10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work
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Main criteria/indicators/standards used to assess the quality of youth work projects/programmes
In Slovenia occupational standard 'Youth worker' (Mladinski delavec/Mladinska delavka) exists since 2017. The standard enables the official recognition of professional skills for a youth worker (for detailed description of the standard see section 10.5).
Particular quality assurance systems are also embedded in the public calls. For example, the Office for Youth announced a public call in 2019 (the Public call for co-financing youth work programmes in 2020 and 2021 / Javni poziv za sofinanciranje programov mladinskega dela v letih 2020 in 2021). Status of an organisation in the public interest in the youth sector is a precondition for a youth organisation to candidate for funding (to co-finance project or programme). In order to obtain the status, the organisations must meet the following conditions (see Article 11 of the Public Interest in the Youth Sector Act), which can be seen as the first quality criterion. When applying for the co-financing, youth organisations need to meet the objectives and subject matter of the public calls and award criteria for the quality and scope of the applied programme.
There are many elements in the public call that pursuit quality in youth work: how the organisations evaluate their programme, how they involve young people in evaluation, how they take into account the knowledge and behaviour of young people, how they plan their programme and involve young people, etc. The Programme Erasmus+ also has quality assurance built into the application process and other activities carried out during the implementation of projects.
Actors involved in the field of youth work (for example youth organisations) have their own systems of quality assurance. For example, if a local unit wants to become a member of a Slovenian Catholic Girl Guides and Boy Scouts Association, they have to fulfil some requirements (e.g. logo in the name, the number of members of the unit …). Organisations also have established processes, through which they follow for example how they apply for the projects, how they organize events, the invitation to the event shall always be sent at least six days before the event.
There are various quality systems that have emerged from partnerships. One example is the ABC of Youth Work project. Based on the data obtained, partners in the project established a quality system for improving work in youth organisations.
In November 2018, the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth organized the annual National Conference of the Youth Sector, with the focus on quality in the youth sector. The consultation was prepared jointly with the Youth Council of Slovenia (see report in Slovene) with the goal to prepare standards of quality youth work (see section 10.8 Current debates and reforms).
The main mechanisms in place to evaluate the quality of youth work
Youth Network MaMa launched the Logbook pilot project in 2018. Logbook is a web-based system for documentation and follow up of youth work. It is a tool that helps youth workers document their work in a structured way. They gather information with the purpose of making it possible to analyse and develop youth work and to promote reflective practice, which is the foundation for analysis and reflections on how to improve the quality in youth work. In Slovenia, the tool is implemented in eight municipalities: Ljubljana, Novo mesto, Brežice, Maribor, Celje, Škofja Loka, Krško and Zagorje ob Savi. The Logbook system anticipates the active participation of young people and is based on various tools for evaluating the work done by youth workers at youth centres. Through various evaluation questionnaires, indicators are developed for each youth centre and municipality, which also enables evaluation of the progress and development of each youth centre. It enables youth workers to regularly monitor statistics on activities and visitors of the youth centre.
The implementation of Logbook is part of the Europe Goes Local project, which aims to develop and strengthen quality youth work at the local level, in particular through enhanced cooperation between various stakeholders that are active at the municipal level.
The main outcomes of quality assurance processes
After the organisation’s application for the public call for co-financing youth work programmes is successful, the organisation can start to implement the applied youth work programme. The Office for Youth controls the implementation with reports that the organisations should submit twice a year. If the report does not meet the quality criteria (e.g. is not implemented), the Office for Youth can withhold the funds or they do not allocate the remainder of the funds to the organisation. Feedback from participants is not foreseen.
Representatives of the Office for Youth also carry out announced control visits “on the ground” (at the premises of the organisation) and attend the events they are invited to see if organisation implements the programme.
The organisation should also report every year in March if they are still implementing the programme for youth, which enabled them to obtain the status of an organisation in the public interest in the youth sector (see Article 11 of the Public Interest in the Youth Sector Act). They may also be deprived of their status, which would mean the loss of co-financing of a youth work programme.
