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Exploring Digital Competences


Nowadays we are using digital approaches in our work more than ever before. However, what are the digital competences every youth worker should possess? And how it correlates to existing frameworks? These were the main questions of the Exploring the Digital Dimension of Youth Workers’ Competences Conference held in Vienna on 24 to 27 February 2020


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Digitalisation is all around us and it certainly influenced our sector and work significantly. This can especially be seen now with recent developments of Covid-19 and the impact it had on youth work. Just before the virus outbreak, a conference on the digital dimension of youth workers’ competences was held in Vienna, which gathered around 100 youth workers to learn about digital tools and competences.

During the Conference, we tried to explore what are the various layers of the digital dimensions of youth work and what is the role of youth workers in digital environments. Furthermore, the event was also the unique opportunity to contribute to the further development of existing competence models, such as the Competence Model for Youth Workers to work internationally in the framework of the European Training Strategy or the “aufZAQ” model on Educational Quality and Competence in Youth Work in Austria.

“Digital youth work has the same goals as youth work in general, and using digital media and technology in youth work should always support these goals.”

(EC expert group on digitalisation and youth, 2018)

Digital from the start

In order to promote digitalisation in youth work, most of the supporting activities of the conference were also digital. This included using different tools to collect information about the participants and enable easier communication and information sharing. In the beginning, participants provided information about themselves using Typeform application.

During the event, LineUpr app was used actively, where participants could find out more about the schedule, speakers, other participants and practicalities with one swipe on their smartphone. This application also allowed organisers to send notifications to participants about potential program changes and sharing important information. Besides this, social media channels were opened to promote the whole Conference and to share main findings with the wider youth work community.

Digital is all around us

During the opening of the Conference participants were reminded on how digital tools, games and facilities are all around us and we need them to communicate, play and learn something. However, we also need to be aware of the challenges that come with usage of technology and what impact it has on young people, as well as what competences should we acquire.

To get started participants had the opportunity to explore different tools and practices related to the digital world and youth work. Through visiting nine stations in our Museum of the Future, they could find out more about experimenting with self-image and symbols, self-assessment of youth workers competences, usage of video games in youth work, 3-D printing and gaming, digital learning pathways, coding clubs, badges in learning, maker activities and online courses. All of this helped in better understanding of different activities, tools and methods that can be used in our everyday work, but it also posed different questions on our own readiness to conduct this type of activities

Digital goes to competence level

Exploration of different tools and methods guided us to a different type of exploration – of our own needs and competences we need to have to implement successful digital activities. Discussions once again showed that the area of digitalisation is challenging and complex. Reaching young people where they are, not only as persons, but also in their reality, can be a challenge and it should definitely be included in competence models. Reflections and discussions revealed that we need to develop both digital mind of youth workers, but also put focus on developing digital tools and methods.


The concept of Digital Mind includes acquiring different attitudes, such as open mindedness, authenticity, creativity and inspiration. Discussions revolved also around key questions and dimensions of digital youth work: how can we enable safety and trust; how to deal with time perception and how to deal with power relationships? Furthermore, reflections showed that we need to put emphasis on learning digital tools and methods, which entails knowledge of tools, trends and apps/platforms, as well as having competencies in the field of data ownership and privacy. Online communication culture was mentioned as another important competence. So, quite a lot of competences were detected, which will be adapted to the already existing models to best possible extent.

The concept of Digital Mind includes open mindedness, authenticity, creativity and inspiration.

Digital youth workers’ archetypes

Even though we discussed a lot about the competences, it is also good to know what is our own role in digital youth work and what is our level of knowledge and attitude in this context. During an interactive session, participants could choose a digital youth workers’ archetype which suits themselves best and think about their own strengths and weaknesses. All of this aimed for self-reflection and understanding what we personally need to improve, as well as, the style we use in digital youth work. Maybe you can also recognise yourself in some of the six archetypes? Maybe you are:

  • curious visitor – who is a beginner in digital field and fascinated on how young people use new technology
  • playful educator – who uses digital games and environments to engage young people in learning and fun activities
  • online outreach worker – who engages young people in meaningful discussions and enters easily in youth online world or culture
  • digital handcrafter – who sees digital as the boost for young peoples’ creativity and helps find creative outlet for youth
  • digital guide – who helps young people to find information and support online and puts emphasis on being safe in online environments
  • critical thinker – who asks critical questions on our online work, supports online activism and e-participation of young people


No matter which archetype describes you best (remember, this is only one possible portrayal), it is good to self-reflect and see what we still need to develop and how our attitudes towards digital technology can influence young people and their perceptions.

Digital activism and online street youth work

We also had some food for thoughts brought by two key notes on different aspects connected with young people, youth work and the digital dimension: digital activism and online street youth work. Peter Berry from talked about the initiative Save the internet, which showed us how youth voices and activism can change the debate happening on policy level. The talk revolved around how young people helped in organising and implementing a petition. Online activism through Twitter and thus, changing the narrative and influencing the policy regarding upload filters on the internet.

Two inspiring projects Jamal al-Khatib and NISA implemented by ‘turn – Association for the prevention of violence and extremism’ were presented by Rami Ali and Jekatarina Weiß. Jamal al-Khatib provides authentic alternative narratives to counter jihadist propaganda and ideology, whereas NISA deals with deconstructing gender roles. Both projects are based on online street youth work and involve young people from marginalised backgrounds. This presentation reminded us on how important it is to work with young people with fewer opportunities and that we need to reach young people where they are.

What next?

As usual on events on European level, lots of responsibility stays in the hands of the participants, who need to implement what they learned in their national realities. However, in this case, the ball also goes to developers of competence models, who need to upgrade their competence models with digital dimension and therefore engaged in this conference for getting direct and valuable input from the field. Both promoters of the competence models discussed at the conference – SALTO Training and Cooperation for the ETS Competence Model for Youth Workers to Work Internationally and aufZAQ in Austria presented their conclusions at the end of the conference and are going to take up the learnings from this exchange for the future development of the digital dimension in youth workers competence models. We are sure that this is only the beginning of the talk around youth workers’ digital competences and that we will have more events coming soon in this area. In the meantime, good luck with your online activities with young people! May the (digital) force be with you!

by Domagoj Morić (2020)

Domagoj Morić is a freelance trainer/facilitator and communication expert working with organisations, youth workers and teachers on national and international level

Facilitator Team of the Conference:

Alex Beweis
Alexandra Beweis works as project manager at POYWE . She is also a trainer and facilitator and active in different areas of youth work since 1994.

Michele Di Paola is a youth worker and trainer with many years of experience in designing activities and trainings about digital and smart youth work. He blogs at

Juha Kiviniemi is a planning officer at Verke, a hopeless tech geek, a passionate maker and an Erasmus+ trainer – sometimes all at once.

The conference organisers:
IZ, the Austrian National Agency of Erasmus+: Youth in Action, SALTO Training & Cooperation, aufZAQ and poywe

Title © Денис Евстратов on Unsplash
all others © Domagoj Morić

all © Domagoj Morić

Illustration © Coline Robin


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