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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.4 Quality and innovation in youth work

Last update: 25 January 2021


On this page
1.Quality assurance
2.    Research and evidence supporting Youth Work
3.    Participative youth work
4.    ‘Smart’ youth work: youth work in the digital world


Quality assurance

Progress with the youth work strategy

The youth work strategy includes an implementation plan for the Scottish Government,YouthLink Scotland and other relevant partners to use as a means of tracking their progress against the strategy's ambitions. Main actions include the following:

●      the establishment of a Stakeholder Reference Group Youth Work Strategy (SRGYWS), responsible for overseeing and monitoring its first two years of implementation

●      the development of support and training for volunteers

●      the development of strategies aimed at encouraging the participation of excluded and under-represented groups

●      the establishment of national standards for Youth Work.

YouthLink Scotland also published theYouth Work Outcome model and has published a range ofYouth Work Outcome Indicators. Together, these two documents will help youth organisations to plan and evaluate their services.


Youth Work is an element ofCommunity Learning and Development (CLD). It is therefore subject to the CLD self-evaluation and inspection regime. HM Inspectors carry out inspections to evaluate the outcomes and impacts of CLD activities in local areas. These inspections focus on the work in communities of relevantlocal authority services and their partners in the voluntary sector and in other public bodies.

Effective self-evaluation by groups, services and partnerships is essential to improving performance and delivering better outcomes for learners and communities. The inspection process places a strong emphasis on partners’ joint self-evaluation through their use of appropriate quality frameworks:

●      How good is the learning and development in our community?

●      How good is our third sector organisation?

The structure encourages those providing CLD services to consider the quality of their work in relation to six high-level questions:

  1. What key outcomes have we achieved?
  2. What impact have we had in meeting the needs of our stakeholders?
  3. How good is our delivery of key processes?
  4. How good is our operational management?
  5. How good is our strategic leadership?
  6. What is our capacity for improvement?

Inspection by HM Inspectors covers much of the same ground as local self-evaluation. Inspectors will gather evidence, make professional evaluations using the quality and performance indicators and answer at least some of the six high-level questions outlined above. They will write a report which will address the questions outlined, based on evaluations of the evidence gathered, and summarise the key strengths and areas requiring further development in an area. Any self-evaluation which has recently been carried out locally will contribute to the inspection process. A Peer Evaluation process based on the quality indicators has recently been piloted.

Research and evidence supporting Youth Work 

YouthLink Scotland has an in-house research initiative called the Scottish Youth Work Research Steering Group. Convened in 2015, this group consists of representatives of the youth work sector, academic institutions, the Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland, CLD Standards Council and Education Scotland. Through research, it seeks to identify and create opportunities within youth work sector:

●      To critically examine the long-term impact of youth work on the lives and lifestyles of young people and the wider communities across Scotland;

●      To identify what young people learn from participating in youth work provision;

●      To gather data reflecting the broad outcomes of youth work as defined by young Scots.

The Scottish Youth Work Research Steering Group have published several pieces of research on youth work in Scotland. Its most recent publication was the November 2018 document titled ‘The impact of community-based universal youth work in Scotland’. This research was conducted in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh and the University of St. Mark and St. John (Plymouth MARJON) and was funded by NHS Health Scotland, NHS Lothian, Scottish Government, The Gannochy Trust and YouthLink Scotland, with additional contribution from organisations through sectoral crowdfunding.

This research engaged with three communities in Scotland in order to examine the impact of community-based universal youth work services. It highlighted the impact of youth work as a vehicle to harness the ambition and ability of young people. After participating in youth work, 93 per cent of young people surveyed reported an increase in confidence, 74 per cent reported improved skills for life, 68 per cent felt more equal and included, 60 per cent found friendship, 58 per cent felt more safe and well, 58 per cent felt more able to lead and help others, and 53 per cent reported improvement in getting on well with others.

Participative youth work

The participation of young people in youth work initiatives is one of the cornerstones One of the aims of the National Youth Work Strategy 2014-2019 is putting young people at the heart of policy. The strategy aims to support and promote the active participation and engagement of young people in the planning, delivery and management of services. Young people should be directly involved in local and national decision-making, including through designing, co-producing and delivering services where possible.

Youth Scotland, Scotland’s largest national voluntary youth work organisation, operates two programmes that support youth participation in community based youth work.

The first programme, titled Bored Meetings, is training for young people who are involved in different kinds of decision-making processes or groups, such as youth councils, youth forums, school councils, management committees and boards.

The second programme, titled Keep it Real, is training that takes a practical approach to youth participation and provides a selection of activities, which are designed to build young people's confidence, increase their involvement in decision making, suggest creative ways of sharing ideas and evaluate and recognise achievements.

For more information on how youth participation is promoted in general policy making, please see the article ‘Young people’s participation in policy-making’.

‘Smart’ youth work: youth work in the digital world

As part of their Erasmus+ funded project, YouthLink Scotlanddeveloped three sets of tools to build capacity in delivering digital youth work which were launched in 2019 at a training event and an International Summit:

Good Practice Collection: 36 short films of digital youth work practice from six countries to inspire youth workers to try new tools, activities and methods.

Training Materials: These materials seek to offer resources, ideas, and workshop plans to help the development of digital youth work practice, and to train others to develop their skills and inspire their planning. It is designed for people who train youth workers and other CLD staff and volunteers, paid and volunteer youth workers, youth work managers, and anyone with an interest in learning and development for digital youth work.

European Guidelines for Digital Youth Work have been designed to clearly define Digital Youth Work, its impact and the value of youth work as an important educational practice which can empower young people in a digitalising society.

The guidelines give practical and ethical guidance to youth workers, managers and organisations. They also include a call to action for funders and policy makers for the youth work sector, outlining steps they can take to enable the development of digital youth work for all young people.