RAY INNO » Research project on the role of innovation in European youth work and European youth policy
The RAY Network has conducted a research project on the impact of Key Action 2 in Erasmus+ Youth in Action. Key Action 2 (KA2) has supported several formats, key among them strategic partnerships in the field of youth. At the start of the soon expiring Erasmus+ programme cycle, strategic partnerships set out to support the development, transfer and implementation of innovative practices at organisational, local, regional, national or European levels. While thematic priorities meandered, KA2 projects were meant to foster innovation and/or the exchange of good practices across all iterations of the annual programme guides, a distinction that has evolved into two discrete partnership formats with separate funding rules.
The research findings of the work undertaken so far have shown that strategic partnerships have the potential to foster innovative practices, but that the youth sector lacks evidence and knowledge to clearly define what innovation in the context of European youth work is or should be, and crucially lacks the infrastructure to foster innovation strategically and scale innovative practices comprehensively for adoption in youth work, youth policy and youth research. In consequence, the terms innovation and good practice are oftentimes used as catchphrases.
The RAY Network therefore decided to expand the scope of its previous work on innovation, which looked specifically at strategic partnerships as the main format of Erasmus+ Youth in Action to foster innovation, and to contribute to building an evidence-base on innovation by investigating which types and kinds of innovation are needed for which aspects of European youth work and European youth policy, and which instruments in the context of the European youth programmes would be best suited to support these types and kinds of innovation.
Aims & Objectives
The aim of the first phase of this research project was to explore the role, impact and potential of E+/YiA strategic partnerships as instruments to foster innovation and the exchange of good practices in the youth sector and related fields.
The key objectives of the first phase of the research project were to explore:
- the variety and diversity of formats of transnational strategic partnerships, and patterns of similarities and/or differences between these different formats;
- the impact of transnational projects funded through KA2 on the youth sector, both in relation to the fostering of innovation and the strengthening of good practice;
- the potential of transnational strategic partnerships, as an instrument more generally and with the specific funding rules, to foster innovation and strengthen good practice;
- the profile of beneficiaries, both at organisational and individual level, that have participated in and benefited from transnational strategic partnerships;
- the key features of transnational strategic partnerships with a high level of impact on fostering innovation and strengthening good practice in the youth sector.
The aim of the second, currently running, research project is to investigate the needs for innovation in European youth work and European youth policy, and to explore which instruments would be best suited to foster the development and distribution of innovative practices in European youth work and European youth policy.
The key objectives of the second phase of the research project are to:
- identify aspects and dimensions of European youth work that would benefit the most from the development and propagation of innovative practices;
- identify aspects and dimensions of European youth policy that would benefit the most from the development and propagation of innovative practices;
- explore how other sectors and fields foster and scale innovation and deduce key findings for the European youth field;
- explore which funding approaches and instruments would be best suited to support the development and propagation of innovative practices;
- explore which support approaches and instruments would be best suited to support the development and propagation of innovative practices;
- develop recommendations for European youth programmes and European youth policies on how to better support innovation in the youth field.
The key research questions of the first phase of the research project were:
- Which types of organisations and networks implement and/or benefit from transnational strategic partnerships, and how?
- Which types of projects get implemented by transnational strategic partnerships, and which target groups are addressed?
- How have transnational strategic partnerships defined innovation and good practice, respectively, in the context of their projects?
- How do transnational strategic partnerships seek to support the fostering of innovation and the strengthening of good practice?
- How are the results of transnational strategic partnerships – intellectual outputs and/or best practice – typically shared, and how adequate are these sharing approaches?
- How do innovation and good practice have an impact beyond the partnership carrying a project on the wider youth sector?
- Which approaches work best for National Agencies in supporting strategic partnerships, and which challenges do agencies face in their support of strategic partnerships?
- Which aspects contribute most to the successful transition of project outcomes into youth work and youth policy discourses beyond a particular project?
- Which aspects and dimensions of youth work and youth policy benefit most from innovation and best practice, and which aspects and dimensions benefit less and least?
The key research questions for the second phase of the project are:
- Which aspects and dimensions of European youth work and European youth policy would benefit most from the development and propagation of innovative practices?
- Which instruments should be developed in the context of the European youth programmes to support the development and propagation of innovative practices?
The study will draw on existing data for strategic partnerships and KA2 projects. Building on the available data (such as national impact assessments, final reports of the KA2 funded projects in the sample, results of the initial mapping conducted as the first step of this research project, RAY MON data, SALTO data, conference presentations, etc.), the project will have three modules using qualitative social research methods:
- A pre-study mapping types and varieties of KA2 funded projects across all European countries, including the countries participating in RAY INNO, providing an overview of the diversity and variety of formats as well as organisations and networks funded between 2014 and 2018. This module will be based on explorative interviews, focus group discussions and the conference KA2 NOW of Key Action 2 beneficiaries;
- A module exploring the experiences, opinions and assessments of organisations and networks with funded transnational strategic partnerships in the youth field. This module will be based on case studies of selected projects (2 case studies for small countries, 4 case studies for medium countries, and 6 case studies for large countries). Case studies will focus on an analysis of key project documents and interviews with key project stakeholders, including the leading applicant organisation and actors who can contextualise the impact of projects;
- A transnational module exploring the perspectives and opinions of umbrella platforms, networks and institutions on innovation and best practice in the youth sector. This module will be based on semi-structured interviews with stakeholders of umbrella platforms, networks and institutions that have a systemic view on and systemic role in the youth sector.
In 2020, the project will focus on qualitative social research methods in four modules:
- Module 1: Systematic connection of data from RAY-INNO with other RAY research projects to expand the evidence-base on innovation and utilise the data gathered through the CAP, LEARN, LTE, MON and PART research projects
- Module 2: Interviews with key youth sector stakeholders with a systemic view on the European youth field, to explore needs for innovation in European youth work and European youth policy with historical, political and socioeconomic awareness
- Module 3: Literature review on approaches and instruments to stimulate and propagate innovation in related, relevant policy fields that could inform and improve the approaches and instruments used in the European youth sector
- Module 4: Development of research communication material to share key findings of the research project with the European youth sector
The project will continue in 2021 with transnational and national research activities, which will be proposed for and discussed at the 2020 RAY Network Meeting.