We thought the second day was full of questions, but with the old school method we used during the day (reflection), we realised – after a good night’s sleep – it actually also provided quite a lot of answers. 

In the morning of the third day of the Academy, we were welcomed with the topic of digital youth work that opened a Pandora Box of questions, dilemmas, resilience and discussions among the participants. 

Youth Work and the Digital World: Is the core in danger? 

The first guests of the day were Ajša Hadžibegović and Nerijus Kriauciunas, who discussed the topic that was and is diving the youth sector. 

“I don’t see danger, I see opportunities,” was the empowering message from Nerijus at the beginning of the panel. “Why does digital suddenly divide the room?” was his question to the audience of the Academy. There is still a lot of resilience present. Of course, things are changing and changes are not easy. We take pride in being the most responsive sector. How will we respond to digitalisation?

When it comes to digital transformation, the most important is to be curious. Before you judge, try it, do it, read about it. Anyhow it won’t happen overnight. It takes time. But it will happen, we don’t have influence on that. But we can influence how we prepare ourselves and the young people we are working with for it. Let’s focus on a healthy digital lifestyle – starting from ourselves. 

The second question that needed answers was, what is the core of youth work? For Ajša Hadžibegović, it’s a partnership (of youth workers and youth: »Just be there!« – as we also heard from youth directly the day before) and support. The digital space is just another environment in which youth work happens. 

And here we bring some of the questions for your reflection:
Is innovation a burden or a necessity?
Is digital an innovation or a routine?
Innovation = Digitalisation – are these two words synonyms?

Going Digital, Staying Human? 

We continued with the topic of digital youth work, going deeper into it with contributors presenting six inspiring projects connected to digitalisation in different ways, created by looking for tools to respond to needs. Projects that arose from the simple realisation that it’s not enough – so they found what they were looking for in digitalisation, in digital tools. 

Looking at digitalisation, I see a deep connection to what was said on the second day of the Academy, that education of youth workers is key! Yes! Let’s not forget that education is never ending. Life-long learning. So, the question is not really why or really or must we – but ask yourself how! And start. It’s a process. Digitalisation is a 21st century reality. We cannot deny it: Ninety percent of all jobs require digital skills. 

“Digitalisation can achieve what we as a sector are striving for – autonomy, entrepreneurship spirit, learning by doing, critical thinking, environmental awareness in youth. There is space for inclusion and space to strengthen mathematical and technical competences” – is the experience of one of the contributors that shared their story with us. Digitalisation is a   w i d e   concept. We have been traumatised by Zoom over the last years. Don’t let that get in a way of exploring and expanding.

What are the seeds of the future today?  

When we talk about digitalisation, one way or another, the future comes up in discussions. So, it was a natural way of our programme to end the day by trying to connect the dots from previous inputs and reflections – while looking at the Future and thinking of possible ways forward. 

The participants stepped into the shoes of social scientists and discussed the following question: what trends do we identify – in youth work, in education and in the world – that will shape our job? We focused on what changes we are noticing in the new generations, what young people are telling us about their future, and what is changing in our own habits as individuals. Many ideas and concepts arose from the productive discussion: participants predicted, for instance, that there will be a stronger connection between formal and non-formal education, that there will be (and already are!) mental health problems, that we will have to focus on digital literacy and the environment. No matter the problems, the challenges that we as a community will be facing, we shouldn’t forget that youth work is – value based. So, we will have to take a strong stand in times of disruption. 

The second topic we tackled was, how to create an ecosystem that is supportive of innovation. There were many ideas among the participants (focusing on two aspects: what can we do and what resources do we need), but I will leave you with an “easy” step-by-step guide, to help you build your own innovation ecosystem and / or start your own discussion on how to create one:

– Map and connect the key players for innovation;
– Create an environment that supports creativity and innovation;
– Have an innovation thesis (or strategy);
– Have an innovation framework;
– Build an innovation accounting system;
– Create a new mindset around youth work. (not necessarily in this order)

We learn, we adapt, we continue

This exciting day was rounded up with reflection happening in Academy Tribes and with another good old method – with an Academy celebration, where we continued networking and sharing our impressions of the event and had a good time! 

Katra Kozinc, Movit