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

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to promote critical thinking and creativity, as well as human rights, democratic values and active citizenship.

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This bullet point makes clear that it is towards these core societal values that youth work should have its primary loyalty, even when other actors in society might be going in the opposite direction. Having young people as primary stakeholders means that youth work must support and defend their right to argue and act for changes based on these values, even when it puts them in conflict with other actors.

These values are unconditional. They are the fundament on which a secure/safe youth work environment is built, and youth work must always secure that they are upheld within its own realm.

However, being unconditional does not mean that they should not be discussed. On the contrary, it is through discussions, not through setting up rules, that they will be fully understood and kept alive.


  • “Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is the achievement of greater unity between its members and that one of the methods by which that aim is to be pursued is the maintenance and further realisation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;”
    The European Convention on Human Rights
  • “This brochure contains inspiring initiatives, practices and tools, including the EU projects, that showcase how youth work and non-formal learning can enhance young people’s creativity and innovation, through their experimental nature, participatory approaches, and peer-learning, and how this can help them to find their place in the labour market – and in life.”
    Unleashing young people’s creativity and innovation, European Commission 2015.
  • “Human rights are best respected, protected and appreciated when all of us understand them, stand up for them and apply them in our actions. Human rights education – learning about, through and for human rights – is therefore essential in preventing human rights violations and in making democracy a sustainable way of life.”
    COMPASS: Manual for human rights education with young people, Council of Europe

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 can we better integrate methods for promoting critical thinking and creativity in all stages of the youth work process?
  • Are the young people we work with aware of their rights according to the UN convention on the rights of the child and what this asks from us as youth work?
    • How can we best stimulate discussions on human rights and democracy?
  • Are the young people we work together with active citizens? If not, how can we promote active citizenship among them?
    • Is our local youth work a place where young people could execute active citizenship?
  • Do we have behavioural rules that we have not discussed with young people?
    • How can we initiate an open discussion on these rules?
  • Do we take decisions that affects young people without having a democratic process?
    • Would our ways to motivate this be credible in the eyes of young people?
    • How can we avoid this in the future?


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Good practices & tools

  • “Spoza brány k politikom” – From behind the gate to politicians

Learn more

  • Ruuti participation framework for young people of Helsinki

Learn more 

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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