Recommendations for developing digital youth work
“Screenagers” research project, which we used extensively as a reference in our seminar, has in their research report identified some guidelines for youth work organisations on how to develop digital youth work:
- Strategic financial investment in infrastructure, hardware, professional development, and practice development.
- Meeting the identified training needs of youth workers at all levels, from introductory basic skills training to professional development and bespoke courses, and with a focus on the practical application of skills.
- Challenging resistant mind-sets and support a fuller and more creative use of ICT in youth work.
- Ensuring policy commitment within youth work sectors.
- Providing youth workers with written guidance laying out principles of best practices and demonstrating impact, which could be supported through national Centres of Excellence and/or through national champions for ICT in youth work.
The Screenagers report clearly states the need for further european cooperation: “Probably the most striking conclusion across all the partners is that despite different political and youth work contexts, there was much similarity about what needs to be achieved to realise the amazing potential of ICT use in youth work.” Evaldas Rupkus agrees and recommends improving the expert discussions on a european level by involving all youth work stakeholders. “For example youth information and counselling actors have already several years of experience in the digital youth information service provision and hence have many good practices to share. Youth information and counselling has been the main actor providing media and information literacy.”, says Evaldas.
Despite different political and youth work contexts, there is much similarity on what needs to be done to realize the potential of ICT in youth work.
Another avenue of development will surely rise from the work of the newly appointed expert group. “The discussions within the expert group have been very interesting.”, says Suvi Tuominen. “I am confident that the recommendations drafted up by this group will have a positive effect on digital youth work policies and training in many european countries; hopefully they might even have an effect in youth policy in general.”
European Union’s programme Erasmus+ can provide opportunities for youth work organisations and their strategic partners to develop further digital policies and practices in youth work. “There is a lot of money – 14,6 billion euros – that can be invested through the Erasmus+ programme. As much as 10% of this amount is aimed at youth.”, Jutta Kivimäki from CIMO, National Agency of Erasmus+ programme in Finland says while introducing available funding opportunities.
In the last leg of the seminar we also had the chance to have a look at ongoing Erasmus+ projects; for example the Key-action 1 project “Digital Superpowers” aims to bring digital tools to youth work practices. This project creates opportunities for youth workers and young people to develop their digital competences by participating in European mobility: training course, youth exchange and evaluation seminar. This project involves youth work organisations from Estonia, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Portugal. Another example could have been the Erasmus+ funded #BePart summit in Berlin in the November of 2016 that aims – for a long-stretch goal – to build up a european cooperation network of e-participation practitioners.
If youth work fails to embrace technology and social media there is a risk of becoming outdated and irrelevant to young people who use youth work services.
Judging from the discussions and the feedback received from participants of this seminar the chance of mutual cooperation and sharing is very well received among digital youth work practitioners. There is lots going on within the field of digital youth work and at least Italy, Ireland and Luxembourg are already in the process of drafting up their own trainings on the topic. Embracing digital methods is crucial for the youth work sector; as the Screenagers report states: “If youth work fails to embrace the use of technology and social media there is a risk of becoming outdated and irrelevant to young people who use youth work services.”
This is the 6th and the final part of the article “Taking youth work to the digital world”. This article is an outcome of the international seminar “Developing digital youth work”. The seminar was hosted 13 to 17 September 2016 in Oulu, Finland by the Centre of International Mobility (CIMO). This article was first published on Verke’s website. Continue to the previous part “Different realities, different approaches to digital youth work” or the starting part “Playing catch-up with the digital (r)evolution”.