Last week I was part of a very inspiring training organized by Youth in Action, a Dutch national institute for youth initiatives and exchanges throughout Europe. The training taught me more about how youth workers – and people like me who work with young people – can help them organizing their own exchanges and projects.
During the training we had to simulate a partner-finding process in Europe in order to start an exchange. This simulation game was a great way to experience what the Youth in Action philosophy is about: it is all about trust, ownership and learning outside the regular school curriculum. This non-formal learning gives the opportunity to youth to set up creative and fun projects in which they have to deal with programming, planning, decision-taking, organization and finances. The event of exchange actually starts with the preparation and doesn’t end before the results have been disseminated and new contacts have been established.
I noticed that the difficult part of this partner-finding process is to be aware of your own objectives. After this self-analysis you start making contact with European youth organizations or ngo’s and try to get to know each other better. It is a must to understand exactly what the other country would like to achieve within the same project. A few meetings behind a webcam wouldn’t be sufficient. You need to meet in real and talk about things like the preparation, the period of the exchange, the program, the venues, the costs, the expectations, the aims and of course the follow up.
Youth apply themselves
Ideally the youth, that is those who apply for the project, should take over the application process. In the end they hand in the application form in Brussels too. Not the youth workers, but youth themselves. This way the applicants have thought about their project prior to the actual event and it leads to a more feasible outcome. I found that the application part wasn’t easy, even sometimes quite complex; it would certainly be good that mentors and youth workers guide the young applicants through it. Furthermore, most national agencies of Youth in Action offer good service to help project groups filling out those project forms.
Gateway to international contact and learning
All in all Youth in Action seems a great gateway to young people to both explore European culture and learn instantly by doing a lot of things they don’t do at schools!