Inclusion in digital youth work - part 1

In the first episode of the podcast with Suvi Tuominen and Ülly Enn, we focused on the fact that while youth work in Europe seemed to suddenly realise that digital youth work existed and was somehow relevant, some countries, such as Estonia and Finland, had already provided rules and regulations, or had otherwise been working on its strategic development for years, and were already discussing how to make it more inclusive.

The organisations, led by Suvi and Ülly, are due thanks for this: Verke in Finland and ENTK – the Estonian national youth work centre, now merged with the Estonian Education and Youth Authority.

In the podcast we discussed how the two organisations were important in establishing cooperation between the two countries in this field, and how this led to a joint publication, Digitalisation and Youth Work, which was published in 2019, with a chapter tackling our topic digitalisation and equality.

Our guests outlined the work involved in defining national strategies leading to policies, and the fact that youth work has a great deal of untapped potential which still needs to be developed, as far as smart and digital youth work is concerned.

Several practices emerged in different places across Europe, but these two countries serve as the leading, and probably most consistent, examples of how strategies, policies and practices can be combined to achieve the same goal.

They shared some examples of what happened in their countries during the first wave of the Covid pandemic, like youth centres in Estonia being rebuilt online on platforms like Roblox.

They agreed on the need to bolster young people’s digital competences, quoting the European Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027. A peer-to-peer approach would need to be trialled as a way of achieving this goal: it is a classic methodology in youth work, but one which has not been so often applied to the digital dimension of youth work activities to date.

Generally speaking, establishing strategies is important but we also need a major shift in youth work culture, since “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

A possible example of this youth work culture change is the mention of makers activities in youth work, as a way of tackling the digital divide and of meeting the green youth work priority of the new programme.