Value and Recognition of Youth Work

The conference “Value and Recognition of Youth Work” took place from 4-7 December 2023 in Zagreb, Croatia. The conference was part of the strategic partnership of 16 National Agencies (NA) for the implementation of the EU youth programmes Erasmus+ Youth and European Solidarity Corps, and SALTO Youth Resource Centres (SALTO RC) who are keen to implement and strengthen the European Youth Work Agenda (EYWA) through the Bonn Process.

The conference aimed at empowering those stakeholders who are already engaged in the professional debate on recognition. It was a space where they could look for additional cross-border exchange and inspiration, resources, and practical tools as well as strategic alliances within and beyond the youth work community of practice. It also aimed at contributing to the recognition of youth work and providing a platform for further reflection on youth work recognition, which is one of the eight thematic priority areas of the EYWA and Bonn Process.

"The recognition of youth work comes under four dimensions, self, social, political, and formal recognition."

Antonija Gladović, Director of Croatia NA for Mobility and EU programmes

“The recognition of youth work comes under four dimensions, self, social, political, and formal recognition. This conference highlighted that systematically working on all four dimensions is extremely valuable and necessary. We need to be working on the different kinds of support that are needed and to work on how the recognition of youth work can be supported. To these questions we need answers and approaches.”

Antonija Gladović, Director of Croatia NA for Mobility and EU programmes, said in her opening speech.

The four dimensions of recognition


This is about recognising who we are, what we do, and knowing the value our work has.

Social recognition

This is when others gain a better understanding of what we are doing. It is about society acknowledging and valuing the positive impact of youth work on young people and therefore on their communities as a whole.

Political recognition

This is when young people and/or youth work are included in policies about young people and/or are the focus of policies. It is the political level acknowledging and recognising youth work and the value of youth work.

Formal recognition

This is when there is ‘validation’ of learning outcomes and the ‘certification’ of learning processes in youth work through recognised and accepted certification. It is also about the training and education of youth workers.

Descriptions are from the EU-Council of Europe Youth Partnership webpage Visible Value:

Two days of exploration

These four dimensions were substantially explored over the two days of the conference by a participant group from a broad cross-section of the community of practice. The programme had two main themes, one for each day: Taking Stock was the first day and Looking to the Future was the second day.

Taking Stock was dedicated to exploring the state of play in terms of youth work recognition and the key milestones that have led us to where we are today. Four representatives from the community of practice provided snapshots of recognition, each snapshot representing one of the dimensions of recognition. The participants reacted to each snapshot, sharing their experiences and knowledge of what was going on in their realities according to each dimension.

The afternoon was dedicated to youth work recognition practices. The participants shared about aspects of recognition they are involved in or know about from their realities. They provided information on what is being done, what is missing and what still needs to happen. Ten workshops showcased the practices of participants in detail allowing for full examination and understanding of the practices.

Looking to the future began with three key actors exploring together the concept of youth work ‘evolving’ and what it means for youth work recognition. The participants were then asked to reflect on what they had heard and on their own knowledge and experience of youth work. This was initially done as an individual reflection and then in stakeholder groups, the stakeholder groups reported back to the conference on how they see youth work and what still needs to be done to enable greater recognition.

The conference spent time on plans for further development in the recognition of youth work and to summing up all that had been shared, explored, discussed and analysed. Participants ended the conference with country based and personal pledges for their own next steps.

Highlights and conclusions

“Youth work matters, and it deserves proper recognition! The SNAC EYWA wants to contribute to making youth work seen, heard and recognised.”

Elke Fuehrer

It was highlighted more than once during the conference that there are no magic wands that make recognition happen and there are no specific tools that make recognition happen. It is youth work practice and the promotion of that practice that makes recognition happen. We need to be showing the wider community what we do, how we do it and the results that come from it. At the European level we need to utilise events and projects with a broad outreach such as the Youth Capital or the European Year of Youth. These provide great platforms for the promotion and recognition of youth work.

The conference showed that a cross sectoral approach strongly supports the recognition of youth work. There can be three approaches to such cooperation. A formalised approach where youth work takes place in or with schools, youth workers working in prisons or youth workers working alongside social workers, to mention a few examples only. There can also be a non-formalised approach, this is where youth work is having such an impact locally that other sectors are reaching out to gain support from the youth workers for the young people they are working with. There is also a community-based approach where youth workers are engaging with their young people in local festivals and celebrations.

The participants returned home with new inspiration, an expanded network and an attitude that encourages them to continue making their valuable area of work within the youth work field seen, heard and recognised.

As results of the conference, one report, five "pocket books" on the different dimensions of recognition and one video was developed. The materials are available here: