Spot On

Spot On Norway


Competing for attention – a long tradition between culture, municipalities, social services and the wishes of young people.

Read more

Professional open youth work in Norway is usually performed in youth clubs, cultural centres, youth cafés etc. Youth clubs are open to all youth from 10-18 years, regardless of their political and religious affiliation, with no cost for the young person. Youth workers mainly use activity, such as cultural activities and low threshold sports as a main method to build a relation to young people, to ensure that they are socially integrated and to enhance their self-esteem.

Youth participation as a method is an implicit knowledge, running through the youth workers veins for the 60 years that youth work has existed in Norway. Not only as a democratic ideal, but also merely out of necessity. Youth use youth clubs on a voluntary basis and in order to create an attractive space, it must meet the interest of the young person. The youth boards make decisions regarding the design of the youth club, plan the program and implementation of events for the next year. Some youth clubs go even further than that, and let the young people decide on the budget and even recruitment of staff.

Today, approximately 37% of young people between 13 and 16 years use youth clubs twice a month or more[1]. Only sports are more popular as a leisure activity. The youth clubs are fragile when it comes to popularity, though. Youth clubs report that they actually compete with each others activities for the attention of young people.
The last five years young people report that they spend more time at home doing homework, than being out on the street [2]. They stay in touch with friends through social media, but while they are at home, they also spend more time with their parents. Young people are also less rebellious than previous generations.

Youth workers in parts of Norway with population with low income and education, report that the day before exams in school, nobody shows up at the youth clubs. Only ten years ago, the majority of the young people in youth clubs in these areas would not be that interested in school results.

Simultaneously, public services such as libraries and museums have had a shift towards more youth oriented exhibitions. It seems like “everybody” just discovered that young people should be users of their services, and in order to increase their presence, they realize that youth participation and interactive exhibitions is the key to attention from young people. The UN convention on the rights of the child is operationalized by establishing routines to ensure youth participation. With the increased awareness of both the benefits and requirements of participation, several conferences arranged by the government, the public services and NGOs have youth participation as the heading. Museums and libraries are now presenting youth participation as their own invention.

The traditional youth work must therefore not only compete with sports and education for the attention of young people, they must claim their origin and traditions, and show that if the libraries want to learn how to do youth participation, they should ask their “little brother” , the youth clubs, for advice. They have now an excellent opportunity to share their experience and methods for participation with other services that are not that developed.
Concurrently, research shows that youth are facing extreme amounts of pressure. Not only for academic results, but also to strive for perfection in all aspects of life. Beauty blogs create a perception that particularly girls must wear design clothes. Young people have eating disorders, they feel lonely, and they face bullying in social media [3]. Youth workers have always been providing an alternative to commercialized lifestyle, prevented bullying and loneliness, and used food as a method, hence they are part of the solution to this development

The traditional youth work must therefore not only compete with sports and education for the attention of young people

Even if youth workers have the tools to handle many of the challenges in today’s society, they are invisible to other services.

Youth work is the responsibility of municipalities, whose responsibilities are defined negatively. They may provide any services they want, unless laws gives this responsibility to other levels. There are no laws or national guidelines to ensure the quality of youth work. 30% of the youth clubs struggle each year to maintain their existence in the municipal budget processes [4]. Nevertheless, the 650 youth clubs in the 428 municipalities around the country, have very similar traditions and profile on both users and staff.

The typical youth worker has since the beginning in 1953 been a social worker, or with no education. It could likely be a musician or artist as well. Without the formal framework, methods are shaped by traditions, and the quality varies accordingly. No suitable education on university level exists for youth workers and no well-elaborated professional language either. Even if youth workers have the tools to handle many of the challenges in today’s society, they are invisible to other services.

Since the Nineties, the number of youth clubs have dropped from 2000[5] to today’s 650, while the population grew from 4 500 000 to 5 200 000 inhabitants. At the same time, there has been a 40% decline in the number of employees since 2002[6], while the number of youth clubs just decreased by approximately 10% in the same period. This leads to lower density of professionals in the youth clubs, and requires a stable and homogeneous user group, which is quite the opposite of today’s situation.

Youth clubs have an over representation of youth at risk, so youth workers have always cooperated with police, schools, social workers, primary health care and the like. These networks around the young person, consolidates the notion that youth work is a social service. Many youth workers believe that this has led to stigma related to youth work. Nevertheless, municipalities tend to emphasize cross- sectoral cooperation with social services, and not libraries and museums.

Where will youth work be in ten years
In a gradually more complex society with a growing population, we know that youth work must support young people at risk of marginalization. The economic situation in Norway is under pressure, and the numbers of unemployed are increasing. Historically, this has correlations with the ethnic minorities, and our experience gives us reason to believe that we will be working with more young people with minority background. Since 2013, Norway’s government has prioritized lower taxes. The municipal financial capacity will suffer. As a result, services require a large number of volunteers, or user co- finance. Other consequences could be more targeted youth work, with services tailor made for vulnerable groups. We fear that youth work will not be open anymore, and targeted (and stigmatized) services for youth at risk will be a result. Our advice is broad services, that cooperate with cultural as well as social services.

[1]Ungdata 2010-2012, 2013/NOVA
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ungdata 2010-2012, 2013/NOVA
[4]  Klubbundersøkelsen 2008.
[5] www.ssb/Kostra (Statistics Norway)
[6] www.ssb/Kostra (Statistics Norway)

Spot On_Norway_Author Heidi

by Heidi Anderssen-Dukes (2016)

Heidi Anderssen-Dukes (Master of philosophy in Civic planning and cultural understanding (MA Social science)) is working with public relations in The Norwegian National Youth club organization, and has worked with youth policy and youth service management on international, national and municipal level the last 11 years

Cover ©,
other © Ungdom og Fritid

Video: © Ungdom og Fritid


Your name

Your e-mail

Name receiver

E-mail address receiver

Your message










Sign up

Subscribe to Logbook!

Sign up