10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work
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Guidelines for quality assurance of youth work were developed by the National Association of Youth Work Practitioners - NAPOR in 2009. The document provides details of basic types of youth work, and the principles and values on which it is based.
The quality assurance framework developed by the NAPOR consists of:
- Accreditation of organisations delivering youth work
- Professionalism of human resources
- Ethics in youth work
- Passport of competences / recognition of competences gained by young people through youth work programmes.
Accreditation of organisations
NAPOR developed a set of eight standards that each youth work programme should fulfil. A mechanism for their implementation is based on willingness of member organizations to participate in an accreditation process. The process during which the fulfilment of each standard is checked includes self-assessment and assessment of an accreditor - a person with experience in youth work and advanced supervision skills. The organizations that go through the process get the certificate of Accredited organization for implementation and promotion of quality standards in youth work. Accreditation is valid for three years and followed with the re-accreditation process. Since 2015, accreditation is one of the mandatory conditions for full membership in NAPOR. Accreditation is recognized by the member organizations as well as by the Ministry of Tourism and Youth.
Professionalism of human resources
NAPOR created a curriculum for education of youth workers, which contains training programme for two vocational levels:
- Youth Leader and
- Youth Worker.
In addition, it contains a mechanism for validation of previously attained competences in youth work. The validation process is intended for persons who implement youth work in practice and continuously work on self-improvement but have no comprehensive formal or non-formal education in youth work. For those practitioners, it is possible to prove the competences that they gained through experience and different training courses in front of board of experts, in order to gain certificate for one of two vocational levels.
Those who do not have the necessary experience for validation, can go through the training programme. It consists of five thematic modules and practice in youth work. In this case too, NAPOR issues certificates for all the participants who fulfil the set of competences needed for the vocational level they are trained for. These certificates are also recognized by member organizations and by the Ministry of Tourism and Youth.
Ethics in youth work
NAPOR developed Code of Ethics in Youth Work and formed Council for Ethical Issues. Code of Ethics is a document which defines ethical and professional principles of youth work and each organization and each youth worker binds to respect them. Council for Ethical Issues is an independent body in NAPOR which takes care that Code of Ethics is respected and promoted.
Passport of competences / recognition of competences gained by young people through youth work programmes
Creation of tool for recognition of competences of young people gained through youth work programmes (Passport of Competences) is implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and other relevant actors from public, private and civil sector.
As generally described in Chapter 1.6 Evidence-based youth policy, there is no specific research system that follows the development of youth work. The national authorities fund a general research on the position and needs of young people or an evaluation of the implementation of the national youth strategy, however, there is a lack of a continuous and systematic approach regarding evidence-based youth work research.
Nevertheless, sporadic research in the field of youth which also provide updated statistics on youth and sometimes youth work is carried out either by the Ministry or by other institutions:
- The Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia
- The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit
- Institute for Sociological Research and the Institute for Psychology of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade;
- The Institute of Social Sciences and the Institute for Psychology (Faculty for Philosophy, University in Novi Sad)
- Institute for Educational Research - independent scientific institution dealing with theoretical and empirical studies in the field of education
- Center for Politicological Research and Public Opinion of the Institute of Social Sciences in Belgrade
- The Institute of Economic Sciences in Belgrade
- The Institute for Development and Innovation
- Various non-governmental organisations that conduct research on youth position and needs, youth employment, youth policy, etc.
A diverse range of NGOs conduct surveys regarding youth issues, yet NAPOR as being an organisation mostly oriented towards youth work, since its establishment has conducted several areas of research. As listed in CoE Country sheet on youth work in Serbia, research studies done by NAPOR are:
- Cross-section of the situation of youth work in Serbia (2010) – The aim of the research was to gain an insight into the general state of youth work in Serbia, in relation to the adequacy of human resources, the structure of users and sources of funding for youth work programmes.
- Impact of non-formal education in youth work on competence acquisition for better employability of young people (2014) -The research was carried out by the National Association of Practitioners of Youth Work (NAPOR) with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Serbia, the USAID Sustainable Local Development Project and the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Team of the Government of the Republic of Serbia.
- Mapping Study on EU practices in recognition of competences gained through non-formal learning in youth work for the employability of young people (2014) – the study based on recommendations, studies, research and documentation related to non-formal education in youth work, its recognition and impact on youth employability, as well as analysis of existing mechanisms at EU and individual level.
- National Report, Serbia: “Needs for new services that stimulate the employability and role of youth work” (2015) – a research on the attitudes of relevant stakeholders on the employability of marginalised young people.
- Researching educational needs of practitioners of youth work (2017)
In addition to the above research projects, NAPOR has developed a collection book of good educational practices for youth workers within the project: “Youth work and youth workers across Europe - good examples from practice about volunteering, employment, education and training ".
The Foundation Tempus is member of the Research-based Analysis and Monitoring of Erasmus+: Youth in Action Programme, which provides evidence to better understanding of the processes and outcomes in youth work and non-formal education. Serbia is included in RAY Monitoring research which aims to explore a broad scope of aspects of the Erasmus+: Youth in Action Programme in order to contribute to practice development, improving the implementation of Erasmus+: Youth in Action and to the development of the next programme generation.
Young peoples participation in decision-making in general is described in Chapter 5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making.
Specific participation in youth work related policies is enabled through the digital platform Structural Dialogue. This platform gives the opportunity to young people to comment on different initiatives of public authorities, on youth policies, and to provide their opinions that will be included in public hearings on different subjects. One such possibility is to leave a comment, recommendation or opinion on the Law on Youth as well as strategic goals related to youth work mentioned in Ch.10.3 Support to youth work Policy/legal framework.
The National Youth Council of Serbia - KOMS together with the Ministry of Youth and Sport in 2020 conducted a project Young people have an advantage. During the implementation of the program, the idea was to strengthen existing partnerships with relevant youth policy actors at the local, national and international levels, as well as to create sustainable, long-term and quality programmes that would be a consequence of intersectoral and interdepartmental cooperation. Within this project, the fourth Academy of Youth Policy will be realized, a dialogue of young people with the Minister of Youth and Sports, dialogues of young people from marginalized groups with local decision makers, digital solutions for further development of youth policy, etc. will be established.
NAPOR is in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports implementing a project “The first decade of recognizing youth work”. Within this project a series called "Youth Online Work - Show and Connect!" is launched. The idea is to present the online platforms / methods / tools that can be used for the realization of youth work programmes. Project “The first decade of recognizing youth work” realized by the NAPOR and Ministry of Youth and Sports also targets young people. Besides online seminars, trainings, publications, podcasts targeting youth workers, this projects also gather young people. Within the project, seven digital youth clubs were organized that gathered more than 100 young people. A special attention is given to the digital tools that can be used to link young people during realization of youth work programmes.
Moreover, from 2018, a component of the Erasmus+ programme that supports the mobility of youth workers is available to youth organizations. The aim is to enhance their professional development through different training courses, seminars, job shadowing etc. Equipping youth workers with digital competences and increasing participation of youth are frequently addressed in project topics.