In EYNCRIN we seek to support and take part in projects and programs that work address the gaps between youth policy-making and political support, research and youth work, realizing that understanding and applying in practice research results and providing political support are key factors for adequate youth work. Internationally there is a growing recognition of the need for theory, research, and applied programming that contributes to our understanding of both community and youth development.
Bridging the gap between youth work, research and policy holds its heart is the virtue of research-based evidence informing policy and intervention design, which in turn increases the likelihood of desired outcomes in local, national and European youth work.
We believe that the recognition that youth work requires to become firmly embedded within youth policy planning and implementation at national and European level.
AGENDA FOR RESEARCH, POLICY AND YOUTH WORK
Based on "Future agenda for youth research – exploring young people’s lives for development of youth policy and youth work" of Youth Partnership between the CoE and EU, June 2020
1. Critical reconsideration of the concept of participation: there is a need to reconsider the participation concept, its linkages to democracy, human rights and other values. A critical approach as to why some forms of participation are valued more than others is necessary to uncover value-based expectations towards young people from diverse actors (such as political parties, government, educational systems). The question appears if participation is the right concept to be used when studying the engagement of young people in diverse activities, and if it should be used when it concerns those which are not being based on democratic and human rights principles.
2. New indicators of youth participation: there appear questions related to the measurement of participation and what indicators are chosen to judge intensity of participation. More quantitative studies (survey evidence) with a broad definition of political participation are needed, but also more exploratory qualitative studies on diversified understanding and practice of political engagement.
3. Impact of different forms of participation on policy and social change: while new forms of participation (also e-participation) are being described and highlighted, there is less diagnosis of their actual impact on politics and social change. It is important to remember that it is not participation that is an aim in itself, but what young people want to achieve (social change?), and if they achieve it, is this through being active and engaged? Youth work should consider using tools for bringing together both offline and online participation.
4. Studying political parties’ mechanisms: the impact of political parties is still rather strong and critical studies on parties’ mechanisms should help to understand their role in democracy and the role of young people in political parties’ systems.
5. Impact of participation on the quality of life of young people: beyond the assumption that participation is necessarily positive, there is a need to study impacts of activism on quality of life and well-being.
6. Capturing the diversity of transitional regimes: there is a need to develop, widen and deepen typologies of transitional regimes (including regimes of countries that are not as yet reflected upon), as well as in-country variation concerning opportunity structures for young people.
7. Identification of early predictors of transition outcomes: while research often concentrates on young people “in transition” (between 20 and 30 years old), there is growing importance in capturing early predictors of inclusion/exclusion of young people. Data from longitudinal studies and in-depth analysis of individual biographies, using life course perspective, would allow discovering both preconditions of transitions, as well as outcomes of transitions – especially if we continue studying young people over 30 years old. This would allow better planned early intervention programmes within youth work and policy to take place.
8. Diverse transitional pathways and interplay between them: studies on youth transitions often concentrate on the main transitional pathways, meaning that there are other areas of life that need investigation, e.g. mobility/migration processes, transition from good health to poor health in youth, or pathways to becoming an active or passive citizen. Researchers should look at processes of change in value systems. This includes studies on the role of religion in the formation of youth identities and the trend towards radicalism and re-traditionalisation. The analysis of interplay between diverse pathways is needed.
9. The search for new theoretical models and concepts to study transitions: in the light of discussion on normativity of youth transitions (assuming an ideal way of becoming an adult), research should consider that growing numbers of young people, of different cultural, social, ethnic and ideological backgrounds, might have different visions of their perfect adult life and the pathways to reach it. Therefore, new concepts and theoretical models on transitions should enter the field in order to discover the diversity of potential young lives.
10. Supporting youth transitions without imposing “one vision”: youth work and policy should be supportive of youth transitions, especially those from lower-income or lower-social-capital families, or with fewer opportunities, at the same time not imposing the ideal perfect vision of life (often based on old paradigms), allowing the divergences of transitional pathways or more dynamic changes in the life course
11. Research should aim to gain a deeper understanding of who the refugees who came to Europe are: it should on one hand try to see the diversity in the incoming group but also describe refugees’ histories and biographies – it is important to talk about their origin, the experience of leaving and arriving at a new place and their future aspirations.
12. Reconsider the role of youth work with young refugees: debate is needed about to what extent youth work can offer support to young refugees.
Should it concentrate on immediate interventions or work on supporting initiatives for young refugees so that they can receive structural support?
Youth work should stretch from providing “blankets” to “training courses and capacity building of young refugees” and provide social rights education to refugees and migrants.
13. Youth work should educate the general population, young people in particular: youth work should provide information on the situation of refugees, aim to analyse the situation of young refugees through a human rights perspective, reasons for their arrival in Europe, as well as the political context affecting the arrival of refugees. Youth work should actively produce counter-narratives against the growing rhetoric of fear.
14. Mapping of young people’s attitudes towards refugees and migrants: the determinants of young people’s attitudes should be explored.
15. Continue to study integration and belonging: while the refugee issue is now gaining more attention, the studies in integration of migrants, including intra-European and second-generation migrants, should continue, looking at their access to social rights, their input into the welcoming society, and the processes of integration and belonging.
16. Better exploration of determinants and processes leading to learning during mobility: deeper analysis is needed of the impact of pedagogical interventions that could produce positive change for young people and strengthen learning. The research should concentrate on how different characteristics of mobility experience, such as scheme, duration, intensity or mode, impact on diversified learning outcomes. Such research results would give a good indication for policy and youth work on how to design mobility schemes.
17. Reconsider the learning dimension of mobility: researchers should critically reconsider their understanding of the concept of learning, including what is understood by learning during mobility, and what is now considered to be a learning outcome. Possibly, more qualitative studies could allow a deeper and wider concept of learning to emerge.
18. Exploit the potential of research in involving young people with fewer opportunities: research should deepen the knowledge in the field concerning the participation of young people with fewer opportunities in order to encourage and widen their participation in mobility programmes that are largely taken up by university graduates and/or young people from privileged backgrounds. Youth work also needs to creatively search for new approaches to encourage and support young people with fewer opportunities to take part in mobility programmes.
19. Exploration of learning mobility outcomes for youth workers: there is a need to analyse the impact of learning mobility on youth workers (mostly through the Erasmus+ Programme) in areas developed with a view to improving the quality of youth work in Europe. To what extent do these activities build competences among youth workers, develop their skills and knowledge, and shape attitudes and values?
20. Conduct research focusing on legal arrangements concerning some learning mobility opportunities such as long-term volunteering: the outcomes should be used to adapt current legal arrangements (for example social security benefits, employment status of volunteers) in order to ease entrance procedures into mobility programmes
21. Theory-driven youth work: a common framework for developing integrated community-based services helps co-operation between partners as it gives them a shared language and concepts that allow building a strategy and programmes for young people. The researchers’ work is needed for development of theories that could be useful for youth work.
22. Strengthen research on integrated services for young people: there is a need for better knowledge on the effectiveness of diverse models for intervention at community level. While a comparative cross-country research is instructive and provides knowledge on good and bad practices, the importance of data on local initiatives (through a case study approach) is growing as it proves useful in improving services. It supports collaboration with ongoing evaluations, gives knowledge background for the next steps and shows the progress made. Possible methodologies include action-based research, participatory or experimental research.
23. Research on the role of youth work in prevention services: research results highlight the specific role of youth work within integrated services for young people and further give recognition to youth work as an important actor in the process. This could lead to a discussion on the professionalisation of youth work and steps towards levelling up the understanding and respect for the activity and, eventually profession of youth worker on the same footing as educators, social workers or psychologists