Here To Stay

Here To Stay International Training for Youth Workers

Here To Stay International Training for Youth Workers 700 416 our civic space

Here To Stay International Training for Youth Workers

From 16 – 19 October 2021, the Here To Stay partnership hosted a training at the facilities of one of their members (FITT) in Timisoara, Romania. The central theme of the training was of course civic space and the central question was: How can you turn local communities into youth civic spaces? Twenty youth workers from the different partner countries took part in the training, which revolved around a toolkit that we have created as a partnership and can be found on this website shortly!

Check out the aftermovie below!

Our civic space video

Our civic space video 900 600 our civic space


Above you can view the first video from the Here To Stay programme. It is an introduction to civic spaces and the toolkit that we as a programme have created to support people in defending, improving and creating civic spaces.

Have a look and let us know what you think!

Video by INEX

The Here To Stay programme: An overview

The Here To Stay programme: An overview 512 514 our civic space

The Here To Stay programme: An overview

A youth center, a football field, a park, a skate rink. In every country there are groups of young people – aged 15 to 29 – who are unable to make proper use of these ‘civic spaces’. Civic spaces are meant to enable young people to have the freedom to assemble, express, develop themselves and make decisions concerning their lives and society. Reasons for being excluded from civic spaces could be legal or political restrictions or because they lack the necessary skills to make proper use of the spaces. In other words: young people are not sufficiently ’empowered’. They may also not be ‘made’ or interested in entering the available spaces. Results of these developments are, among others, disengagement of youth in decision-making processes and their social exclusion which prevents young people from becoming agents of social change.

Here To Stay is a partnership consisting of five organisations in Europe focused on creating a lasting positive impact in the development of young people and their ability to express themselves freely. By combining the knowledge, experiences and strengths of the organisations, a complementary partnership has been created. The organisations operate in different regions in Europe and each has its own expertise in the field of youth empowerment and life skills education. By joining forces, our mission is to counter this trend of shrinking civic spaces in Europe and increase the engagement of youth through civic spaces. We aim to create an enabling and productive environment for youth work to facilitate the process of involving young people in decision-making processes and use of civic spaces. 

The cooperation has led to various outcomes. We have already published a digital open-source research report to analyse the context in which we operate and the chances that are available to improve the current situation. Furthermore, the Our Civic Space website has been developed. On this website, we share best practices, case studies and other forms of content. By doing this, we aim to inform, inspire and ultimately activate youth workers to organise their own initiatives within the topic of civic space. We are also in the process of developing a ‘Youth Work Civic Space Toolkit’ for youth workers to help and support them in facilitating youth to claim civic spaces. The toolkit consists of activities, best practices and a theoretical basis, and provides guidance and resources for implementers. As one of the recommendations from the research report said, validation is key. The toolkit is planned to be ready by the end of 2021 and when it is ready for use, it will be uploaded to the Our Civic Space website and widely spread through other channels.

All the steps in the process come together at the final stage. In the final stage, a training course is organised to train youth workers on how to implement the toolkit in their daily work with youth. The youth workers come from different European countries and this gives us a great opportunity to exchange thoughts and experiences around civic space.

We are very much looking forward to sharing our acquired knowledge and insights and developed toolkit and training with a great group of people. Together we can stand up for our mission, resist the current trend and turn it into a positive development for Europe’s youth. 

Are you with us? 

Written by ISA

6th April – A day to celebrate the contribution of sports towards peace and development!

6th April – A day to celebrate the contribution of sports towards peace and development! 2560 1240 our civic space

6th April – A day to celebrate the contribution of sports towards peace and development!

Since 2014, the 6th April has been named the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace. It has been created by the United Nations to acknowledge the positive contribution of sports towards social change, community development, peace and understanding between cultures and people.

For many children and young people around the world, sport represents the unique platforms for positive socialisation and development. It has been recognized as one of the major contributors to the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. It is a fundamental right and a meaningful tool to create interaction, raise voices and develop civic competences.

Together with the partners from the Here to Stay project we strive to maximise the positive contribution of sport in the development of individuals and communities. The sport in itself has always proven to be an authentic space for gathering, expression and healthy behaviour. In this regards and thanks to a number of dedicated interventions, our commitment is to increase the positive outcomes of sports.

