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Youth work is value based and its core principles are that it needs…

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to be based on and respond to the needs, interests, ideas and experiences of young people as perceived by themselves, thus bringing added value and/or joy in life.

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Youth work is not about creating activities on the basis of what the adult world think that young people need, top down. Youth work must always get its energy from a bottom-up approach. The key words are “as perceived by themselves”. One the other hand, this does not prevent youth workers from discussing with young people what they think they might need or be interested in. On the contrary, this dialogue is crucial to youth work, supporting young people in seeing themselves; their needs as well as their possibilities.

This core principle also relates to the often-heard remark that youth work needs to be “fun”. “Fun”, however, is often confused with “amusing” or “entertaining”. A voluntary activity must of course be attractive if young people should want to take part, but the activities and values that young people search for during their free time cover a much wider range than just mere fun. Finding room for exchanging ideas and opinions on personal as well as societal issues, getting new experiences or developing new skills and interests are just as often on the agenda. Not forgetting that it is often perceived as “fun” to take part in very serious discussions and to perceive that you are developing as a person and social being.

Sometimes youth work tends to focus more on interests than on experiences, which in turn often turns its focus towards traditional leisure time activities. Experiences, on the other hand, might be related also to, for example, sexual harassments in school, racism or a strongly felt anxiety for the climate crisis. These kinds of issues are often even more important to young people, and might awake their will to participate even more than traditional leisure time activities. If youth work wants to be credible in the eyes of young people it must actively open up also for activities related to these kinds of experiences.



Guiding questions

To what degree does our local youth work meet this bullet point?

Are there sides/aspects of it that are not reached?
Are there differences related to different activities?
Are there differences related to different groups of young people?
Are there differences related to different youth work providers?
Are there other differences? Related to what?

Specific questions
  • How do we enhance our knowledge on how young people perceive their “needs, interests, ideas and experiences”?
    • Regarding the ones that we already reach?
    • Regarding the ones we would want to reach?
    • How do we keep this knowledge up-to-date in a structured way? (See also bullet point E2.)
  • How do we get to know more about what added values young people are looking for when having free time?
  • Do we have any hidden “Greta Thunbergs” among the young people we work together with?
  • Would a local “Greta Thunberg” contact our local youth work for support?
  • Would a local “Greta Thunberg” contact our local youth work for support?
  • Are we sometimes running activities based on our own perceptions of young people’s needs and interests, without first having first talked to them and involved them in the design and planning of these activities?
    • How do we use to motivate this? Are these motivations good?
    • How does this affect young people’s views on youth work and youth workers?
  • Are we confusing “fun” with “amusing” or “entertaining”?
    • Are we sometimes running ‘fun’ activities just for the sake of attracting young people, without any deeper purpose?
      • What might this lead to in the short and long time perspective?
      • How does this affect young people’s views on youth work and youth workers?


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Good practices & tools

  • Puuhapaku, mobile youth work in the city of Kemi

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  • Rural youth and municipalities vs. youth and rural community

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  • What volunteering in open youth center is about

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Future steps

What different steps do we need to take in order to meet this bullet point?

Do we miss any knowledge that we need?
Do we need to take contact with stakeholders not present in our discussions?
Do we need to develop new competences, methods, work processes or organisational structures?
Can we find good practices or tools that might help us to improve this?
Do we have positive experiences from other areas of youth work that we can use also in this case?
Are there other organisations that we can contact and learn from regarding this?
Do we need to take other measures?
Do we have to revise our perspectives and/or priorities regarding youth work?

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