Slovenia does not have a comprehensive system for monitoring the status of young people. The National Programme for Youth 2013-2022 (Resolucija o Nacionalnem programu za mladino 2013–2022) includes reference to research segment in the youth field:
6.2.4 objective: “Strengthening the research and analysis segment in the youth field” (Criterion: the existence of an organisation that considers youth research as a core activity; Expected development impact: ensuring long-term and stable youth research)
One of the priorities is “Establishment of a national youth research organisation”.The authority responsible for the implementation is The Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth and the assessment indicators are establishment of a unit for youth research (within existing research organisations) and number of analyses and surveys that analyse and substantively evaluate the impact of international youth work and learning mobility in youth work. The time limit was 2022, but it was not implemented so far.
However, the Implementation plans for the National programme for Youth for the periods 2016/2017, 2018/2019 and 2020/2021 did not foresee special funds for supporting research on youth work. In the Implementation plan for the year 2015 (Izvedbeni načrt Resolucije o nacionalnem programu za mladino 2013–2022 za leto 2015 - please click “Kljub temu odpri stran), setting up a youth research unit (within existing research organisations) was foreseen. Estimated amount of financial resources was 40.000 EUR. So far the unit was not established.
Institute for the development of youth mobility (MOVIT) is member of the Research-based Analysis and Monitoring of Erasmus+: Youth in Action Programme, which provides evidence to better understand processes and outcomes in youth work and non-formal education. Detailed information regarding Slovenia can be find in the national reports of RAY Network
The empirical study Youth 2020 (Mladina 2020) on the position of young people in Slovenia was carried out under the auspices of the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth in 2020 and published in 2021. It covered demographic changes and intergenerational cooperation, and also youth mobility. It partly included indicators that fall into the youth work: 1) non-formal work or activities, and 2) membership in voluntary societies and organisations.
In 2013, monograph “Frameworks and challenges of youth work in Slovenia” (Okviri in izzivi mladinskega dela v Sloveniji) gathered a wide range of discussions on youth work, and a multifaceted reflection of current social issues and social trends that define and challenge contemporary youth work.
In 2010, the Office for Youth further strengthened research activity and obtained additional analyses and research with Youth Network MaMa to publish an analysis “Youth work and youth policy at the local level” (Mladinsko delo in mladinska politika na lokalni ravni). The research aimed at a comprehensive review and analysis of the state of organisation of the youth sector at the local level, instruments for supporting youth work and local youth policy standards in the light of preparations for the creation of a national youth programme. The analysis also highlights one of the key problems in the field of youth structures and youth work, which is the lack of representation of unorganized youth at the national level. National youth organisations represent only young people whose orientation is of particular interest (scouts, tourism, rural youth), confessional/ideological (Christian) or political (youth organisation of political party).
Based on these findings, the objective to ensure the functioning of disorganized youth (6.2.2) was placed in the National Programme for Youth 2013-2022.
Development of top-level youth work policies with the consultation and contribution of young people
There is no permanent system for consulting young people. However, in accordance with the Youth Council Act, the National Youth Council of Slovenia and the local community youth councils shall provide for the participation of young people in adopting statutory and other regulations having an impact on the life and work of young people (Article 5). Prior to drafting acts and other regulations having a direct impact on the life and work of young people, the Government, the ministries and other national authorities and local community bodies shall be obliged to inform the National Youth Council of Slovenia or the local community youth councils thereof (Article 6).
In 2010, the government adopted a new Public Interest in the Youth Sector Act which was prepared in a participatory way. Introduced by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport and the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth. This came about following a period of wide public debate, which also included youth actors. According to the Public Interest in the Youth Sector Act, the proposed National Programme for Youth shall be drawn up by the ministry in cooperation with organisations in the youth sector (Article 16). Representative of the National Youth Council of Slovenia was present from the very beginning of the preparation and coordination with the ministries. The proposal was also discussed at the meeting of the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth and all the proposals for implementation plans were put on the agenda (seja Sveta Vlade RS za mladino) of the Council of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth.
