How to choose effective tools for youth exchanges

“A youth exchange is more than a holiday!?”

This was the opening statement for the international training course “Tools for Youth Exchanges” in Finland. A rather provocative statement for the youth exchange organisers attending this training course, but very fitting to the idea behind this training.

Many young people who take part in the youth exchanges may have an answer to this question. The RAY transnational study demonstrates many positive results of the Youth in Action programme overall, where youth exchanges is one of the most common type of activity.

Some of the findings of the research draw attention to the need to involve young people more in the decision-making process during the planning phase of the project; to implement projects “with young people” and not “for young people”; to offer more “hands on learning” experiences by involving the participants in the implementation of the activities.

“Tools for Youth Exchanges” is a course where youth workers and youth leaders can share and reflect their youth exchange practices and learn practical tools to improve the experience and quality of such international activities.

Important aspects highlighted in this training course

What do we mean with tools/methods activities and why do we use them? How do we create and structure tools/methods and when do we use them? The role of the youth worker in a youth exchange – supporting participation. Specific areas of learning in a Youth Exchange:

  • Group processes
  • Learning
  • Intercultural learning
  • Debriefing
  • Dissemination



This TC confirmed my opinion that YE is a long, learning process for everybody who takes part in it. It makes me feel happy that I am on the right way., Merja from Finland

During the course, we explored the processes which happen and should happen before, during and after international youth exchanges. Specific tools, methods, activities support processes like youth participation, group dynamics, learning and intercultural learning.

Tools, methods, activities are often are used as synonyms. In the publication “Tools for Learning: how to create and develop.”, Jonathan Bowyer invites us to reflect on the working definition of the “tools for learning”:

To have the knowledge and understanding of how to choose, adapt, modify and combine methods is one of the competences a youth worker needs when working internationally. It requires the ability to understand and read group processes and the skills to choose, adjust, design and implement tools that are suitable for the needs of the groups.

Choosing appropriate methods for youth exchange also requires reflection and decision-making between team members of the exchange and participants in the project.

The “fish model” gives a clear overview of the many aspects coming into play when choosing a tool or method and can be of help while preparing for a youth exchange and trying to find appropriate tools to use.

The bubbles the fish breathes represent the methods, these have been generated by passing through the entire body. By looking along the ribs, we can check the factors which have influenced this. Relevant questions to consider in relation to the group may be:

  • How does the methodology reflect the reality of the group, in other words, are different methods used in the overall program which respond to different learning styles, needs and speeds?
  • What kind of communication does the method encourage in the group?
  • Does the method contribute to the process of group building, or is that an issue at this point?
  • What levels of trust and familiarity does the method presume in the group?
  • How does the method correspond to your understanding of the group dynamics at this point?How does the method address the group needs and responsibilities at this point in the training strategy?

This process of finding the appropriate tools, for the appropriate time, taking in account the entire exchange project was highlighted. It was supported by the creation of a timeline marking for instance group-building and learning processes happening during an exchange project. The timeline was structured from before the application to after the final report, thus emphasising the importance of approaching an exchange as a long-term project as opposed to a short-term one.

This is the 1st part of the article “Tools for youth exchanges”. This article is an outcome of the international training course “Tools for Youth Exchanges”. The course was hosted 6 to 12 March 2017 in Virrat, Finland by the Finnish National Agency for Education. The article was written by Mieke McMahon Neven (facilitator) with contribution by Nerijus Kriauciunas (facilitator and member of “Nectarus” team).

Continue to the next part “How to facilitate learning during youth exchanges“.


Trainings, Achievements