For inspiration, we opened the day with a little quiz, tackling the questions of accidental innovations. Did you know that roller skaters, teddy bears, frisbee and stethoscopes were invented by a happy accident? If you want to know more, we invite you to do your own research and get into the spirit of the second day of the European Academy on Youth Work, since participants also got the chance to research more during the day. 

But let’s start at the beginning. 

Young people want to change the world

The mantra of this day was that young people are at the core of innovation in youth work. This theory (proved by many, many, many good practices shared during this event) was put into practice on the opening plenary of the day. So, do we as youth workers, as a sector, give young people enough space? Do we live by the unwritten rule, nothing about youth without youth? The Academy invited four young people to the morning dialogue since they are the experts of innovation in their lives. Ramatoulaye Kaloga from Ireland, Niklavs Zahars from Latvia, Tadej Kobal from Slovenia and Karolina Jonuškaite from Lithuania started the topic with their point of view on how it is to be a young person in the world today. They all agreed it’s fun, it’s awesome, even though there are a lot of changes, a lot of expectations for youth to make several decisions, to take every opportunity that comes along, which can be very challenging and overwhelming at the same time, especially since they are not always getting the support they need. This is one of the main needs they have, no matter the problem (housing, mental health issues, access to education and different infrastructure, job opportunities): getting support. To have someone who listens to them, sometimes this is all they (but don’t we all) need. For youth workers to be there. Don’t forget young people are looking up to us, youth workers, and they want to grow with us! 

How is Innovation coming to life? 

The next two sessions opened up a lot of questions and not all of them were answered. So, buckle up, the questions are also in this article, waiting for you to think about them, to reflect on them and to discuss them. This is, as promised, an Academy of Processes. 

First question: What is the role of young people in innovation?

The Academy went into forum format. Participants got to know nine different empowering projects, different practices in youth work around Europe with innovative elements. Contributors presented factors, the context, the needs of different youth groups that triggered their innovation, their innovative project. The projects tackled very different topics, using interesting methodologies, connected with several stakeholders in the sector and beyond, connected with the community, including them in the project with one goal – to empower youth. 

Second question: What is a culture of innovation and how to create it? 

“We create it by being it!” We share with you some of the participants’ thoughts that are the product of the afternoon forum, where a set of 7 contributors shared their good practices, interesting projects with us. 

It means equal opportunities for everybody to participate, trusting environment, safety nets, freedom to experiment.” 

Open minded and be open to changes and creating them. Thinking in the near future, everything is changing and so are the young people. We need to be good listeners and really hear what they are saying. Following the trends, digitalisation, climate change. Thinking outside the box and target youth, because we can’t do anything without them. Giving the youth space so they can say what they need and want. Have a supporting environment from the government, community, organisations.

We need a democratic, adaptable and digital and accessible system to be able to have a culture of innovation and also a more securing system of finance for youth work.

“Think global, act local.”

To conclude: Innovation looks fashionable. We have to promote what we are doing and how innovative we are. We need to communicate that we are doing a great job and that we are innovating. So – #youthworkworks – make the impact of youth work visible!

Participants continued asking themselves questions and reflecting on what was told during the day in their tribes and trying to answer the question: what are we learning about innovation? The main learning points and findings of the day were: the sectors need sufficient funding; education of youth workers is crucial; realising a culture of failure is okay; making projects sustainable, having the courage to be vulnerable and trusting youth and their ideas; setting goals when starting and being flexible along the way. Innovation is a process to keep on going. 

Evening was rounded up with networking, offering a space to all participants to share their work, their realities, to find a tribe for new projects and to spark the ideas that will surely become innovative practices in the future. 

All innovative practices presented during the Academy will also be properly represented on EAYW webpage and you are welcome to get inspired by them!  

by Katra Kozinc, MOVIT