Youth work in Europe - Mission (im)possible?

The network “Generation Europe – the Academy” puts the Bonn Process into action with more than 40 organisations across Europe. We have talked with Lucia Andreatta about their latest symposium and the potential of dialogue between youth, youth work and politics.

The International Association for Education and Exchange - IBB e.V. is based in Dortmund, Germany. It is a politically independent non-profit organisation that enables actors to collaborate across borders.

Hi Lucia, can you tell us who you are and introduce your work within IBB e.V.?

My name is Lucia Andreatta and I am the project manager and team coordinator of Generation Europe - The Academy. Generation Europe is an international network of youth work organisations and a funding programme for European cooperation. More than 40 organisations from 14 European countries are involved, and IBB e.V. coordinates the overall programme. Our aim is to support young people in raising their voices and taking action in their local communities, so that together we are contributing to an active and inclusive European citizenship.

Our target group for Generation Europe are young people who would not normally be involved in any political processes, or in international youth work. We believe that every young person can be active, can have a voice, and does not need to have a university degree to do so.

Everybody is welcome in the network because it is important that young people have the opportunity to discover their voice.

Why is local impact important for your work?

Young people in our network organise themselves in local youth groups in their own communities. This is the most important aspect of our work: The young people are working on making changes where they live. They are working together to understand what can be better in their local communities, they are talking with other stakeholders about this, and they are taking action.

They also connect internationally once a year when they have the opportunity to meet up with the other young people from the partner projects from across Europe. The international exchange provides a space where they can work together with their peers, get inspiration and encouragement from each other, and get a boost for their work at home.

Can you say something more about working at the international level?

European cooperation needs to take place at all levels. That’s why we are establishing an international network of youth work professionals, providing training courses and discussion spaces. We are also committed to securing and improving the situation of youth work in Europe.

Our aim is to support young people in raising their voices and taking action in their local communities.

In November 2023 we organised an international symposium with the title "Youth Work in Europe – Mission (im)possible?" in Dortmund, Germany. We didn’t only invite our partner organisations and the young people active in our network, but also other youth work professionals, policy makers, and representatives of administration and academia. The goal was to develop solutions to the huge problems youth work is currently facing: underfunding, overworked youth workers, a lack of recognition, and a lack of stable structures to support it.

There is also a growing lack of spaces for young people. In many countries, we still have to fight for youth work to be recognised as a profession, and there is a need for better conditions for youth work and youth workers in general. In workshops and working groups, we also discussed how we can improve well-being, diversity and inclusion through and within youth work.

What was the role of young people in the symposium?

The symposium brought together very different stakeholders from the field of youth work. We felt it was important that those who are affected first and foremost, namely the young people, are involved in the discussions on equal terms.

In order to facilitate the young people to be equal partners in the symposium, we developed the concept for a training and preparation day, called “Youth Day”. It took place the day before the symposium and supported them in presenting their ideas, public speaking, stage presence, and taking part in panel discussions with the other stakeholders.

As a result many aspects of the symposium were led by the young people. This includes discussions, presentations and workshops. During the various exchange formats, we developed proposals in the form of policy recommendations. Following the event, we have documented the results in a comprehensive symposium report.

In addition, we have published recommendations and a video of the event. These results are intended to serve as a resource in order to enable further debates and to continue working together on the topics.

There are already plans for the next symposium which will be on the 28th of October 2024, again in Dortmund, Germany. We are also preparing a European Action Week that will take place from the 1st to the 11th of October 2024.

During this time period, all our local partner groups will organise events in their local communities, to speak out and make their projects as well as youth work and Generation Europe in general visible in their local communities.

The focus here is both on the specific concerns of the young people at local level and on their demand for greater support for youth work structures that empower young people to become involved in civil society.

How do you connect to the Bonn Process?

One of the purposes of the Bonn Process is to promote the further development of youth work and strengthen its quality. Many of the topics and issues we are working with are highlighted in the Bonn Process and the European Youth Work Agenda (EYWA). In an effort to support the Bonn Process, IBB e.V. and the network of Generation Europe – The Academy are pushing for stronger action to improve the position of youth work and tackle the current grievances of young people across Europe.

However, we recognised that many of the youth workers and young people among our partners do not know about the Bonn Process or the EYWA. We have tried to make the Bonn Process and the EYWA more known, and it also played an important role in the debates of our symposium. Starting with the symposium last November and now with the symposium for 2024 we are using this platform to support the implementation of the EYWA.

Within the Generation Europe - The Academy network, we also develop tools as well as methods and publish brochures and other resources to further develop youth work. These are primarily designed to address the issues raised by researchers and by young people themselves. Where these issues are reflected in the EYWA, we emphasise these connections in order to strengthen the work at local level.

Lucia Andreatta

Lucia Andreatta is the project manager and team coordinator of Generation Europe - The Academy. Generation Europe is an international network of more than 40 youth work organisations from 14 European countries. More information: generationeurope.org