Read more about the Portfolio and about youth work recognition in Europe today through the questions and answers below.
Who developed the Portfolio?
The Council of Europe Youth Work Portfolio has been developed by the Council of Europe and its partners in the European Youth Sector. Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation. It includes 47 member states, 28 of which are also members of the European Union. The mission of the Council of Europe is to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Its key instruments are the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the European Court of Human Rights. Find more about the Council of Europe at www.coe.int.
The Council of Europe and its partners want to encourage more young people to get involved actively in strengthening civil society in Europe and in defending the values of human rights, cultural diversity and social cohesion. They are also interested in promoting and developing youth policies, putting special emphasis on the participation of young people.
The core mission of the Council of Europe in relation to young people is to enable them to be active citizens. The Council of Europe believes that national and international youth policies should give young people opportunities and means for, and access to:
- informal, non-formal and formal learning
- inclusion in society
- participation and decision making, especially on matters pertaining to their lives.
The following diagram summarises this approach:
The Council of Europe has a Youth Department, which is co-managed by bodies made up of youth organisations and governments with equal decision-making power. The Youth Department has a long-standing tradition in training and education activities for youth workers and youth leaders in Europe. Find out more about the Youth Department of the Council of Europe, the co-management system, the partners involved and its activities at www.coe.int/youth.
Why was the Portfolio developed?
1. The Portfolio is an instrument for improving the recognition of youth work:
The youth work community of practice around Europe, through ongoing debates and exchanges, has expressed the need for an instrument that could help them to gain better recognition for their work. The Portfolio does this by helping members of that community of practice to:
- identify, assess and record their competencies
- describe their competencies to others
- set their own further learning and development goals.
The portfolio has been developed taking into account the long-standing practice of the Council of Europe in youth leader and worker training. Since the establishment of the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg in 1972, the Council of Europe’s youth sector has developed a wide range of training courses for people and organisations doing youth work, multipliers, non-formal educators, public servants and even researchers from across Europe, in themes ranging from human rights and antiracism, to conflict transformation and social inclusion, participation and democracy. Find out more about the educational work and publications of the Youth Department of the Council of Europe at www.coe.int/youth.
2. The Portfolio is an instrument for promoting the Council of Europe’s approach to youth policy:
The Council of Europe sees the core task of national and international youth policies as creating the necessary conditions for young people to be active citizens. This task touches on so many aspects of young people’s lives that youth policy has to involve many different public policy sectors including, but not limited to, education, health, social affairs, family, justice, housing, and so on. It must therefore be implemented in a co-ordinated manner between different policy sectors. The Council of Europe promotes this ‘cross-sectoral’ way of working to address young people’s needs and concerns among its member states.
A cross-sectoral approach to youth policy means that it will be implemented using a variety of different means of intervention, ranging from legal measures to specific kinds of support programmes for young people. A key dimension for the Council of Europe is educational. Youth policy should support young people in acquiring the necessary competencies to be active citizens (for example, autonomy, responsibility, initiative, engagement, solidarity, etc.). That is why youth work based on the principles of non-formal education and learning is one of the key working instruments of the Council of Europe’s youth policy.
The Portfolio is a tool which helps people and organisations doing youth work to consider how they contribute to helping young people acquire the competence to be active citizens. It asks them to consider how their knowledge, attitudes and skills can contribute to the fulfilment of this key task of youth policy.
3. The Portfolio is an instrument for promoting the values of the Council of Europe and the European Youth Sector
The Council of Europe believes that the ways in which individuals, organisations and institutions practise youth work, diverse as these are across Europe, reflect their vision of society and the values they wish to promote.
The Council of Europe’s mission is to promote a Europe which:
- respects human rights and human dignity
- promotes participatory democracy
- strives to achieve social cohesion, social justice, and gender equality
- considers living together in a pluralistic multicultural society as an enrichment and opportunity for social and economic progress, rather than as a problem
- encourages the development of civil society
- actively works to eradicate all forms of racism or discrimination based on social and ethnic origins, religion and sexual orientation
- contributes to making the world a better place to live, though active measures for global solidarity.
