Open youth work is not well known!
Open youth work is unclear!
There is no current data on open youth work and persons working with young people
There is no formal education for persons engaged in youth work, and there is a huge difference in levels and fields of education among people engaged in youth work
Open youth work is currently in the process of being formally defined
One of the largest problems in youth work is the lack of resources
Open youth work supports social reconstruction and influence on youth engagement!
Open youth work encompasses a very wide area of different activities
Open youth work is funny!
Open youth work is very often volunteer work
People think that everything young people do can be open youth work.
Young people think that the most important thing for a youth worker is to be a good listener and have a big smile. They usually get in contact with youth work searching on their own via Internet or via friends, they think that trough youth work they will meet many new people and make new friendships. They like very much the opportunity of mobility that they can use as active participants of youth work and personal development that they can achieve through various workshops. They think that Croatian youth work is missing better visibility of organizations and activities. From youth work they expect availability to all, that young people have feeling of importance when they are included in youth work, fun and interesting activities and to accept suggestions of young people.
Open youth work is considered as an approach that offers young people, based on their complete voluntary involvement, developmental and educational experiences which should support their active participation in democratic society and meet their own developmental needs.
Open youth work can take place in youth clubs, youth projects, youth centres, youth houses as well as on the street (through detached youth work or street youth work activities) and could be organised and led by different parties.
In Croatia since 1996 we are developig the term of youth club, youth centre, outreach youth work, and other relevant terms and/or synonyms for different youth work forms or models on different bases – program base, methodology base, organisational and even financial (through the direct funding of the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth in recent years).
The whole structure of the youth work field is still not completely defined
The formal education and professionalisation of youth work is still not recognised in Croatia as such. PRONI Centre for Social Education is still the only entity in Croatia that has developed and is supporting professionalisation of developmental youth and community work in our country since 1998. The curricula of PRONI Centre is based on academic university programs, developed based on society needs and models from different countries (UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, etc.). The students of PRONI Centre with their qualifications unfortunately cannot get recognition of education for youth work, filing instead for similarly related occupations (pedagogy, social work, etc.). Nevertheless, PRONI Centre, together with other actors in the youth work field in Croatia, initiated several crucial models of youth work practice, starting with youth clubs, youth centres, youth information centres, as well as lobbying and initiating youth policy in our country.
In 2014 the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth initiated the process of establishing a Task Force that should deal with analyses and definition of youth work in Croatia. The Task Force started with setting up priorities for experience/practice based youth work that are present in Croatia, having in mind that professionalisation of the youth work occupation should happen as well. There are several experts who are dealing with research about youth work history and youth work results/impacts in Croatia, who are at the moment part of the Task Force within the Ministry.
Based on social impacts caused by larger number of stakeholders, mostly civil society organisations and especially youth initiatives, the Ministry created the concept of financial support for youth work activities and programs provided by youth clubs, youth centres, youth NGOs in our country. This gives the additional motive to those who are putting effort in promoting youth work to deal with it on a higher-quality level. Croatia as society recognised different forms of youth work, but is still missing standardisation and unique criteria for youth work leadership and programming.
The Task Force started with setting up priorities for experience/practice based youth work that are present in Croatia
“youth clubs are finally a recognised form of youth work approach”
Sustainability of different forms of youth work is still a big question mark in Croatia. On local and county level, finances are approved for activities, not programs, and never for structure and organisation of youth work. The political leadership in municipalities and cities can choose the way and purpose of investing in social structures and youth work as well. On national level this situation is quite different due to obligatory National Program for Youth (national youth policy) which provides directions to the national Government. Through the financial programs of the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth, as mentioned above, there are direct financial lines for supporting activities and programs of different civil society organisations that deal with youth work.
People working in open youth work often have inappropriate education or qualifications to deal with youth development (especially part streaming to personal development of young people).
However, after more than 10 years of intensive work on promotion of youth work benefits in society, youth clubs are finally a recognised form of youth work approach. The criteria for formalisation of their functioning is now very clear but the standards, rules and main elements for youth work leadership are not as defined as they should be. There is no criteria for specific education, though number of organisations that deal with youth work are taking care of competence development of people who are working in those organisations.
In Croatia we have a legal base for establishment and functioning of youth clubs, youth centres and youth NGOs, also their work is well defined through the Law on NGOs. In that sense, every youth club or any other form of youth work needs to be formalised and legally defined.
Besides Croatian Youth Net as sort of umbrella youth organisation and network of youth NGOs in our country, which deals with promotion of youth work values as well as lobbying and advocating on youth policy in different segments, in the last year the Task Force within the Ministry was established to deal very much with development, quality assessment and/or lobbying.
Hopefully the results of all efforts put in during almost 20 years in promotion and development of youth work field in Croatia will be visible very soon, especially in the part of standardisation of youth work practice as well as professionalisation of youth work.
Hopefully the Task Force within the Ministry, as well as some other initiatives like POYWE, can encourage more stakeholders in our country to think strategically, and by creating the synergy of knowledge, experience and other resources, to bring big changes related to final definition of youth work and final understanding of its benefits for Croatian society.
Hopefully as well, we shall have formal university education, nomenclature of occupations related to needs of labour market as well, and diversity of youth work forms, models and methods.
In the coming years, open youth work should tackle different priority youth issues that Croatia is already facing for quite some time, in anticipation of even higher levels of those priorities, such as economic emigration, decrease of youth unemployment, increase of youth employability, violence, youth mobility, prevention of risk behaviours, increase of active political participations, etc.
by Irena Mikulić (2015)
Irena Mikulić is Manager of the Educational Department at PRONI Centre for Social Education and Member of the Croatian National Task Force for Analyses and Structuring of Youth Work.
Photos: Cover © Alexandra Beweis, Skateboarding © Tarik Walid El Kawam, youth work © Udruga Zamisli