Back in 2021, 26 providers of child and youth services came together under Fachkräfteinitiative.International (FKI) in a move to acquire a more international outlook. Since then, they have developed and tested a variety of approaches so as to initiate (more) youth and expert exchanges while putting their own structures under closer examination. IJAB is the coordinator of FKI, working closely with a research team from the University of Hildesheim’s Department of Social and Organisational Education (ISOP).
From the outset, the German FKI projects had attended a series of offline and online meetings to discuss success factors and current challenges with each other. Taking this conversation to an international level would allow for a shift in perspective – and so their international partners were now invited to join the conversation and talk more about how they, too, have benefited from their involvement in FKI thus far. In June 2023, young people from Germany and abroad came together for a Youth Future Camp; on 10 July, a similar event took place for experts. IJAB had deliberately decided to structure the event as an open advisory session, and so the International Staff Laboratory was designed as a digital meeting that was open to all those with an interest in the subject.
29 participants from Algeria, Tunisia, Slovenia, Austria, Georgia, Poland and Germany attended the online event – all countries with very different youth work structures and hence widely varying needs. An interactive map was shown indicating the participating countries and their respective German FKI partners.
To ensure the International Staff Laboratory and the relevance of the outcomes of the discussions would be correctly understood, IJAB project coordinator Kerstin Giebel and Professor Wolfgang Schröer from the University of Hildesheim began with an introduction to Fachkräfteinitiative.International, giving particular emphasis to its objectives, stakeholders and tools. Professor Schröer’s research team then outlined the key focal points of the accompanying research project and acknowledged the strong interest shown by the partner representatives present at the event. Then, Kerstin Giebel invited participants to engage in a brainstorming session on anything that was on participants’ minds, encouraging them to get the most out of the session on behalf of their respective organisations.
Wide range of themes
The topics mentioned were as broad as the diversity of participants themselves. Attendees raised issues that ranged from known problems – such as obtaining visas (specifically for partners in the Arab region), funding for international activities and networks outside the scope of European schemes, and equal opportunities for young people experiencing barriers to access – to the specific needs of organisations that have only recently begun to explore international activities. Besides the challenges of implementing international exchange projects, participants also spoke about ongoing training and advisory services for foreign experts and the creation of suitable access paths. Yet another topic was Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the resulting movement of refugees and displaced persons, experts among them. Particularly the Polish participants were interested in learning how they could reach out to these young people and invite them to join a project that would benefit them.
From the many topics and questions raised during this session, three workshops emerged:
The group identified a number of problematic issues and requirements that the specialist and funding agencies for European and international youth work, in particular, are dealing with. They include the desire to adapt funding instruments, draw up concepts for the inclusion of marginalised groups, offer training for experts working with this target group, and put existing crises such as war and climate change on the agenda of international partnerships. In many cases this is already being done, yet whenever new organisations appear on the scene, new responses have to be found to what seem to be old challenges.
IJAB and ISOP would like to thank all contributors for their input and the open working atmosphere during the all-too-brief event. We have carefully taken note of all of the issues discussed and will feed them back to other expert groups for further discussion. The next opportunity will come on 25 and 26 October 2023, when all FKI projects will convene at a final event entitled “Time to reflect!”.