the city of Utrecht and the city of Leeuwarden have had the quality of their youth work assessed by a visitation committee. In Utrecht the committee presented quality assessments and recommendations to youth work in 2009 and 2014. These are based among others on discussions the committee held with youth workers, young people and partners. Their recommendations offer guidance for further development and positioning of youth work. Both visitations in Utrecht led to public reports being published:
Jongerenwerk verbindt, Rapportage visitatie jongerenwerk Utrecht (Valkestijn, Drs M. et al., 2009)
Rapport Visitatie Jongerenwerk Utrecht (Hoorik, I. van et al., 2014)
[Youth work connects, Report visitation youth work Utrecht (Valkestijn, Drs M. et al, 2009) Report Visitation Youth work Utrecht (Hoorik, I. van et al, 2014)]
Research and evidence supporting youth work
In 2015, The Netherlands Youth Institute has recorded the results and the accountability of youth work in the publication "Jongerenwerk in beeld. Partners in de wijk".
Dutch research into ambulatory youth work and individual guidance shows that it offers a positive contribution to the personal development of young people, their social participation and the prevention of nuisance by young people (Koops, Metz & Sonneveld, 2013 and 2014; Metz & Sonneveld 2012).
SEO Amsterdam Economics Bureau (SEO Economisch Onderzoek) examined the results of the employment and education programme Learn2Work, which youth work in Almere is conducting. The most important conclusions found are that Learn2Work is leading more young people towards work or education than a standard reintegration project. Also, the costs per young person participating in Learn2Work are lower than the costs of standard reintegration projects. The programme is shown to be an effective and relatively cheap reintegration approach for young people distanced from the labour market due to multiple problems, such as problems at home, causing school drop-out, debts, unemployment or criminality. In cases where young people fall between two stools because of multiple problems and/or their age, youth work has proved to be a final safety net over the last 140 years.
Top ten protective factors
Based on an international meta-analysis, The Netherlands Youth Institute (NJi) has composed a top ten of protective factors that may be used to guide the use of activities and interventions that aid positive development of young people both at individual, school and neighbourhood levels (Ince, van Yperen & Valkestijn, 2013). Youth work addresses many of these factors, such as improving social bonding, pro-social standards and acknowledgement and appreciation of positive behaviour. Following this analysis, a What works study has been conducted to match these with effective interventions that may be of use in The Netherlands (Daamen & Ince, 2014). A practical summary of this study was made for use by municipalities (Valkestijn, Ince & Daamen, 2014).
An English translation was made: Top ten positive youth development Protective factors in parenting and growing up (Ince, van Yperen & Valkestijn, 2014).
Measure and improve
Municipalities increasingly cooperate with youth work to achieve effective approaches of a variety of policy topics in the field of young people, such as participation, leisure time, education, health, employment, safety and quality of life. In this way municipalities are able to use the expertise of youth work concerning (vulnerable) young people to the full.
Source: Nji.nl – Publicatie Jongerenwerk in beeld [Publication A view of Youth work]
Effectiveness of youth work
A number of quality tools have been developed in The Netherlands. Several studies are taking place into the effectiveness of youth work, for instance by the Youth Spot lectureship in cooperation with various organisations and youth work providers. Meanwhile also a Youth Work Social Business Case has been finalised that builds a convincing case for the social effects of youth work and its potential financial consequences.
An example of a quality tool:
Effect measurement Youth work [Effectmeting Jongerenwerk]
Effectmeting Jongerenwerk is a software tool that allows for measuring the effects youth work has on young people and neighbourhoods. This software tool was designed by research bureau Noorda & Co and software developer DA Systems.
Bringing together theory, practice and technology allowed them to develop a product that provides an insight into the results of youth work. The tool maps the effects at individual and group levels. It also allows users to administer daily activities in a simple way, to monitor the progress of clients and to share with colleagues, and to provide well-founded accounts to commissioners. Users can also fully automatically produce periodical reports and, if necessary, implement additional comments. The tool can be made to measure.
