Youth work in times of crises and the role of youth research
On 29 September, the RAY Network was hosting a panel discussion on ‘Youth work in times of crises and the role of youth research’. We were striving to stimulate a broader strategic discussion on youth research and youth practice by hearing viewpoints and perceptions of experts coming from policy, practice and research fields. The panel was part of the RAY Network Meeting and contributed to one of the aims: to connect and contextualize the research findings and discuss the relevance and further use of research results. It brought together a selected group of people to present their views on the practice-research-policy linkage, with a special focus on crises. Furthermore, the panel was constructed on the priorities of the European youth programmes*, with crises defining and linking these dimensions.
- The panel discussion can be re-watched here:
>> RAY YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/9h2_LmX9kzk
>> RAY Facebook page: https://fb.watch/f_oPKcOOrG/
- Our panelists were:
>> Agnieszka Rybińska (head of research unit, Foundation for the Development of the Education System, Polish Erasmus+ National Agency)
Agnieszka is head of the Research Unit at the Polish National Agency for Erasmus+. She has experience in coordinating state aid programmes. Her research mostly addresses the evaluation of public interventions, including EU funds earmarked for the development of SMEs and education. She contributed to the discussion with sharing her experience in the field of evaluation and monitoring of the educational programmes.
>> Aine O´Gorman (young climate facilitator)
Áine has been campaigning and working on climate justice for 10 years. Aside from her own activism, she co-founded a youth led campaigning network, co-ordinated Irelands largest coalition of organisations working on climate and working across policy and mobilisation and develops and delivers action-oriented workshops to youth in a variety of settings. She is currently developing and training teachers in a climate action course for 12-15 year olds in the formal Irish education system. Her focus is on supporting people of all ages to explore the root causes of the intersecting social, economic and climate crises, to develop skills to take action together and to support community and individual well-being in the process. She will bring her significant practical experience working across the spectrum of youth from those who are highly engaged to those who seem unengaged – but may be the most affected. She contributed expertise on developing programmes which tackle the intersecting issues that affect youth by focusing on intergenerational justice and local and global climate justice.
>> Alicja Pawluczuk (digital inclusion thinker/doer)
Alicja is a digital inclusion thinker/ doer. She is an active researcher and trainer in the field of digital inclusion and works alongside strategic organisations (e.g., EU-Council of Europe Youth Partnership, UN University, SALTO Participation and Inclusion). She is a founder of Digital Beez, a digital inclusion collective aiming to use creative and participatory methods to critically examine our digital selves. In her contribution, she examined the role of digital technologies and digital transformation in youth work in times of crisis
>> Babis Papaioannou (policy officer, European Commission/ Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture)
Babis is working for the European Commission in Brussels at DG EAC- Youth Unit as a policy officer specialized on youth policy development. He is an expert on building youth policy at local level, e.g. he was the Coordinator of Thessaloniki European Youth Capital 2014. He has a very strong NGO background, being board member in some on the biggest organisations and networks on youth policy development in Europe like the European Youth Forum. Babis spoke about the new role of youth work after the pandemic and after the European Year of Youth 2022 as well as lessons learned and the digital dimension. Furthermore, he addressed the coming mid-term evaluation of the EU Youth Strategy and Erasmus+ for 2023 and the need for research based policies in all levels.
>> Tanja Strecker, RAY transnational research team
Tanja works in the transnational research team of the RAY Network and is an associate lecturer at the University of Lleida (Spain). She completed her Ph.D. in 2018 with longitudinal work on social inequality in higher education and has published in journals such as the Journal of Youth Studies, Gender and Education and Young, among others. She gave insights from the perspective of RAY research, with a focus on crises and in reference to programme priorities.
*Priorities of the Erasmus+ programme (https://erasmus-plus.ec.europa.eu/programme-guide/part-a/priorities-of-the-erasmus-programme)
The crisis became a very popular concept and is being used rather easily. Almost anything that has some kind of linkage to the COVID-19 Pandemic is immediately labeled as and referred to as crisis. However, what goes missing is the elaboration on the level of crisis: Is it youth work in crisis or is it youth work that operates amidst an external crisis? What entails a crisis, what are the different definitions of crisis and are these definitions time and space specific? In other words, when somebody use the concept crisis, do we all mean the same thing in all times and places? The conceptual framework will be one dimension of the panel.
During the pandemic, the Youth Work has proven its value by offering crucial support to entire society, while being forced to operate under extreme conditions and often in survival mode. What was the impact on the youth work; how much of these are temporary and how much of it is here to stay is a major question. Furthermore, the crisis is not a time bound concept; it remains in different forms. Thus, while there is the climate crisis going on and with a war in the middle of Europe, can somebody speak of post-crisis period?
While inclusion has been an important component and priority of Youth Work, in times of crisis, it deserves further attention. We are witnessing different forms of exclusion as a result of the pandemic, the war and in terms of access to digitalization and environmental awareness and standards, both at European and national levels. Inequality in terms of access to education, opportunities, housing and health services appear to be on the rise, which creates certain groups and individuals that need different forms of interventions and attention. Also, the mental wellbeing issues among young people are increasing, which also necessitate youth workers and researchers to pay special attention.
The role and importance of youth research comes into play here; can youth research offer the very much needed answers and provide the essential evidence for the practice field to re-adopt itself and maintain and increase its efficiency and effectiveness. In other words, the panelists will discuss whether we can act and practice without we can know and what do we know, what we don’t know and how can we speak with each other under the current environment. The evidence-based practice is only possible through research-practice dialogue.
Finally, the programme priorities brought about further issues that need consideration. On one level, it is a question on how well youth work actors can focus and deliver on priorities in times of crisis? On another level, how well these priorities can be implemented and how these projects be evaluated remains to be answered. Once again, the research-practice dialogue becomes essential.