10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work
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Emphasizing quality improvement in youth work is another European trend. In 2015, an EU expert group defined the basic principles of quality youth work, regardless of the context in which it is carried out. One of the forms of quality assurance in Slovakia is the accreditation of non-formal education programmes in youth work by the Accreditation Commission (hereinafter AC) in the field of youth work. AC was established by the MESRS based on § 7 par. 5 of Act no. 282/2008 Coll. on the support of youth work and on the amendment of Act no. 131/2002 Coll. on Higher Education Institutions and on Amendments to Certain Acts. The Accreditation Commission evaluates applications for the quality label.
The creation of innovative quality improvement systems was supported in the first calls of the programmes of MESRS „Youth Policy Priorities" (Youth Programmes 2014-2020). However, in other types of organizations (apart from children's and youth supra-regional organizations) at the level of regions, cities and municipalities, there is still a lack of agreement on what defines quality in youth work.
In 2018 a working group for the final definition of quality standards was set up by MESRS.
In the amendment of the Act No. 282/2008 on Support of Youth Work, a quality label was included. MESRS also introduced a new institute of the quality brand – the Modern Youth Centre. The quality label “Modern Youth Centre” should be awarded by the MESRS based on applications evaluated by the Accreditation Commission in the field of youth work.
Youtwatch conducted a study on quality in youth work in 2019. On of the key findings of this study is the fact that the organizations, institutions, and groups (hereinafter OIS) involved in the state financial support system are better in strategic planning and providing information than the OIS outside of the system. OIS that have ongoing support from donors, for e.g., churches, are also in better situation than the other OIS, as they can focus on development of strategic areas based on which they can gain further financial resources. This is not an ideal situation for the novice OIS or the OIS that are in long-term financial deficit. They either do not develop in some key areas at all (for e.g., strategic planning) or are only in the initial stage of their development. These OIS can thus improve the quality only with external support, or only at the cost of great effort.
Research and evidence supporting Youth Work
In 2016, RmS carried out a research aimed at identifying the impacts of youth work. The research was funded from the PRIORITY-2016/1/008 / D project from the MESRS's programmes Youth Policy Priorities. The key findings were:
- organizations provide young people with a space to actively acquire many knowledge and skills, including value principles,
- research procedures show a high degree of consistency in the implemented attitude decisions with the values of the organizations,
- the research also provided evidence of the importance of the influence of youth organizations on the prevention of extremism and intolerance.
The benefits and impact of work with children and youth in Slovakia where studied also by Peter Lenčo in 2011. The autor studied how young people measure the benefits of youth work, in which they participate through children's and youth organizations. According to young people, it is primarily a matter of providing space for meaningful use of leisure time, which is associated with the opportunity to learn something new, as well as various experiences, such as the opportunity to travel. Young people declared that engaging in an organization brings them inner enrichment, a good sense of self, a sense of inner fulfilment, usefulness, need, pride and meaning. They appreciated the organization for giving them space to grow and develop. According to young people, the organization helps them build a value system. Organizations also provide a space for new contacts, and friendships, which are appreciated by their members. Often these are friendships that go beyond the local community, have a nationwide or even international character. In addition to friends and comrades, who are also members of the organization, various programmes activities of children's and youth organizations make it possible to meet other people and build social capital that young people can use in the future, e.g., when looking for jobs (Lenčo, P., 2011).
Participate Youth Work
The Strategy of Slovak Republic on youth for the years 2021-2028 was developed based on active dialogue between young people and representatives of the state administration, regional and local government as well as the non-governmental sector.
Smart youth work - youth work in the digital world
Slovakia has both types of measures for fostering the application of digital technologies to youth work. Various NGO initiatives but also initiatives from state institutions offer and provide activities for application of digital technologies for youth and for youth workers as well.
These are current good practices in the field of smart youth work:
- A training programmes accredited by the AC in the field of youth work for youth workers called ON/OFF – Online and offline tools in youth work implemented by IUVENTA implemented since 2020;
- Online psychological hotline for youth provided by the civic association IPčko;
- the State Pedagogical Institute created a database of short educational videos – EDUTV, where young people can find videos on school subjects but also on other subjects such as financial literacy, employment, and values;
- National Project IT Academy – education for the 21st century- Strategic goal of this project is to create model of education and training of young people for the current and future needs of the knowledge society and the labour market with focus on informatics and ICT.
- ITfitness - testing of digital skills of young people and awarding certificate for successful participants, organized by National Digital Coalition for digital skills and vocations in Slovakia
- Project OPEN FUTURE (Budúcnosť INAK) Pontis Foundation Slovakia – developing digital literacy of youth. The programme introduces a unique cooperation: it connects municipalities, which are interested in skill development of young people; experts who are willing to give their time and know-how for a good cause; and young people who have the right motivation to improve their abilities and increase their potential;
- Learn 2 code - Online platform providing more than 90 courses (many of them are accredited by the Slovak Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport). The Learn2Code association was established in response to the limited possibilities of digital education in Slovakia and the need to adapt teaching to individual needs. Students can take their courses without being tied to place and time. They also offer education through online courses, which they have prepared in cooperation with dozens of professionals from various fields. Their goal is to make digital education accessible to the younger generation, and thus increase their chances of successfully entering the labour market.
- Aj ty v IT - NGO providing IT courses for girls and women in Slovakia. Their vision is that at least 30% of girls study in IT schools and at least 40% of women work in IT positions.
- Activities of DigiQ – Digital intelligence - Provides workshop series for elementary school students focusing on data protection and online safety. During COVID-19 epidemic – 23 webinars in 6 weeks for elementary school students focused on social media, disinformation, protection of personal data, hacking and related terms (Phishing, Scam, Spam, Adblocker, Virus, Antivirus)
- CKO – centre for community organizing (Centrum komunitného organizovania) - “Not in our town – NIOT” (Nie v našom meste) - workshops and trainings for use of digital technologies for local activism
- CeNef – Center for the support of Non-formal education - Network (in)security (“(Ne)bezpečne v sieti”) – Erasmus + project in cooperation with DigiQ and AMO (Association for international affairs) – use of modern technologies for Youth Work. Provides workshops for elementary school students and for youth workers engaging young people (Age 13-30 yrs)
- NGO O.Z. Preventista - Workshops and webinars for elementary and secondary school students as well as for parents focusing on raising awareness about cyber security, cyber criminality and prevention of cyberbullying
- Youth workers in Slovakia can use an online tool to assess the competences needed for setting up digital projects. The tool – called “Discover your competencies on-line” – has been developed by non-governmental organizations with the support of the MESRS grant scheme.