What is the role of innovation in the youth work field? What is the connection between practice and policy? What do we need in order to ensure that innovation is better promoted and understood as a concept? These were the questions we discussed at the last RAY Youth Research Dialogue organised by the RAY Network. We were invited to join the presentation of RAY INNO research findings and to present some of the most important findings from the EAYW research on innovation in youth work.


On December 14, two members of the EAYW team of researchers, Federica Demicheli and Dragan Atanasov, joined the 4th edition of the RAY Youth Research Dialogues, a short thematic online series of evidence-based youth research findings organised by the RAY Network. The focus of this Youth Research Dialogue was on innovation and its role in the youth work field.

Quoting from the Final Declaration of the 3rd European Youth Work Convention, moderator Tomi Kiilakoski introduced the dialogue by underlining that that the youth work community needed to strive “towards the maintenance of the good structures and practices that already exist, their development when the need arises, and the space for innovation in our thinking, our organisation and our practices.“[1] He emphasised that in order to better understand innovation, it was important to pay attention to the unique features of youth work.

This series was kicked off by two presentations. Firstly, Federica Demicheli shared the definition of innovation developed within the EAWY study, stating that:

“As innovation in youth work, within this study, we understand demonstrated methodologies, practices, tools, ways of approaching target groups, or organizational models that have novel elements, that are upgrades of existing practices, or are completely new to the youth field or to a particular context, and that enable youth work to better address the needs of young people, positively impact their lives, and/or contribute to a wider social change.“

In addition, she highlighted the importance of organisational support and that innovation needed to have the potential to be replicated. Also, innovation should be value based and have a positive impact on young people and/or lead to social change.

Afterwards, Andreas Karsten from the RAY Transnational Research Team presented some insights from their research focusing on what they had identified as the most important needs in the sector related to innovation. These included (1) Digital non-formal pedagogy;  (2) Dialogue with policy; (3) Diverse career paths; (4) Transnational support and (5) Creating conditions for innovation.

After these short inputs, an interesting and lively dialogue took place, where the audience could ask questions directly through Mentimeter or chat. The discussion revolved around the factors that can hinder or support motivation, the competences needed for innovation and the ecosystem where innovation happens.

We were happy to have the chance to share some of our insights from the EAYW research on innovation in youth work during this episode of the RAY Youth Research Dialogues. If you are interested in watching the full dialogue, go to the RAY Network Facebook page or click on this link, which will lead you directly to the video! Enjoy!

If you’d like to find out more about innovation in youth work, be sure to follow us. The EAYW study report together with a short animation movie and a podcast to accompany the research will published very soon!


[1] Signposts for the future, Final Declaration of the 3rd European Youth Work Convention (Bonn, Dec. 2020)