The Portfolio reflects these values in its understanding of what youth work is for, how it should be carried out, and which competencies are necessary for doing it well. The very idea of a self-assessment tool, which provides individuals, teams and organisations with the opportunity to reflect on their own competence for youth work, and to develop their own plans for improving it, is grounded in a vision of youth work as a process of continuous learning and emancipation for those who practise it as much as for those who participate it in it.
What is the European debate on recognition of youth work about?
Since the early 2000s, acceptance of the positive role that youth work based on the principles of non-formal education plays for the social integration, active citizenship and the employability of young people has grown significantly. This growing awareness has put youth work and non-formal learning high on the political agenda for many national governments and international institutions.
This more positive attitude to youth work is largely the result of efforts made by youth work organisations and providers to gain better recognition. Their advocacy has resulted in a more strategic approach of the European institutions to encouraging governments to value, recognise and support this kind of work through dedicated policies, programmes and resources. What is today known as the ‘European recognition debate’ addresses four main ‘how to’ questions, as follows:
This debate takes place in many different communities of practice, from education to social work, in public institutions and in civic organisations, and from local up to international levels. Recognition is a key work area in the youth policies of the Council of Europe and of the European Union. Policy makers, youth work practitioners and researchers from all over Europe are all involved in trying to map out the best and most strategic ways to ensure that youth work gets the recognition it needs in order to be able to deliver on its commitments to young people. The main aim of the actors involved can be summed up in the following quote from a 2011 policy paper on the issue of recognition of non-formal learning in Europe:
[…] working together to establish a common ground for a medium to long term co-ordinated strategy toward recognition of youth work and non-formal learning in Europe with the involvement of actors and stakeholders of various policy sectors concerned.[i]
[i] Partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the field of Youth, Getting There … . Strasbourg, 2013. Available online at: http://pjp-eu.coe.int/documents/1017981/7110699/STATEMENT_SYMPOSIUM.pdf/9f6090f9-91e3-46da-9a09-dcb715eed87f
How does the Portfolio fit into European recognition debate?
The Portfolio initiative is a specific example of the commitment of the Council of Europe’s member states to promote the recognition of youth work based on the principles of non-formal education. This commitment was formalised through the Council of Europe’s Recommendation Rec(2003)8 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the promotion and recognition of non-formal education/learning of young people and subsequent follow-up texts (see further reading section for more references). In providing a tool for individuals, teams and organisations to assess their competence, the Portfolio contributes to increasing transparency around the quality of youth work. Using the Portfolio shows that an individual practitioner, team or organisation is not afraid to put their competence and the quality of their work under the microscope. It shows they are not afraid to reflect critically on how well it achieves what it claims it can. Nevertheless, there is awareness that more practitioners on the front lines of youth work around Europe need to use the Portfolio for it to have the positive influence on recognition desired.
The ‘Strasbourg Process’, initiated by the Statutory Bodies of the Council of Europe’s Youth Department, demands a strong political co-operation process on the validation of non-formal learning and recognition of youth work. It asks the institutions to develop something similar to the Bologna Process for Higher Education (add hyperlinks). As a result of this process, the political decision makers have agreed that 5% of the youth budget of the Council of Europe will be used for activities fostering the recognition of non-formal learning and youth work.
The Council of Europe also uses partnerships with other institutions to promote recognition. That is why the Portfolio initiative is linked to several other projects undertaken by the other European institutions, especially the European Commission, and the different bodies involved in the implementation of its education and life-long learning agendas, such as the National Agencies of the Erasmus+ Programme, the SALTO Resource Centres and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP).
In particular, the adoption of the European Council Recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning of 20 December 2012 acknowledges the important role this process can play in rethinking education, in improving the supply of skills to the labour market, in promoting mobility and in enhancing competitiveness and economic growth.