Firstly, we provide free and equal access to young people, who may not have the means to join an affiliated sports activity. The activities provided are offered regardless of the sportive ability, gender or social background. We are devoted to create an equal playing field in all of the activities we offer.

Our intervention also allows the young people to develop themselves during their practise of the sport, through a number of approaches that guides the participants to better communicate with each other, to find compromises, to reflect on a situation, to determine their own rules but also accompanies the participants in giving each other constructive feedback and positive encouragement. We are therefore also addressing a gap in the traditional schooling system, where children are often too confined in a firm and non-progressive model of education that rarely allows them to progress differently than in a competitive and individualistic mind-set.

The sport can also be an effective tool to prepare young people towards employment and gain essential soft skills, which are more and more demanded on the job market. Training and playing can teach participants to make better decisions as they face different choices on and off the pitch, to adapt to new situations as they experience changes in a game plan and in life, to control their emotions as they can undergo through peaks in frustration or stress during a match or at school, or simply to better reflect your opinion in public after a match as with colleagues at work. The panel of skills that can be taught through sport is vast and provides an ideal preparation for the active and responsible life at work, in society among peers and family.

We are therefore unanimously convinced as a consortium of European partners of the tremendous power that sport can have on the lives of young people around the world. We are celebrating this day with prospect, as we are facing an exceptionally challenging time for the practise of sport and looking forward to be back on the fields as sport is here to stay!

Written by INEX




The lessons we took from our research

The lessons we took from our research 925 349 our civic space

The lessons we took from our research

In earlier stories (Focus groups, Research Report) we’ve discussed a variety of aspects of the research conducted within the Here To Stay programme (Full Research Report). In this story, we will focus on some of the recommendations that came out of the research. In the final report, these outcomes are structured as ‘thoughts for youth workers’ and ‘final recommendations and lessons learnt’ that specify more on NGOs as a whole. The outcomes were inspired by both relevant literature and the wisdom and experience of youth and youth workers participating in the research. 

Thoughts for youth workers

“If you come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” Lila Watson, Murri visual artist 

Tell them who you are
When implementing a programme aimed at children and youth, tell them who you are. Say something personal about yourself and your organisation. But more importantly, tell them why you are here, in their world. Tell them what you are planning to implement and how you hope this will improve their lives

Ask them for their opinion: no matter what the subject is, you can always ask children and youth for their opinion (in age appropriate ways). If your programme is about school, ask them about their opinion. If it is about sexual and reproductive health rights, they surely want to talk about it. Not only does this convey that you take them seriously, it also reminds yourself why you do the work that you do and keeps you focused on the right topics. Especially listen to those who face hardships or live in ‘toxic’ environments. This is not a passive process, but a very demanding, active, and dynamic activity, that requires a lot of energy, understanding and patience.

Be reliable and flexible
Children and young people are still growing up, in preparation for being (hopefully) responsible adults. Besides growing up they have a lot to do school, relationships, chores, sports, and all the other social, emotional and physical challenges that life throws at them. This takes time and energy. So, when engaging children and youth, take this into account, and appreciate any time or energy they can give to you or to the project. At the same time, be reliable yourself, don’t make promises you can’t keep and follow up on any agreements made. You are a role model but cannot force anything upon youth.

They are looking for a place of confidence, trust and non-judging; and a safe environment where they can be treated equally and as competent persons.” Youth worker from Czech Republic

Breaking the bubbles
You play an essential to break the ‘bubbles’ [social, occupational, ethnic, political] which young people occupy, to build bridges; not only between young people, but also between them and adults, services and public spaces. Be careful however, not to create isolated bubbles when doing youth work.

Final recommendations

It takes special people
The participating NGOs are staffed by highly motivated people. They are guided in their work by strong feelings of justice, fairness, equity, anti-oppression, and inclusion. This value system helps them to reach out to new audiences and build bridges with excluded groups, which they do not perceive as ‘others’, but as equals, albeit, living in more dire circumstances. They are ‘respectful listeners’ and give priority to the needs and wishes of these groups. As such, they are carriers of significant knowledge and experience.

