Non-formal education, youth work and youth organisations should be recognised for their role in promoting active citizenship and preventing discrimination, violence and social exclusion.

What is the situation?      

Non-formal education , together with youth work, is a proven way of helping young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoodsto overcome the disadvantages they experience and to become active contributors to the development of their communities and society. 

  • Non-formal education and youth work  do not get the social and political recognition they deserve
  • Competences acquired through non-formal education are not recognised
  • Youth workers are often considered as ‘low-status’ professionals


"Well one of the core principles of youth work, at least for me, is this aspect of support. And supporting young people is not something that can happen in a short period of time or there is no time defined for it, for some people it’s a few months, for other a year. So in this sense, youth work is not a project but youth work is a service, that has to be constant and it has to be very much available for people to approach and to know. Going in suits to speak to young people doesn’t work so much, trying to play basketball with young people, it might work better to get this trust built and also this is not only an awareness to the youth organisations, it is also an awareness to the municipalities as well, to the ones that are supposed to create this environment to the younger citizens of this municipality to also feel welcomed and recently we had the elections in the National Youth Council of Macedonia where our candidate for president, who is now elected as president who said he is doing youth work because he wants young people to have half of what his grandmother has in terms of provision in society and this is something that I completely agree with and to say, you know, you are young, you are full of energy, you don’t need anything, but on the contrary, this builds us this feeling that nobody cares about young people. So that’s one of the aspects of youth work is to make sure that we understand where we live and we help young people to do this. Another thing that could also be very much  interesting is that  youth work should be provided for young people  in the way that they can consume it. So if there are young people from rural areas, which we often tend to forget, because we try to count numbers and there are not so many people in some rural areas, there can be also a solution for that. There was a fantastic example in a rural area in Greece where instead of building a youth centre, people go into a van where they drive to another village where they can provide youth work services within the van, play basketball with the people, go on the internet, eat something, draw and discuss and give some coaching to the young people which they see on the road and this is supposed to happen constantly because only in this way we can say to young people you are also part of this society. You are not somebody we wait for to group up so we can integrate, but you are here when you are fourteen or sixteen, you are still a valuable part of society and we care."

What should public authorities do?

  • Educational and other relevant public authorities should recognise and value youth work as important contributors to community cohesion.  This can be done by
    • Consulting youth workers on the development and implementation of youth policies and strategies that are of concern to young people from disadvantaged communities
    • Providing funding to youth organisations and ensuring that funding procedures are clear and simple
    • Facilitating the provision of lifelong learning opportunities for youth workers
    • Facilitating an exchange of expertise between youth workers and other professionals working with young people
    • Improving the working conditions of youth workers and the promoting the value of youth work
  • National and local policies should support youth organisations and youth workers , through legislation if necessary, to help them deliver ‘best practice’ non-formal education and learning programmes
  • Provide sustainable funding and physical support to ensure a suitable environment for youth workers  and their organisations to deliver non-formal education and learning programmes in disadvantaged neighbourhoods .

Examples from the Enter! Project

In France, IPEICC established a project with young people aged 18 to 25 in a disadvantaged area in Montpellier. The project improved access to employment and non-discrimination through non-formal educational activities. The group participated in local activities with youth workers and institutions including job centres and careers guidance services, and in an international exchange, which helped them to enhance their employability skills and self esteem.

In Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation ran a non-formal education project with young people aged 13-25 from disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Dimitrovgrad and young people living in orphanage institutions in the city of Bourgas. The project started with study visits, focus group discussions and meetings with local authorities, schools, youth centres and orphanages to assess their practice in relation to human rights education non-formal education and gender equality. 150 young people were trained on social rights and a new training manual was developed. Through an extensive media campaign the project presented and raised the profile of youth access to social rights. Recommendations to improve the human rights education and access to social rights were made and disseminated amongst the project stakeholders.

In Finland, the City of Helsinki Youth Department, Vuosaari Youth Work Unit hosted 51 young people and youth workers from Spain, Estonia and France in Helsinki for a project called ‘Intercultural Learning, Youth Active Participation and Youth Access to Social Rights’. Through the use of non-formal education, outdoor activities and excursions the project aimed to promote cultural exchange, social inclusion, and access to social rights, as well as to build young people’s competences in the areas of tolerance, human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles.

In Germany Initiative Grenzen-Los! Established a project called ‘The Youth Theatre Office Berlin’ through which a group of 14 to 22 year olds young people from migrant backgrouds planned and organised an international, non-formal theatre festival called the Freedom Festival. Through the project the participants developed and ran theatre productions and increased their knowledge about human rights, social rights and participation. The young people also gained practical transferrable skills such as acting, filming, lights, sound, public relations, administrative work, construction of masks, costume-making, teaching and presentation skills.

In Greece, ARSIS Social Organization: for the Support of Youth established a project in which a group of young peer educators designed and delivered mobile workshops for groups of young people. The project raised awareness about the way in which young people in Greece are being excluded from accessing basic social rights. The workshops focussed on youth rights, discrimination and exclusion from access to health, work and education. Each group produced a piece of artwork or performance related to the difficulties young people have in accessing social rights which were presented at social centres and festivals.