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Bavaria is a federal state of Germany and defines open youth work as part of the social infrastructure of municipalities and cities, whose offers contribute to the development of children and young people and are seen as prevention.

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Open youth work in Bavaria consists of six defined professional fields: The more traditional forms of open youth work in youth centres, mobile youth work and youth work offers in child- and youth farms (areas with animals and wood build areas) are one part. Special parts of professional youth work are youth work in municipalities with a big part of community work, planning the social system for youth in regions and the last one are professionals in youth councils and youth associations. More in German can be found here:

Since 1998 youth centers in Bavaria increased with over 25 %. The last ten years the cooperation between youth work and schools was an important topic and this led to the creation of new methods. In Bavaria many youth centres are funded by municipalities, so their focus on this goal gave the direction to develop this sector. In the same time Bavarian schools increased the number of social worker jobs with the public remit to do youth work in schools. But in reality most of these jobs are more focused on social integration activities and thus often the aims of youth work like voluntariness and participation are not the leading criterion

An important topic was how to integrate migrants in youth work. Especially the work with refugees was a big theme in the last years, because the principles of open youth work are a commitment for ourselves in Bavaria in this regard. But with this integration topic we also faced the phenomena of the formation of exclusive groups. We got confronted with challenges like the repression of groups, feelings of foreign infiltration and all areas of cultural conflicts in existing offers.

Another topic that emerged in the last years is connected to the connection between the seven regions in Bavaria and the state level. The speakers of open youth work in the regions are non-formal functions to consult the Bavarian youth council on topics of open youth work. We had in some regions a high fluctuation or long-term speakers, leaving their function. Therefore we needed more and more structures to get a good communication between the regions for discussing or developing new strategies for open youth work in Bavaria.

In open youth work we already have training for professionals in youth centres, but in the sector of child- and youth farms (professional playgrounds) with a focus on children, we didn’t have it at the moment. But for this field we feel it is necessary to create some targeted offers, because of the special needs of children and the specialized methods to work between adventures and handcraft activities.

Developed contracts to agree on the goals of the projects and thus ensure our leading principles are respected.

How is it organized today

On the topic of youth work in schools, the youth centres realized that cooperation doesn’t work if the leading criteria of youth work are not accepted in schools. Therefore the majority of cooperation projects developed contracts to agree on the goals of the projects and thus ensure our leading principles are respected.

On the topic of integration of refugees we found a way to offer encounters for getting to know each other, to realize why people flee from their countries and what are their fears and wishes for the future. And refugees were given opportunities to learn what are the rules in youth centres and in Germany and how personal contact and similar topics work here. In the Bavarian youth council we installed a funding programs for cooperation between youth work and schools and youth work with refugees.

The Bavarian youth council is also creating together with the regional speakers a new structure of the state conferences of the speakers and work at the moment more on finding themes that are necessary for all regions and the whole open youth work in Bavaria alike. One concrete topic is for example to develop a training course for volunteers in youth centres to get more responsibility to the youngsters in the youth centres.

At the moment we are designing together with the colleagues from professional supervised playgrounds a training program for staff in this field. Our educational institute ( organizes this new training program. Topics tackled in this training program will be for example working with fire (bonfire, forge working, cooking with fire), building small houses with wood, nature education (gardening, collecting herbs). Specializations could be in topics like identify different trees, herbs, flowers or adventure games like archery, role plays or some things like building tree houses and many things more.

How will it be in 10 years

At the moment we are developing new standards for professional open youth work in Bavaria. These standards are created together by professionals in open youth work, the social service in regions and administration organizations of youth centres. We will describe all topics and aims for the next years in this document. We plan to publish this paper till the end of 2018 and will then work to make it public in Bavaria.

Networking of the speakers will be one of our main topics of the next years. Self-confident speakers in the regions can communicate better the relevant issues in the state Bavaria and will find solutions to organize their own topics.

In the next ten years we also want to have installed the training program with many different courses to specialize profiles of the professionals on our supervised playgrounds.

Some other points could be networking on German level or in European contexts. Projects on European level could be a gate to be more involved in European networking.

by Bernd Endres (2018)

Bernd Endres is head of division “Open Youth Work” at the Bayerischer Jugendring (the Bavarian Youth Council or BJR).

Photos youth work Bavaria ©  BJR/Bernd Endres


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