Four studies about the (cost) effectiveness of youth work:
- Kracht van Jongeren(werk) [Power of Youth (work)] Effect study into the contribution of youth work to transformation goals.
In May 2017, the Youth Spot lectureship of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, together with eleven youth work organisations in The Netherlands, started this study into the way in which multi-method acting of youth workers impacts on the development of young people. The study was done among 1,579 young people at the age of 10 to 24 years old.
This effect research shows that youth work contributes to the transformation goals of the Child and Youth Act (2015). Vulnerable young people get empowered about their own responsibility and possibilities. Youth workers refer young people to professional support when needed. Youth work also contributes to help stabilize young people with more severe problems.
Youth Spot lectureship published an essay about it “Jongerenwerk is vaagheid ontgroeit en lever took nog resultaat op” (Youthwork has outgrown vagueness and also produces results).
Results of this research will offer insights to youth work as well as to municipalities and collaborating partners into the contribution of youth work towards psychosocial development, stress reduction, improved social relationships, social participation and guidance to appropriate support. Based on this information, municipalities and collaborating partners will be able to determine in which way they are able to cooperate with youth work.
- Maatschappelijke business case jongerenwerk (January 2018) [Social business case youth work]
Participe Advies, commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, made a social business case [maatschappelijke business case (mBC)] for Youth Work. This mBC contributes to greater visibility and recognisability of the value of youth work for young people themselves and for society, primarily municipalities. It shows what youth work in The Netherlands delivers at social level and it contributes to a more solid position of youth work in municipalities. The social effects of youth work have been made convincing, have been quantified and, where possible, expressed in financial terms. Eight youth work organisations have been visited to demonstrate the power of youth work. The study has been conducted together with youth work organisations that are part of the Youth Spot Research Group of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (lectoraat Youth Spot van de Hogeschool van Amsterdam) and a number of municipalities.
The mBC demonstrates effects with regard to the following themes:
- Youth work prevents care:
- Cooperation with the district in the area of youth care and welfare;
- Healthy behaviour through prevention in the field of alcohol abuse;
- Individual coaching routes.
- Youth work contributes to participation of young people and social cohesion in neighbourhoods:
- Young people to active citizenship through self-organisation.
- A safe neighbourhood through the use of neighbourhood mediation.
- Study Strong Girls Work [Sterk Meidenwerk]
In May 2016 Youth Spot Research Group of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (lectoraat Youth Spot van de Hogeschool van Amsterdam) started a two-year study into youth work for young women. The data collection phase finished in December 2018. This study has been undertaken in collaboration with eight welfare organisations, participants in youth work for young women and students. The key questions of the study are:
- Does youth work for young women empower them?
- In what way could youth work for young women increase the involvement of the group, the family and informal networks in supporting young women?
In 2018 the literature study resulted in four factsheets that may assist youth workers to work together in a better way with their target groups’ environment: Factsheets onderzoek sterk meidenwerk.
- Youth Work Portfolio: description of methods of youth work and effect studies
In recent years Youth Spot Research Group of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (lectoraat Youth Spot van de Hogeschool van Amsterdam) has described various methods in youth work within the framework of a fixed system with related effects. This multiannual study is also known as the Youth Work Portfolio. Methods that have been described include: ambulatory youth work, individual guidance, group work, Youth Organizing, and Information and Advice. Youth Spot researched the methodiek Straathoekwerk [Streetcorner Work method] (2017-2020). This method is over 40 years old and focuses on an outreaching attitude where professionals actively approach target audiences and try to help them along.
Participative youth work
The ABC-method by Travers Welzijn is a method for participative youth work. Travers Welzijn dedicates itself to the quality of life in neighbourhoods and districts and works together with residents (organisations) and professional partners. In order for young people to be able to participate, they need social and societal competencies, such as responsibility, collaboration and communication. The day-to-day life of many young people does not offer them sufficient moments to participate and acquire social and societal competencies. The key issue is young people’s involvement, which allows them to participate. An additional goal is that young people learn from each other, learn by doing and learn to take responsibility.
It is important that youth workers do not focus on participation as a goal, but as a means to allow young people to develop social and societal competencies.