European Academy on Youth Work: Future developments and their impact on youth work

From the 14th to 17th May 2024, the European Academy on Youth Work, third edition, took place in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. The theme was ‘Future developments and their impact on youth work’. There were 200 participants representing a broad spectrum of the youth work community of practice, coming from a large portion of Europe and several neighbouring countries.

There was a keynote speaker from outside of the sector, Adanna Shallowe, who is an international affairs analyst, a skilled network weaver and facilitator. The Academy also presented a year long research on ‘The Futures of Youth Work’. There were also sixteen forums that were conducted as either workshops or presentations of innovative practices by selected professionals from youth work, youth policy and research fields.

What is the European Academy on Youth Work about?

The European Academy on Youth Work’s (Academy) aim is to promote the development of quality youth work and to support its capacity to react to current and future developments. The Academy also strongly supports innovation in youth work as a response to the trends, challenges and uncertainties faced by young people in today’s fast-changing societies.

This was the third edition of the Academy and it kept its connection with innovation as a strong core to the event, though the main focus was on emerging trends and future developments.

The specific objectives of the 3rd Academy were to:

  • Jointly explore emerging trends and future developments and discuss their possible impact on youth work;
  • Showcase and mainstream a variety of innovative practices, approaches and strategies developed in response to these developments;
  • Foster networking and innovative thinking about the futures of youth work within the community.

In order to support the achievement of these objectives the Academy had three questions that were explored throughout the event:

  • What will youth work look like in the future?
  • How can we get ready for futures thinking?
  • How can we act, plan and envision for a future of youth work we don’t know?

Futures work

The Academy was three days of enlightening inspiration and challenge. The core speech by Adanna Shallowe introduced the Academy participants to the concept of Futures Work.

There are multiple possibilities of what could happen.

A key emphasis that was pushed very strongly in all the inputs, is that Futures Work and elements within it such as Future Foresight and Future Thinking, are not anything to do with predicting the future.

Another thing of note is that “futures” is often used in the plural. This is because when conducting futures work, it is about challenging our existing assumptions, and exploring new and alternative futures, in order to take action. It is not about analysis and exploration and saying “OK, this will probably happen”, it is analysing and realising that there are multiple possibilities of what could happen.

One way of analysing these futures is through something called ‘Horizons’ of which there are three. Horizon 1 reveals what is already clearly visible and understandable. Horizon 2 is more focused on emerging trends that are taking shape, though their exact form and impact are not clear. Horizon 3 highlights challenges and strategic issues that may arise in the long term, it focuses on the things that are least likely to happen but could still happen.

Futures of youth work

In the spring of 2023, the Academy Advisory Board commissioned the “Futures of Youth Work research project”. It was based on the concept of Futures Work and employed many of the methodologies employed by that field. Although it is still being finalised, the current outcomes of the research were presented during the event, which included a set of eight identified trends. Each trend was accompanied by four scenarios exploring what that trend could look like highlighting that the trend could go in any one direction or even all four directions.

The input on the research was followed up with a proposal of four strategies on how the community of practice can adapt to future challenges.


Although all this sounds input heavy, it was a very dynamic and interactive event. This included the introduction of a game that everyone played. It was specifically developed for this Academy and is a tool for those involved in youth work to explore futures. The inputs, points of view and opinions of the participants were a strong part of every speech and plenary session.

There were also the 16 Forums run by participants, which presented innovative practices and came under four themes: ‘Responding to major trends’; ‘Rethinking learning, new perspectives for impactful change’; ‘Rethinking spaces of participation’; and ‘Looking towards the future’.


Another unique aspect of this Academy was the inclusion of five universities that teach youth work or related subjects. They were represented by 20 students and their professors. The student team engaged in a 48 hour research project during the Academy, it was on the ‘needs of youth worker education based on current and future trends and developments’.

The students being present and their research – the results of which were presented in the final plenary of the Academy, brought a special aspect to the Academy. It was a good reminder that youth workers in training are also part of the community of practice and their voices are really important, especially in relation to futures work.


Outcomes of the Academy event will be published on the EAYW website and social media throughout July and August. There will be a follow up webinar on the Academy on the 12th September at 10.00 CET.

If you are interested to learn more about the Academy and about Futures work, you are encouraged to attend, there will be more information about it closer to the time on the EAYW web page and social media pages (see links below).

There will also be a full report published in the early autumn and a series of mini reports over the summer.


There are two live streams available on YouTube, one is the keynote speech by Adanna Shallowe and the other one the presentation of the research.

Further resources are:

(Written by Nik Paddison on behalf of JUGEND für Europa)