Prior to the appointment of the group that worked on the National Occupational Qualification initiative, which was a participatory process , a professional group was established in 2015 as an initiative of the National Youth Council of Slovenia and the Social Academy to consult on the relevant standards. The aim was to provide professional support during the process of NPK - Nacionalna poklicna kvalifikacija development. The group comprised a number of youth organisations, including representatives of the Social Academy, Youth Network MaMa, Trade Union Youth Plus, Youth Association Without Excuse and the National Youth Council. In this case, it becomes clear that youth organisations can play a powerful role in the creation of public policy related to young people.
The national project of structured dialogue “Youth Dialogue 2.0: Including!’ (2013/2014)” (Dialog mladih 2.0: Vključujemo! (2013/2014)), established space, possibilities and support for young people from all over Slovenia to actively participate in discussions in the third cycle of structured dialogue. These discussions were on topics of social inclusion through youth work (for more information on the participation of young people in general policy making, see section 5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making). The 7th cycle of the youth dialogue began in January 2019 and focuses on addressing opportunities for young people through quality youth work and providing education and training for youth workers. The 8th cycle focused on the space participation of youth in the decision making processes and currenty the 9th cycle is about Inclusive Societies and Sustainable Green Europe.
Involving young people in the design, implementation and evaluation of youth work projects
Public call for co-financing youth work programmes in 2020 and 2021 from the Office for Youth (Javni poziv za sofinanciranje programov mladinskega dela v letih 2020 in 2021) emphasizes active participation of young people in the planned programme. When organisations apply their programmes, they should already state the number of active participants (one of the award criteria). Who are active participants is again defined later in the form (obrazec), together with who the activity is for. The form states that young people shall have an active role as planners, designers, organizers, implementers, manufacturers etc. and that active participants are not passive viewers, listeners, visitors, and users of services and products. On the other hand, the Office for Youth annually request a response from the organisations in the sector on their view on the public call, what could be improved, what they propose.
In 2017 the Council of the EU adopted council conclusions on smart youth work. Following the conclusions, several initaitves started to equip both youth workers and young people with digital and media literacy skills. Some of them took place as youth work projects
In 2018, the Youth Network MaMa started implementing 24-month strategic partnership project “Smart youth work in youth centres” (Pametno mladinsko delo v mladinskih centrih). The project responds to the challenges youth policy, youth work and youth in the field of digitisation of youth work. It also aims to define methods and tools for smart youth work in Slovenia and to develop methodology for training of youth workers. As a part of the project, international training course for youth workers that want to face and challenge digitalization in the youth field took place in November 2019 in Slovenia. Youth workers were trained how to use digital tools and methods in their programmes and their daily work with young people. The project is funded by the Erasmus+ Programme.
The project “Programming is a game” (Programiranje je igra) took place in 2019 by the Social Academy includes young people (15-24 years old) to make the first steps into the world of programming. With the help of the creative environment of Scratch, participants get familiar with the environment of programming and make their first project. The workshops are led by the trainer of the Social Academy. Through their experiences in the digital youth work, they bring young people closer to programming.
Within the project “European Wide Web of Youth Work” that took place since January 2017 untill August 2018, the Social Academy collected and created digital tools that support youth workers and trainers in their "digital" approach to young people. A practical manual with tools to design and facilitate online training of youth workers including real life experiences and examples was one activity of the project. Digital tools are available to youth workers on the organisation's online platform.
In 2019, the Nefiks Institute implemented a set of trainings “Digital youth work – How to become a social network manager (Digitalno mladinsko delo – kako postaneš upravljalec družbenih omrežij). Trainings helped youth workers understand what digital youth work is and educate them to become digital network managers.