The importance of validation
NGOs such as the participants in this research project often work in the margin of societies. Their work is hard, successes are not always immediately obtained or visible, ‘elevator pitches’ do not work, there is a constant struggle to obtain financial support, sometimes dismissed as not important. Yet their work is of utter importance and should be recognized and validated as such. Projects like these have that effect. It is made clear that efforts are essential for well-functioning democratic societies.

Sports, arts, and culture are powerful tools
Used creatively and innovatively sports and arts appeal to young people, wherever they are and whatever situations they face. The choice of possibilities in sports and arts is more extensive than usually assumed and should be not informed by mainstream values but rather by the preferences and means available of the target audiences

Sports has the strongest calling power for young people. The main reason for this is the possibility of movement in which they can conduct tension. In civic spaces in all three areas, arts, sport and culture, it is important that participants experience free self expression, belonging and acceptance. Giving and receiving acceptance is very important to them. In civic spaces, young people are specifically looking for activities in which they experience these feelings.” Youth worker from Hungary

‘It takes a village’
Successful interventions are the result of strong support if not the involvement by a wide group of stakeholders, especially at community level. Sometimes these stakeholders must be made aware that they have indeed, or should have, a strong interest in creating and opening up civic spaces for everybody. Such stakeholders should, therefore, not only comprise youth workers, politicians, but also shopkeepers, schools, training institutions, taxi drivers, media people, other NGOs, religious leaders, researchers, etc. Building partnerships, advocacy and awareness raising are indispensable elements of a successful intervention. This is very much to ask, and often NGOs do not have the capacity [e.g. personnel, time, resources, networks] to accomplish it.

The risks, opportunities, and unknowns of the online world
Many youth workers welcome social media as a useful civic space for young people ‘living in the margin’, plead for enabling them to get the means and the wherewithal to ‘be on line’, but at the same time, is worried about the impact of ‘fake news’ and is looking for ways to protect young people against it.

The online world, this is the space they occupy, they are there all day. They use a variety of spaces online and live in another world. Online, you have to communicate very quickly, differently, catch them in a second (you can also lose them in a second). Catch and keep their attention and you can discuss ‘wider’ things concerning their well-being and ‘space’.” Youth worker from the Netherlands

Written by ISA

Focus Groups for the Here To Stay programme

Focus Groups for the Here To Stay programme 800 533 our civic space

Focus Groups for the Here To Stay programme

This story will focus on an incredibly important step when it comes to improving civic spaces: having a discussion with the audience you are targeting. This story will give an overview of the focus groups that were held with both young people and youth workers in light of the Here To Stay (HTS) programme. These focus groups were held in all the four countries that took part in this programme. They were generally small (less than eight people) mixed with both male and female participants and they took not much more than a few hours each. Yet, they provided the HTS programme with some important new insights and understandings of what the important aspects are when talking about civic space.

Young people
The focus groups with young people showed that, when taken seriously and listened to, lots of good ideas are being produced. Young people can see what is needed and they have realistic views and wishes. Young people have an eye for their peers and those who are in vulnerable positions. They are sensitive to changes in their environments and can easily come up with measures that need to be taken. They want to bring life to unused spaces and are very capable in using the internet to create civic spaces. They also do not like to be ‘left alone’ but like to be part of a group, community and society, and don’t want to be left out, isolated or ‘locked up’ in their own often ethnically or socio-economically defined bubbles.   

When it comes to improving youth involvement, something that was often mentioned by young people was raising awareness for it. This would help young to identify better the opportunities to get involved in society. Information plays an important role in this respect. Media should highlight good things done by young people as well as bad things. Furthermore, schools should play a greater role into speaking more about active citizenship and thus creating more awareness about the different options that are available to be actively engaged as a young person. 

Below, some interesting quotes that came from different focus groups with young people are mentioned. 

“We would welcome opportunities in which we learn to express ourselves better, to make it easier for us to find work, to shape our social relationships.” – Focus group Hungary

“Although we have turned parks, pubs, or pedestrian areas nearby city attractions into gathering spots, there is a lack of spaces specifically designed for us. We are thought to go there, because we have nowhere else to go to, not because the environment could offer opportunities for personal growth and  development.” – Focus group Romania

Youth workers
Youth workers who took part in the focus groups know what is good for young people and can express their wishes in clear statements that can easily be translated in both effective and feasible local practices and policies. It seems that this knowledge has its foundation in their special personality and commitment. They are genuinely interested in ‘helping’ young people and also know how to listen to them and respect them. In their turn, local governments would be wise to listen to- and respect youth workers.

