Youth Work Quality Focus
Non-formal learning is able to flexibly respond to the contemporary needs in education. Its significance at young people is increasing, especially with the development of soft skills and competences for 21st century. There is a wide range of activities available to children and young people, but how do we know which have the highest quality? How can organizations get to know their impact on young people’s lives and how can they show their results to the public? These questions were at the outset of a joint Czech-Slovak project Youth Work Quality Focus carried out by civic associations ANEV and YouthWatch together with four youth work organisations in 2019–2021.
The project aimed to:
- introduce current European trends in youth work quality assurance to Czech and Slovak context,
- explore, with the help of partner organisations, possible ways of assessing the quality of activities based on how they are perceived and experienced by young people,
- inspire other organisations to think about youth work quality development.
Although discussions on quality in youth work have been held for several years both in Czechia and Slovakia, a practical tool to assess the quality of activities is still missing. Yet it is the quality of activities that determines the youth work impact on young people’s lives and personal development. In the project we tested an approach to measuring the quality of activities by means of data on the degree to which the activities reach a set of predefined goals. We paid special attention to goals that can be best evaluated by young participants of youth work activities.
The project showed that the approach we tested helps the organisations focus on important values of youth work, such as competence development, holistic learning, or safe environment where young people feel accepted. After collecting enough data, the organisations will be able to see the degree of reaching these values and to present it e. g. towards parents, local authorities, or donors.
During the project, the partner organisations:
- enhanced their know-how concerning the assessment of activities,
- clarified visions and goals they want to strive for,
- strengthened the teamwork in planning and evaluating their activities,
- improved the quality of their activities by focusing on their impact on young people,
- become motivated to a sustained quality assurance also in the future.
If we are talking about the direct impact on young people, they will develop their knowledge, skills and attitudes in the activities they attend to more efficiently. As it is proved, the non-formal education is able to significantly influence their competences, such as taking responsibility, ability to solve problems, find solutions, work in a team and many more. Reasonably used free time can change their view on the life around them and their role in it forever.
The involved organisations also highlight the need to stay in touch due to sustainability of motivation and mentors’ support, which proved to be an important element in their quality systems implementation. That’s why we plan to maintain the activities and involve more organisations. Thanks to this, we will gather more good practice examples and more data for common indicators: All partners report the importance of youth work offering a safe environment, which allows every individual to:
- be themselves,
- freely express themselves and be accepted by others,
- experience success,
- have a feeling that they are important for their leaders as well as for the group and their opinions are taken seriously.
The partners have agreed that eventhough this principle is undisputably important, data from this area are not usually gained from the target group and they have decided to cover this in their organisations. Indicators from this area will be used and shared in wider societal discussion about the quality of youth work on national level.
Two publications are the main outputs of this project:
- Kapesní průvodce kvalitou v práci s mládeží serves as a practical guide to the organisations, where they plan to set a systematic quality measurement. It will guide tehm step by step. It is a translation of handbook Improving Youth Work.
- Cesta za kvalitou (A Way to Quality) is only in Czech and Slovak and summarizes main expereinces, results and recommendations from this project along with good practice examples and other useful advice.
Coordinating organisations are Asociace neformálního vzdělávání (Czech Republic) a YouthWatch (Slovakia); 4 organisations directly working with young people, which have gone through the process (CVČ Včielka and V.I.A.C. from Slovakia; SVČ Déčko Náchod and RC Srdíčko from the Czech Republic). We have also involved Swedish network KEKS, whose methodics of quality measurement was the main inspiration of our project.
The project was supported by Erasmus +.
Magda Wagenknechtová Svobodová
Jonas Agdur (KEKS)
Expert and Mentor