The Study visit took place at KEKS network in Gothenburg, Sweden 14-18 of May 2018, within the frame work of the YOUTH WIN Erasmus+ project.
Our original aim and objective of the job shadowing was to see how other countries and organisations get started with some of the things we’re dealing with. First of all we would like a global image of how the youth service is working in other cities. How are they organized, who’s in the team, what do they do? How do they organize participation? We want to hear them out, be able to ask questions and get to know each other.
We also wanted to see how other cities are working in an integral way. We believe integral working is (or will be) very important in the ever changing world we live in today. To us, integral working has different levels: first of all we wanted to hear the voice of the children/young people. We’re constantly looking for methods to do this and are very interested in how other cities are dealing with this challenge, because it’s never easy to reach all children/young people, especially the ones who are not used to speak up, the ones that are rarely listened to. Integral working also means working together on a (city-)service level. It is a challenge to gather all relevant services around the table to discuss specific themes. But every service brings its own expertise and can be valuable. We are interested in how other cities implement this way of working. What challenges do they deal with? What opportunities do they see? How can we improve what we do? Who takes the lead?
We also recognize the role of children/youngsters in this process. Bringing the bureaucratic way of working, with lots of rules, procedures, long waiting in touch with the young way of being in the world, unbiased, short term thinking and full of dreams is an additional difficulty, but probably also a big opportunity. Here, we are still in an early stage, with a lot of potential for growth.
Besides this big theme there are other challenges that are also interesting to us:
– Youth culture develops very fast. How can we keep up? How can we respond?
– How can we integrate children’s rights into our policy? How can we engage other city services to follow our lead in this?
– How can we challenge our government to invest in the young people of Geraardsbergen, make them a priority in the next elections?
Generally we wanted to be inspired, hear and see the success stories and get to know about the failures and what they learned from it.
Every day we went to one or two different youth centers. There was an explanation of the youth center as a whole but also of specific methods or activities in the youth centers. We got a tour through the center and see which opportunities there are, when you grow up in the city. We were also informed about the history behind it all.
We went outside and discovered the neighborhood of the youth centers. We had a lot of time to ask questions and to share ideas with each other.
Youth Centers in Sweden (Göteborg)
Youth Centers in Göteborg are working in the method of “an open house”. There are music rooms, videogames, chill places, sports. Most of the youth centers we visited were created together with the youngsters. They chose the furniture and decorated the places. The young people and their parents even influenced the opening hours of the youth center. A lot of the youth centers work with attendance lists and membership cards. The membership cards are the symbol that youngsters respect the code and rules of the youth center.
By giving the young people access to places in the youth center by themselves (for example the music box), youth centers show confidence in the young people. This leads to a feeling of responsibility among the users.
Youth money projects in Sweden (Göteborg)
The youth center has a budget for young people to organize activities. These projects can be very small or can be huge, like festivals. If a youngster has an idea, they can come to the youth center to talk about their plans. Young people can write an application (alone or with help from a youth worker). In some areas, like in Öckerö, there is a board of youngsters who decides which project gets money an which ones are rejected. Also in Mölndal, the youth council decides if money is given.
The idea remains that the entire project is property of the youngster, because they choose their projects. Youth workers support the youngsters and help them whenever they need it. This includes to support the young people when there are difficulties, to stimulate them and give them positive feedback.
Experience Learning Description – ELD
This “creative commons” method, used by KEKS, turns learning experiences of young people into competences, it recognizes non-formal learning. A young person describes a learning situation that happened. He / she gets a couple of questions that gives them thoughts and ideas about how they handled the situation so they can reflect over it. They discover the competences they have used and achieved during this learning experience. This gives them more confidence too. The young person and the ELD Facilitator are writing a letter of competence together at the end of the conversation. They get a certificate.
This was the first time that we have participated on an exchange program. It was an amazing experience where we learned a lot from the youth centers in Gothenburg, but also from the other participants. It was all well planned. We have seen different centers, with different interests and aims. There was enough time to reflect and exchange information and asks questions.
The fact that we got explanations of a wide range of things was a value that has to be part of every exchange, we think. Now it’s up to us to take back the ideas to Geraardsbergen and work them out with our colleagues, the local government and especially, with the young people.
Report by Nele Macharis and Barbara De Smet Youth workers Geraardsbergen, VVJ Belgium