Screenshot of a Zoom meeting.

What is the role of signal spotters? What to observe? What is the mindset needed for being a signal spotter? How to think about the future? These questions were discussed at the Onboarding sessions for signal spotters last week. 

Within the “Futures of Youth Work” project, we held the Onboarding sessions for signal spotters, with the aim of introducing the project and give the information on the process. Two meetings were held online, on 7 and 8 September 2023. 

At the beginning of the meetings, Sonja Mitter, EAYW Coordinator, briefly presented the Academy, its implemented and planned activities. Following that, she briefly introduced the “Futures of Youth Work” project and what our signal spotters can expect. 

Kicking off the discussion, Darko Markovic, member of the research team, emphasized that the future is already here. “There are some signals, which are strong or weak. They are coming from the youth work sector or from other areas of life, which tell us how youth work might work in 2050. And we are not only talking about “loud” signals, such as artificial intelligence”, he said. 

Building on this introduction, Gisele Evrard, member of the research team, encouraged our signal spotters to explore their feelings and perspectives about multiple futures. Signal spotters were also invited to share key messages related to these futures. Some of these messages included:

  • The future is going to be connected with the digital and technical side, but a lot of things will stay the same on an interpersonal level. 
  • We have been wondering how to equip our youth with knowledge and capabilities and competences to navigate in the future change; and how to stay human.
  • While we recognise that some signals are louder than others, we would like to put more attention to subtle signals.
  • Where does the future come from? It’s happening now – it’s an emerging future. We are creating it now. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it! 
  • We are laying the foundations for the future generations!

Continuing the session, Özgehan Şenyuva and Aleksandra Szymczyk, research team members, introduced to our signal spotters the horizon scanning process and signals. Horizon scanning, they explained, is connected with exploring what possible futures might look like, to embrace and better understand uncertainties. It is not about imagining, guessing, or making predictions, but about systematically investigating emerging evidence about future trends. Signal spotters will search for signals: a piece of information or an early indicator that suggests the possibility of a significant shift or emerging trend in a particular domain. It can be a pattern, an event, an article, technology, a conversation etc. “We are asking you to fine-tune your attention, keep your mind open and let the signals speak to you”, the research team highlighted. 

Additionally, we had the opportunity to engage in an interactive exercise to get into the mindset of a signal spotter and understand what would be helpful for high-quality signal mapping. At the end, the signal spotters received technical information and a timeline of the project.

We are looking forward to this first step of the Futures for Youth Work project and to collaborating with the signal spotters in the upcoming period. 

The outcomes of this collaborative project will be validated and discussed at the next EAYW event on 14 – 17 May 2024 in Slovenia. Until then, if you would like to learn more about this research, we invite you to stay tuned for future updates!