The third Academy day started cloudy and foggy outside, but shiny and energetic in the session rooms. We gathered in the plenary for a turtle-style slow start to reflect on the learned (and the unlearned) from the previous day. 


If the buzz word of the second edition of the Academy was “innovation”, for this one it definitely is “the future”. The room was filled with anticipation – what will the future say? We were all waiting for the crystal ball to tell us the answers, magic cards to unfold, coffee mugs to reveal to us the paths, windows into the future to open. 


Because today was the day for the research team to present the main insights and outcomes of the Futures of Youth Work research project that was undertaken by the EAYW over the past ten months. 


Özgehan Şenyuva and Aleksandra Szymczyk took the floor to present the main emerging areas and scenarios of youth work in different time horizons until 2050 that have come out of this collaborative research. How will youth work develop in the coming years? What emerging trends and developments can we already see or sense today? How do we reflect on the connections between the possible futures and the present realities of youth work? We were full of questions entering the session room. We left the room with even more questions – a sure indicator of a very successful panel. 


Can we really predict the future accurately and prepare for it? Probably not (now this would be a perfect place for another Dune reference, but I still have some self-control, see?). But what we can do is be attentive to the signals about something that could be developing in the future, think and rethink the possible scenarios, create platforms for discussion, recognize trends, question our roles in the processes. In the opening speech, Özgehan said: “You cannot speak about the future, you can discuss about the future”. And oh, we sure did. 


What will the world look like in the future? What will youth work look like? How biased are we in our predictions; can we go beyond our personal realities (and how far)? Are we delaying addressing issues that are too painful or scary to acknowledge? (“Fear is the mind killer”, Frenk Herbert, Dune – couldn’t restrain from this one, after all, I’m only human.)


If you are reading this thinking how the morning was so full of questions, wait until you hear about our afternoon. Gisele Evrard brought to the stage a new perspective on the Futures of Youth Work research, this time focusing on the “philosophies” and emerging key messages, with a more systemic and sense-making approach. Now we were wondering: What do we do with all of these insights? How can we zoom out and observe the futures from a helicopter view?


Do we need to rethink the role of youth work? (Aren’t we already doing it, more or less, all the time?) In a reality where states are more interested in what youth work can do for them than what it can do for young people, are we filling more shoes than we should? How do we set boundaries (for us and for the others)?


The report is not finished yet, and it is our time to join in. As Gisele stated, the future of youth work fits in around 50 pages at the moment. We invite you to turn the coffee mugs of your youth work practice, open the tarot cards of your experience and share your thoughts about these questions in the comments. What kind of weather do you predict for youth work in the upcoming years?


To carry on the tradition from what feels like the antient past but has started two days ago (honestly, the EAYW team somehow manages for each day to last at least 48 hours), I share with you a few preblisks of the day: 

“Past is tense, present is simple, future is perfect”. 

“The only constant in life is change.”- Heraclitus


And for the end of this blog, we received some nice messages from the colleagues attending the (non)Conference “Critical Youth Work?” in Weimar (as if there weren’t already many cool things happening simultaneously at the Academy). I share with you one of them:

Maybe, perhaps, there is the case that if we continue reacting to issues, we never lead for real change. 


Author: Ana Pecarski, EAYW participant