What is the City for Youth Certificate? How does it help cities to create better surroundings for young people? You will find the answers to these questions in this article.

Within the European Academy on Youth Work, we have started with a short series of “Innovative practices of the week” to share with you some of the contributions that will be presented in the 2nd Edition of the European Academy on Youth Work that will happen in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, from 31 st May – 3 rd June. This time, we talked with Mario Žuliček, one of the EAYW contributors, who shared with us more about their initiative of City for Youth Certificate in Croatia. Enjoy reading!


What is your practice about?

The system of certification of local self-government units in the field of youth policies is, in fact, a tool that serves to assess the current level of quality and quantity of such policies and which gives a clear picture of the space for improvement. It is also a tool for the civil society organizations and youth councils to get a clear picture of what they would want to advocate to decision-makers. Certification, i.e. rewarding, aims to further motivate local communities to improve the current situation, for the benefit of all local stakeholders.


What problem or situation inspired the development of your practice?

In most public sector bodies, youth policies are not high on the priority list. Youth policies most often occur reactively and without long-term strategic goals. The aim was to highlight those units that are proactive and represent quality in this field and encourage others to act in the same direction.


Why is this practice important and what makes it different from similar projects in this field in your country or the region?

The certification system rewards local self-government units that continuously work on the adoption and implementation of youth policies. This system encourages the balanced development of policies in all thematic areas defined by the criteria. As we have seen from the results of the implementation of two public calls, a concrete list of criteria to be met has given local governments a clear picture of what they can develop further. Experience has shown that a large number of units are willing to improve their policies, but they simply did not know how to do this concretely. The implementation of this certification system has mapped good practices among candidate cities, which allows other cities to implement quality and proven practices in their communities.


Which concrete challenges did you need to overcome in order to develop this practice?

After two implemented public calls, the biggest challenge is how to encourage cities that are currently (according to the defined criteria) very low in terms of quality and quantity of youth policies. From their perspective, obtaining the Certificate is currently almost unattainable and they are facing a multi-year process so they could reach the necessary criteria. We are currently working on this challenge, with the aim of not demotivating these cities in the beginning, because their final goals are far away.


Which conditions, resources and/or competences present in your organisation were the most important to influence the creation and development of the practice?

From the very beginning, we have invested great effort into involving all relevant organisations and institutions in the process in order to achieve the maximum quality of the process and credibility towards key stakeholders. In line with the above, no organisation or institution has a majority in the decision-making body within this process. This encourages pluralism of opinion and prevents possible influence on decision-making itself. The transparency of the whole process, as well as the relevance of the stakeholders themselves, has led to a large response from local governments.


How do you envisage this practice to grow in the future and what resources do you need in order to do so?

In the context of growth at the national level, our goal is to include as many local governments as possible in order to increase the quality and quantity of youth policies in all parts of Croatia. As already mentioned, we are working on how to include those units that are currently (due to the low level of quality of such policies) not motivated to get involved in the process. We are also continuously working to increase the list of benefits for units that receive certification, in order to further motivate the inclusion of those who can achieve this goal.

In the context of international expansion, we are very motivated to spread this model to other interested countries. We have already made contacts with some countries, but there is still a lot of space for that. We are ready to share our experience, knowledge and all the documentation we have developed. Assistance is certainly welcome in the context of disseminating information about the existence of this system and motivating stakeholders to take over this system, and to make connections.


Where can people find more information about your practice?

Association of Cities website: http://www.udruga-gradova.hr/grad-za-mlade

Decision of the quality standards for City for Youth certificate: https://api.typeform.com/responses/files/8382ccbf216f9b707c26a284691efc24c205f2c47e637bc6ced718465278bec0/City_for_Youth___version2022.pdf


Mario Žuliček, mario@udruga-gradova.hr


You’re interested to learn and exchange more about current developments and innovative practices in youth work? We will be having online streaming available for you to join some of the sessions of the upcoming 2nd European Academy on Youth Work next week! More information coming soon!