Below, some interesting quotes that came from different focus groups with youth workers are mentioned.

Organised activities are not always wanted by the youth. And there are not so many opportunities for ‘non-organised’ activities/places or sometimes they are reducing those opportunities. For example, a bench would be removed if groups of youth would gather around and be a bit noisy or messy.” – Focus group Czech Republic

The online world is the space they occupy. They are there all day. They use a variety of spaces online and live in another world. Online, you have to communicate very quickly, differently, catch them in a second or you’ll lose them in a second. Grab and keep their attention and you can discuss ‘wider’ things concerning their well-being and ‘space’.” – Focus group The Netherlands

Liked this story? Leave a comment or discuss your thoughts in our chat!

Written by ISA

The Erasmus+ Here To Stay partnership

The Erasmus+ Here To Stay partnership 1836 1718 our civic space

The Erasmus+ Here To Stay partnership

We are the Erasmus+ Here to Stay (HTS) strategic partnership, consisting out of five partners from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. Our mission is to target the shrinking civic spaces in Europe and the implications it has on young people. Youth become less engaged as European Citizens and are limited in their fundamental rights to gather and express themselves freely. Some of the results of these developments is the disengagement of youth in decision-making processes and their social exclusion which prevents young people from becoming agents of social change. 

The HTS programme is an initiative to counter this trend of shrinking civic spaces and increase the engagement of youth through civic spaces. We aim to create an enabling and productive environment for youth work to facilitate the process of involving young people in decision-making processes and use of civic spaces. Our way to enrich youth work and reach young people and get them to participate actively is by focusing on the social aspects we believe youth like the most: sport, dance, music, and arts.

We envision three long-term results for European youth and youth work:

  1. We aim to inspire young people and youth workers to actually claim civic space in their environment, leading to an increase of youth-led civic spaces. 
  2. We envision an increase in youth participation and engagement in these youth-led civic spaces 
  3. We aim to create an environment in which young people are actively involved in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and communities.
What makes the HTS programme innovative is that it gives concrete examples of civic spaces and how they are applied. Civic space is often used in a general context, but this programme attempts to give concrete examples of interventions and recommendations that contributes to the construction of civic spaces (Ansley Hofmann, INEX).

To achieve our mission and the long-term results, we have designed the following outputs:

  • First, we gain insight in the critical success factors for claiming civic space for young people by European youth work. This will be translated into a written research report where at the end recommendations for youth workers are presented. Interested to read this research report? See our first output for more information. 
  • Our second output is an open and interactive virtual space for the exchange of good practices and inspiration of new initiatives. This is where we are right now, the OUR CIVIC SPACE website. This virtual space is a platform for youth, youth workers and youth work organisations, presenting a wide range of good practices and the opportunity to exchange thoughts and experiences.
The virtual space is one of the strengths of the HTS programme I believe. A place where youth workers and young people from different nations gain knowledge about civic space and where they can get in contact with each other is amazing.  They can share their experiences and solutions to help each other (Edit Gyuris, OSA).
  • We develop a youth space toolkit for youth workers to help and support them in facilitating youth to claim civic spaces. The toolkit consists of practical knowhow and provides guidance and resources for implementers.
  • We organise an international youth work training in Romania in which European youth workers are introduced to the toolkit and equipped with the necessary means, knowledge, and inspiration to use it.
  • Last, every partner will organise a national multiplier event in which we promote our first three outputs, building capacity of European youth work and ensuring the dissemination of the programme outputs for youth, youth workers and youth work organisations. 

Want more information about our outputs? Click here.

We are entering a very crucial time in history with pressing social and environmental issues, a time in which people will have to make a choice between growing and developing civic responsibility collectively or contributing to a more individualistic and polarised society. In this regard, this programme should help people to find initiatives and encourage them to decide for the first choice (Ansley Hofmann, INEX).

The HTS partnership consist of five partners from the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. One of the strengths of this partnership is the division of organisations and the expertise they have. Together we bundle our knowledge and skills and do the very best to reach our mission and goal. Want to know more about our organisations? Click here

Written by ISA

Instead of being together in Prague, we unfortuneately hold our meetings online as well