International Youth Work:
Where are we going and what
are we learning?

Gordon Blakely

There are many comparative studies on "youth policy". Over the last five years there are in English alone more than 150 heavily researched documents at national, regional and international level – mostly focusing on solving the "youth problem".

The youth issue, for now, will be dominated by employability, as the panacea to European dysfunction. This currently is reflected in responses to the nuitdebout protests across the Francophone world and elsewhere. A demographic of moody, ill-tempered young people; prone to radicalisation; feeling failed, is where the mass of investment has been forced to be directed.

This impacts on programmes, projects, enterprise and initiative towards one overarching direction – a job. Even if youth work has to follow the money, its added contribution through non-formal learning is immense. We are certain now what non-formal learning offers. We can measure it in practical terms. It is not some spiritual belief. It brings another set of opportunities for young people; emphasising an increased capacity to reach those struggling the hardest, or those most alienated.

This is not so new. Looking back, there is a history. There were strong arguments for improving youth policy intervention internationally at a very large business conference on youth unemployment in Birmingham, England ,in 1993. There wasa widely circulated report following an ‘employability’ study visit by Members of the European Parliament, in May 1998. More recently, the report of the expert working group on Non Formal Learning and Employability was delivered to the European Commission, in April 2014. This is a long road, well-travelled, and not in any way having reached a destination.

Youth work can benefit from, and bring benefit to, new partners. Those partners will have differing and divergent aspirations; dictating a need for compromise, as well as creativity.

These changes of professional capacity, and re-skilling of youth work volunteers,demand a reshaping of the workforce practice, using new competences to deal with tough situations on the streets and cafes, to be reinforced by the confidence to sit in boardrooms, or deal with human resource managers, and recruitment agencies. It is not too difficult. A revised curriculum to scale up youth work training can be found in existing practice (transferable from other societies, but not supplanting local priorities and interpretation).

A counter argument over time can reasonably be that things will just get better without intervention: mobility is easier; follow the jobs. Most nation states are accessible, just about. Petrol is cheap. Airfares are cheaper than ever before. Take the bus, or train. Do it yourself.

There are many, though,who still argue that well managed and thoughtful international experience for young people can bring quality benefits to participants, and that a haunting belief remains that this could contribute to peace and prosperity. It can also contribute to advancing youth policy by critical analysis through evidence and comparison.

Over the past few years, we have begun to value Intercultural Fluency – a way of living, surviving, translating into practice that complexity that makes us curious: by breathing a different air; smelling, tasting, hearing difference.

Intercultural Fluency offers a better understanding of how we can successfully live together; work in new places; enjoy, and participate in, a globalising world, where culture is an added complexity to already complex lives. This could shape the positive objectives of our "youth policy".

We all need to understand our selves within our own culture. We need to create trust across cultures, manage and resolve our conflict.

Starting young, through mobility experience, we begin building relationships. From that point, we can create a shared purpose, gaining the active support of other people in a project, joint event, or in our workplace. We continue to grow that experience to develop better team work across cultures. We become more accountable being part of a wider cultural context. The feeling is that we can shape the future.

These experiences blend seamlessly with local youth initiative. They are also, significantly, the abilities championed by employers as skills for the 21st century.

Youth work is a success story. International youth work should be too.

Gordon Blakely, Great Britain

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M(A)Y publishes a variety of media contents – texts, caricatures, photos, video-clips – created by young people, youth workers, experts, and all others that wish and have something to say about youth policy.

Geographically, M(A)Y e-Magazine is primarily targeting European countries, but it also publishes important news and initiatives in the field of youth policy worldwide.

The e-Magazine gives special attention to youth media activism, wishing to present the examples of best practices of using different media for youth activism.

Besides authored articles, M(A)Y also gathers together relevant articles from other web-sites. M(A)Ye-Magazine is thus a virtual space where visitors are able to get information about the international situation and problems of youth policy, and the place where young authors are able to write articles and other content intended for improving the youth policy internationally. In this respect, it has vital importance for the intraregional and transregional association, understanding, coming together, promoting dialogue and cooperation.
This portal has been created as part of the international MEDIActive Youth project implemented within the Erasmus + Programme. The aims of the project are:
Increasing the capacity of youth organisations/workers in the field of media literacy and media activism as well as fostering their active participation in society
Fostering intraregional and transregional cooperation between 11 youth NGOs from 10 countries from Western Balkans, Western Europe and North Europe regions
Strengthening media promotion of youth policy and democratic values in partner countries on transregional and European level.