"Strengthen the feeling of belonging to a large community"

A conversation with Alicia Holzschuh and Elke Führer from JUGEND für Europa about the new European Service Centre for the Bonn Process and the importance of the community of practice.

What does the Bonn Process mean for the youth work community of practice?

Elke FührerElke: The Bonn Process is first of all a huge opportunity for the community of practice! For many people who have been engaged in youth work for quite a while, 2020 was a very unique moment for youth work in Europe.

This momentum did not appear out of nowhere. It built on many previous developments such as the 1st and 2nd European Youth Work Conventions, key political documents, a lively professional debate, quality improvements, a large body of knowledge and innovative initiatives. All these developments had already been taken up by a variety of highly committed actors.

And so 2020 can be seen as the culmination of all these achievements – the year the European Youth Work Agenda was adopted and the Bonn Process was kicked off. Backed by key political documents by the European Union and the Council of Europe, the Process benefits from a strong political commitment.

2020 can be seen as the culmination of all these achievements – the year the European Youth Work Agenda was adopted and the Bonn Process was kicked off.

During the Convention, this was understood as tailwind, if you like. But what makes the Bonn Process so special for the community of practice is that this political support was translated into a long-term implementation process which puts the whole youth work community of practice right at the heart! The 3rd European Youth Work Convention was a big community gathering and unleashed a lot of motivation.

A promising start! So what has happened since 2020? Has the Bonn Process developed the way the community hoped?

Alicia: Of course we cannot speak for the whole community of practice. But what we discovered is that since the 2020 Convention, the Bonn Process has developed at different speeds. It was evident that some countries took up the invitation from the community of practice right away and established national process, formed working groups and started implementing the Bonn Process with lots of enthusiasm. Some projects have even received funding through the EU youth programmes that will contribute to the Bonn Process. Many bigger processes and events such as the European Academy on Youth Work or the European Training Strategy have started to link up with the Bonn Process.

That said, we can also see that in some countries and areas of youth work, people have felt there is a lack of guidance on how to get involved in practical terms.

Elke: That’s right. It took and still is taking time for many institutions, organisations, projects and individuals actors to work out what exact role they want to play  in the Bonn Process. This also applied to us in 2021.

It seems that you have a clearer picture now. Why did you establish a new European Service Centre for the Bonn Process?

Elke: We really believe in the bottom-up approach of the Bonn Process. There are already so many initiatives, projects and organisations that are working hard to develop youth work further in different contexts. And more ideas are emerging all the time.

What we want to offer in addition to this engagement is opportunities to better connect all these initiatives across Europe and support the community of practice. The Bonn Process will help strengthen the feeling of belonging to a large community, almost like a group of people who come aboard a boat that’s sailing to a common destination. Whether I am a young person, a youth worker, a project manager, a researcher, a decision-maker or in some other role for youth work development, the Bonn Process is teamwork. And it is up to us to make use of that tailwind. What we want to do is help all interested individuals get on that the boat and support the entire crew.

What can you offer?

Alicia HolzschuhAlicia: We plan to support the community of practice in Europe by providing information and networking opportunities, e.g., through our new website bonn-process.net, and by organising events. We also want to support the national processes by creating transparency as well as spaces for mutual inspiration and cooperation. And of course we also want to contribute actively to specific priority areas of the Bonn Process.

All these activities are open to the entire community of practice, and in offering them we are guided by the principle of openness, transparency and empowerment. For the core part of our work, we are drawing on the EU youth programmes to help make funding available for ideas coming out of the community of practice which develop youth work further.

We want to tell the stories of the community of practice and inspire users.

That’s why we have partnered with 16 National Agencies and SALTO Youth Resource Centres in a strategic long-term project entitled “Strengthening youth work in Europe by supporting the implementation of the European Youth Work Agenda! (SNAC EYWA)” to mobilise the Erasmus+ Youth and the European Solidarity Corps and support the beneficiaries.

Could you tell us a little more about the new website?

Alicia: Sure! On the one hand, the website still serves as a space for the 3rd European Youth Work Convention where people can read about the history and context of the European Youth Work Agenda and the Bonn Process.

But more importantly, the site is designed as a key place to learn about the practical implementation of the Bonn Process. It will tell the stories of the community of practice, inspire users with hands-on examples and keep readers informed with a news section and a newsletter on key developments in the youth work field. And we want to showcase opportunities for people to connect and become an active part of the Bonn Process. To generate an overview of what is going on and what initiatives are happening, we rely on the community’s willingness to share their news, events and stories about their activities with us.

We’re really looking forward to making the website a real shared space and hope it will be helpful for the community of practice.

Thank you very much for all these insights! Good luck and enjoy the journey!