Ongoing activities on recognition undertaken by the SALTO Training and Co-operation Resource Centre include the development and publication of a competence profile for youth workers ‘working in international teams’ supporting activities financed by the European Commission through the ‘Youth’ programme within Erasmus+. There are some key overlaps between the competence profile developed in the Portfolio and this competence profile. This is particularly the case for the international and intercultural dimensions of youth work. In addition, the underlying concept and objectives of the Portfolio and of Youthpass, the method of validation and certification available to participants of the ‘Youth’ programme activities, are very similar. You can find out more about recognition options for Portfolio users in the next section.
What are the options for recognition available to Portfolio users?
There is no specific recognition, validation or certification process associated with the Portfolio at this point. Furthermore, there is no “one-stop shop” which explains the recognition, validation and certification options available to people doing youth work across Europe. These two facts can make acquiring recognition for their achievements, and for the value of their work, seem complicated to people doing youth work.
As a tool for the self-assessment of competencies, the Portfolio is one of the many informal recognition methods available to people doing youth work. By combining self-assessments with evidence of experience, testimonies from participants in your activities, reference people and certificates from further learning and training undertaken, the Portfolio provides its holder with a history of their competence. Like a photographer or graphic designer who creates a Portfolio of their artistic creations, people doing youth work can use the Portfolio to show what they have done and why they and eventually others think they are competent in doing it.
Nevertheless, across Europe there are a variety of ‘formal’ recognition, validation and certification possibilities available. These are more often than not organised nationally, but European options also exist. Working in your context, you will be best able to judge what kind of recognition is useful or necessary for your situation and development. Here we provide some clues for finding your pathway to recognition using the Portfolio.
Formal validation and certification pathways are typically organised in-country, and offered by state-recognised national, regional or local authorities and institutions of different kinds. These are very diverse. Each country has different forms and procedures, and some countries even have several different pathways to accessing recognition. For example, some countries have university level Bachelor degree study programmes and others have vocational training programmes. Others again allow people to gain qualifications for youth work through on-the-job practice. Some countries have no specific professional or academic qualification system for youth work at all. In addition, some countries have several routes that one can take or combine, according to one’s interest, learning style and possibilities. In many countries, local and regional authorities and other state-recognised institutions offer vocational training and further professional education opportunities through shorter- and longer-term course formats with different types of certification.
Finding out about the different pathways available in your country demands research and time. Here are some useful starting points for finding out more:
- The higher education, vocational training or adult education authorities in your country, region or city can provide information about networks of providers and other relevant opportunities. For participating countries, the EURYDICE Network provides information on which authorities from local to national levels are responsible for which kind of education, training and recognition, and so on.
- In countries participating in the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission, the National Agencies responsible for the implementation of the programme can provide information on specific national initiatives in the fields of youth, vocational training, and adult education, including information in the area of recognition.
- The Eurodesk portal is useful for finding out more about initiatives relevant to youth. Eurodesk is the main provider of information on European policies and opportunities for young people and those who work with them.
- Youthpass is part of the European Commission’s strategy to foster the recognition of non-formal learning. It is available for projects funded by Erasmus+ Youth in Action (2014-2020) and Youth in Action (2007-2013) programmes. As a tool to visualise and to validate learning outcomes, it puts policy into practice and practice into policy:
- Creating their Youthpass Certificate together with a support person, the participants of the projects have the possibility to describe what they have done in their project and which competencies they have acquired. Thus, Youthpass supports reflection on the personal non-formal learning process.
- Documenting the added value of the project, Youthpass visualises and supports active European citizenship of young people and youth workers.
- Being a Europe-wide validation instrument for non-formal learning in the youth field, Youthpass contributes to strengthening the social recognition of youth work.
- Making visible and validating key competencies through a certificate, Youthpass finally aims at supporting the employability of young people and youth workers.
The Council of Europe Youth Work Portfolio is a tool to help those doing youth work, primarily youth workers and youth leaders, but also managers and administrators, to assess and further develop their youth work competence and that of the people under their supervision.