Blog: ‘Visible Value’ in Sarajevo — how to advance youth work in Eastern and Southeast Europe
December 19, 2022

Blog: ‘Visible Value’ in Sarajevo — how to advance youth work in Eastern and Southeast Europe

On 15-16 November, Nataliia Yaroshenko, a Young European Ambassador (a YEA) from Ukraine, participated in the ‘VISIBLE VALUE’ seminar in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The event was organised by the partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe and brought together 60 participants from 20 countries (such as Azerbaijan, Serbia, Italy, Slovenia, Romania, and Ukraine) to reflect on youth work and best practices in the region. At the event, Nataliia presented the ‘Young European Ambassadors’ initiative in Ukraine, focusing especially on its resilience in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

I have been dreaming about a visit to the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina ever since I read a book by Ozren Kebo, Sarajevo for Beginners. The book describes the city through the war in 1992 and the beauty of rich landscapes and multiculturalism. So, here we go – the flight to Sarajevo, where World War I began, but with a huge potential for building youth work.

The ‘VISIBLE VALUE’ seminar was devoted to strengthening the implementation of the European Youth Work Agenda (EYWA) in Eastern and Southeast Europe. Among its purposes was also strengthening the connection within the triangle of governance (youth research, youth policy and youth work) in the regions.

“Youth work is a broad term covering a large scope of activities of a social, cultural, educational, or political nature both by, with and for young people. Increasingly, such activities also include sports and services for young people. Youth work belongs to the area of ‘out-of-school’ education, as well as specific leisure time activities managed by professional or voluntary youth workers and youth leaders and is based on non-formal learning processes and on voluntary participation.” This definition is based on the work of the late Peter Lauritzen, former head of the Youth Department and Deputy Director at the Council of Europe’s Directorate of Youth and Sport.

The seminar was organised as one of the key activities under the European Year of Youth 2022. It included several plenary sessions, workshops about the challenges in regional EYWA implementation, and youth centre study visits.

On the first day, we learned about the past and present of youth work, and on the second day contributed to the future and further ideas for youth workers to be implemented on the ground, according to each country’s needs. During the event, we went through the topics based on the challenges of youth work:

  • lack of visibility
  • lack of recognition of youth workers at the local and national level
  • lack of flexibility due to a changeable environment, etc.

We also finalised the updates regarding the Bonn Process (a joint effort to translate the European Youth Work Agenda into action and bring it to life) and its impact in various countries and learned about excellent practices of youth work at a local level. For instance, participants found out about the Romanian practice of applying EYWA on the local level within speaking clubs, youth exchanges, and local study visits.

As a YEA, I presented our initiative during one of the sessions on ‘Applying EYWA in practice in Southeastern Europe and Eastern Europe’. The key message given by the presentation was the resilience and bravery of Ukrainian youth to ensure that life goes on despite the ongoing war and other challenges, by implementing online and offline projects, participating in international events, participating in ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ info campaigns, and maintaining a public awareness of the Russian aggression on Ukraine. After the presentation, there was time for a Q&A about the YEAs in general and the Ukrainian YEAs in particular. The main pool of questions was on the motivation and war-life balance and new approaches to youth engagement in times of war.

On the second day, we had the opportunity to participate in a series of workshops to brainstorm about youth work around the following subjects:

–   provision of quality youth work

–   promotion, recognition, and policy framework

–   youth work Community of Practice (CoP) and beyond

–   innovation and emerging/remaining challenges

I took part in the final workshop and did not regret my decision because the insight I received was hugely inspiring: youth policy still has much to do worldwide but via collaboration and learning experience from another country, we can make the common goals attainable in all the regions.

After this intensive day of fruitful discussions, participants had a chance to visit the youth centre in Sarajevo – the PRONI Youth Club, observing different types of collaboration. This visit provided us with some tips on how youth workers can build cooperation between the municipality and youth in terms of sustainable use of resources: the youth centre uses a space owned by the municipality, and the municipality can request youth work in a particular region or use the youth centre network for its activities.

As a part of my post-event self-reflection, I came up with some insights that I would like to share:

  • for better EYWA implementation, we need to consider accountability as a tool and use communication about the positive issues of youth work as a visible message at the local and national level
  • more tools should be provided to the youth workers working with rural youngsters

There are different ways to approach youth work and manage it correctly. One common challenge of youth work is flexibility in the face of changes: learning from successful international cases might help us to solve our problems more effectively. The reality where we are #strongertogether is a way of making our countries sustainable.

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