Boosting youth work around Europe – The European Youth Work Agenda and the Bonn Process

The European Youth Work Agenda aims to boost youth work. Established as a strategic framework, it intends to strengthen and further develop youth work practice and policies in Europe.

It provides opportunities for developing your youth work practice further and connect to others across Europe. This article takes you on a short journey covering the origins of the Agenda, its aims and its path to implementation – known as the Bonn Process.

Youth work on the path to common efforts and advocacy

This path started with the series of European Youth Work Conventions (EYWC). Since 2010, the Conventions have brought together the youth work community of practice every five years, celebrating and giving direction to the diversity of youth work in Europe, but also paving the way for finding common ground. In 2015, the participants of the 2nd EYWC called for a European Youth Work Agenda, which was realised in the Resolution for a framework to establish a European Youth Work Agenda in 2020.

European Youth Work Agenda

The European Youth Work Agenda is a unique document, providing strong political commitment and tailwind for all those active in the youth work field and thus also for young people and their situation.

A strategic framework and its implementation

The European Youth Work Agenda aims to boost youth work. The joint effort to translate the Agenda into action and bring it to life is known as the Bonn Process. It aspires to facilitate cooperation within the youth work field and to ensure a more strategic and co-ordinated approach for improving the framework conditions for youth work.

The Bonn Process is also a common European response to the fragile situation of youth work. Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, the field faced major tasks and systemic challenges. These include the lack of comprehensive recognition of the field and adequate and stable funding at all levels and in all countries across Europe.

These challenges were exacerbated by the pandemic and have shaken youth work structures across Europe to their core. The Bonn Process supports the field in overcoming these challenges.

From local to European – Engagement at all levels

The Bonn Process happens at all levels. At European level, it takes place under the umbrella of the European strategies in the field of youth of both the EU and the Council of Europe. Their funding instruments are available to beneficiaries to use for activities to develop their fields of work further.

The Bonn Process is a common European response to the fragile situation of youth work

In addition to the strong commitment of the European Commission and the Youth Department of the Council of Europe, there are two organisations that provide practical support to the process at European level: the EU-CoE Youth Partnership, with a special focus on knowledge development, recognition of youth work and dialogue and capacity building; and the European Service Centre for the Bonn Process at JUGEND für Europa, Germany’s National Agency for the EU youth programmes with a special focus on information, support of national processes, networking opportunities and linking the Agenda with the EU Youth programmes​ (for more information on the European Service Centre for the Bonn Process, see also this interview:

At national level, many Member States have already started to establish national processes to connect their national communities with the Bonn Process. These national processes vary from country to country, but all are designed to push youth work by developing strategies or action plans, creating networking opportunities, implementing mappings, and offering events and information.

A vision for future youth work in Europe

The Bonn Process wants to lead to a future in which youth work is recognised, visible, innovative, future-fit and well-resourced. In this future, youth work is accessible to all young people in all their diversity through quality youth work activities. It is appreciated as a valuable contributor to a democratic, social, sustainable and peaceful Europe.

In light of these objectives, the Bonn Process has several priority areas:

  • develop and expand the youth work offer;
  • quality development;
  • a common direction for the youth work community of practice;
  • beyond the youth work community of practice;
  • promotion and recognition;
  • innovation and emerging challenges;
  • policy frameworks; and
  • a strategic framework for youth work development.

The European Youth Work Agenda acknowledges the challenging situation youth work is facing and helps to overcome it. The entire youth work community of practice in Europe with its various mandates, roles and capacities is encouraged to make use of the tailwind provided by the Agenda and is called upon to contribute.