Marco, Digital Youth Work seems to be a trend in Europe or Erasmus+ – why do you think that is the case at the moment?
I guess the theme has been around for some time and now National Agencies (NAs) respond to a trend that they see on national level – voiced by youth workers – when planing their activities. I remember two years ago when we had the digital youth work and stuff around that popping up for the first time at our National Agencies planning meeting it was more of a niche theme, while last year when I steered a group at our planning meeting of National Agencies we had I think 20 or 30 participants. So I think something that has been around on national level in the youth work scene has arrived now on European level – so it was upscaled to Erasmus+ Level and we as NAs now try to respond to that with certain activities.
Is it also connected somewhat to the EU Presidencies – like the Estonian Presidency having this initiative on Smart Youth Work?
Yes, I think this helped also a lot in finding a new spin on this whole digital topic by making it Smart Youth Work. And it being focus of the presidency of course helped a lot steering the political discussions around that. And again I think we identified with that also a need and a lack in the activities of Erasmus+. If we look at the RAY Research that we are carrying out, we found out that most of the activities we run on an international level are normally offline, I would call them, or don´t use digital tools as much as they could. So I think that is something where there definitely is a need by youth workers expressed and we see that is not happening in our field and so we try to – again – see how we can foster a little bit the development on European Level of this issue.
It is also a virtual space where youth workers want to have a role and work with the young people.
One way to foster development for National Agencies is to organise moments of exchange or getting together – so that was probably also behind the Conference you held in November 2017 in Vienna?
Yes, it was a combination of more than one factor: on one hand we identified it being a need on European Level and also it was the year of Digital Youth Work for the City of Vienna. So that was also important for us, since when we plan our activities we ask our stakeholders and the City of Vienna and the national umbrella organisation of open youth work in Austria fed back that they are having this theme – so all the stars aligned in a way. And doing a conference for us was important because up until now it was mostly trainings on very specific skills – for trainers for example, or for youth workers – but we tried to see what is there in this field and it is still quite diverse – I have the feeling. We have 3D printers on one hand, we have counselling on the other hand, we have how to use social media – so it is quite a diverse field and we also wanted to highlight a little bit the question what people do understand when we talk about digital youth work and again – it is quite a broad understanding at the moment.
We are – as you know – focusing on professional open youth work. Can you see from the conferences you have been organising, co-organising or attending during this year in this field– some trends or tendencies for our area?
Well, at least I can see that in Austria it is quite an important issue, because as you mentioned we were not just organising the conference on international level, but we were also helping co-organising a big conference on national level for professional open youth work. There was huge interest on the issue, because youth workers are more and more confronted with the fact that the young people they are working with are using this space and youth workers need to be equipped to find also their role in that space and how to work with young people there. In Austrian youth work we always tried to see where the young people are and now its no longer the mall or the youth centre or the park, but now it is also a virtual space where youth workers want to have a role and work with the young people.
That leads us also to the news that Vienna is extending the topic to digital competences of youth workers for 2018. What needs do you see there?
Well I think we need to focus a little bit on what do we understand really now when we talk about competences – competences for what? It is probably not how to work a 3D printer, but it is also about what we understand by digital youth work. I guess this is also where the outcomes of the expert group on Youth and Digitalisation on European Level come in, where we see what we understand by that term at least in the European context and then I think we should focus on what youth workers need to address that. And at the moment I have the feeling that there might be some people who are either in this topic already or have a certain willingness to adopt to that, who might have some competences. But on a broader level I think there still needs to be done something to say „OK if you work digitally or online, you need this certain set of competences“ and then we need to define these competences and then see how can we as a Programme address that.
So there is plans for the program, maybe also for the SALTOS working with the program, to further develop competences sets or training or any kind of support for youth workers in this area?
Well at least I will try to also lobby for that and also talk to the relevant stakeholders, like the SALTO Centres who have a set of competences for youth workers or for trainers working in Europe, to see where is this reflected – these competences that you need in the new digital world that we live in. I can not promise anything now, but I think in the future we should definitely focus also on these competences. And as you said the city of Vienna is also prolonging this year, will also be looking at competences, so I have a strong feeling that there might be something happening in the next year.
by Alexandra Beweis (2018)
Alexandra Beweis is involved in youth work since 1994 and currently working as project manager for poywe and freelance trainer/facilitator.
Photos © Portrait ??, Folders: Juha Kiviniemi, others: Interkulturelles Zentrum