Youth workers

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!

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

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Written by ISA