Under the banner of SAFE.SI, the Awareness Centre SAFE.SI since 2005 raises awareness about safe and responsible use of internet and new technologies. The project’s aim is to provide children, teenagers, parents, teachers, youth workers and social workers with knowledge and tools for guiding, empowering and helping children and teenagers in the digital world. There is a big interest to receive trainings and workshops on online safety for different target groups, especially among Slovenian schools. Therefore, the “SPES association” (Društvo za kulturo odnosov SPES) developed in 2018 as a part of a “Healthy Social Networks” project (Zdrava družbena omrežja) a course and classroom-based materials to help youth workers, teachers, educators, all those involved in non-profit youth and other organisations to contribute to the smarter use of online social networks among young people.
With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, debates about digital youth work became even more relevant. Furthermore, digital youth work has indeed needed to be tested in practice. Youth Network MaMa collected good practices of digital youth work by youth centers in the time of Covid-19 pandemic (Prakse mladinskih centrov v času epidemije COVID-19 and Prakse mladinskih centrov v času 2. vala epidemije COVID-19).
Initiatives and measures to make digital infrastructure available to youth work projects and programmes
Successful application on the call for proposals of Ministry of Education, Science and Sport “Employment in the field of youth work in the youth sector” (Javni razpis “Zaposlitev na področju mladinskega dela v mladinskem sektorju”), ensured Youth Cultural Centre Maribor (MKC Maribor) to employ a youth worker in 2018 for working on the digital youth work programme. The Digital youth work programme is a training of a digital youth worker through the creation of a digital youth centre, which is a production-educational space for the promotion and development of digital youth work and the promotion of young people in the creative industries. The digital youth centre also provides digital information on events and opportunities in the youth sector.
Currently, there is still no mechanism to fund digital youth work in Slovenia, even though many organisations in the youth sector already deliver content related to smart and digital youth work. (Technical) infrastructure provided for this is quite different. Some organisations provide this from the regular funding they get, and some from the funds raised through a call for proposals on subject of digitalisation from for example Government Office for Digital Transformation.
Institute for the development of youth mobility (MOVIT) supports various international trainings, seminars and conferences on smart youth work. Either they co-organize in cooperation with national agencies from other countries or send participants from Slovenia (read more on Digital youth work at Digitalno mladinsko delo).
Initiatives aiming at facilitating cooperation and partnerships in order to support the transmission of digital practices and technology to youth work
In October 2019, the MOVIT Institute and the Office for Youth are organizing a Forum on digital youth work "When, if not now?" (“Kdaj, če ne zdaj?”). Participants explored trends in digitization and learn about different digital methods and practices that can be useful in the context of youth work.
Together with the participants of the 2017 National consultation on 27 and 28. November 2017, the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth opened a public debate on the (un)importance of digital youth work. National Youth Sector Consultation 2017 with the title “Is it time for youth digital work?” (Ali je čas za digitalno mladinsko delo?) has raised issues related to the rapid technological development and digitization of the society, especially youth.
The Association for Culture and Education PiNA was a partner in an Erasmus+, KA2 project, Strategic partnership in the field of youth “FUTURE LABS ( 01/09/2017 – 31/08/2019)– new digital and social innovative tools for youth work”. Specific objectives of the project were 1. capacitate youth workers in digitalization and in social innovation; 2. test new approaches with young people in a co-creative manner; 3. evaluate, adapt and spread the tools wider in the European youth work community. One of the project activities was the training for digital and social innovative tools. In collaboration with the Youth Centre Koper, PiNA organized an event “Challenges and opportunities for youth work in the digital age (Izzivi in priložnosti mladinskega dela v digitalni dobi) in April 2019. The training focused on the opportunities and challenges for youth work in the digital age and the pitfalls that digital devices bring to youth workers, as well as on various methods and examples of good practices in the use of digital media and technology in youth work. It was followed by the demonstration of digital youth work practices (e.g. Future Labs podcast, Aplikacija Mladim).