The initial funding stage was completed in 2013. This launch meeting now marks the beginning of the second stage with 13 new innovative projects (please see list of projects below). Those present were stakeholders from various areas of operation within child and youth services, research, and administration, as well as job centres and the economic sector. They had taken part in the BMFSFJ's initial declaration of interest session and had since received approval for financing from the Innovations Fund's International Youth Work Programme.
Objective of Innovation Projects
Albert Klein-Reinhardt, officer for European and international youth policy at the BMFSFJ, welcomed the project representatives and, in his introduction, stressed the importance of strengthening, recognizing, and showcasing European and international youth work as a place of learning, and that this was an important objective for youth and education policy. He stated that within formal education and training as well as the economic sector and civil society, the potential of youth work as a place for non-formal and informal learning was not yet sufficiently recognized. This matter was therefore now being addressed through the Innovation Fund within the Child and Youth Plan of the Federation. Recognition would have several dimensions: personal empowerment, political recognition, social acceptance, and formal certification.
Within this context, innovation is meant to illustrate the willingness and intention to break new ground and utilize new partnerships between stakeholders to encourage operating beyond the confines of youth work. Klein-Reinhardt then paraphrased the objective: "We would like to make use of the motivational force within your projects and, in cooperation with you, work towards achieving better recognition of international youth work as a place for non-formal education." This would include support for professional exchange as well as the direct participation of young people throughout the two-year term. With regard to a political context he pointed out that the recognition of non-formal learning played an important part in the process of developing an independent youth policy in Germany as well as in the implementation of the EU Youth Strategy.
Support by IJAB
Following a brief informational session on the operational aspects of funding by representatives of the BMFSFJ and the Federal Office of Administration, Christoph Bruners of IJAB introduced the support available for Innovation Projects. This consists of four components:
- Preparation, implementation, and follow-up of focal events, such as an interim assessment in 2015 as well as the final summary conference at the end of 2016;
- A range of training and advisory programmes;
- Journalistic and PR support; and
- A youth editorial team to provide a young people's perspective on the projects (link to Youtube – mediale pfade).
IJAB's support will strengthen mutual exchange and networking and will ensure that in-depth emphasis is placed on the central topic, the recognition of international youth work as a place for non-formal education. Project outcomes are publicized beyond local level as part of the public relations work, to ensure greater visibility and awareness. Guidance and support are available throughout the entire term and include project visits and joint public relations activities. A youth editorial team using new media will prepare essential content to ensure its appeal to a young audience. Also planned is an end-of-project report to present results, experiences, and conclusions (see documentation of projects from 2012-2013).
The objective: greater recognition for non-formal education
Following on from Christoph Bruners, Manfred von Hebel (JUGEND für Europa - YOUTH for Europe) briefly presented Erasmus+ YOUTH IN ACTION, illustrating the fact that non-formal education is already achieving appropriate recognition at European level, where much progress has been made especially, during the past decade, giving as an example the Pathways 2.0 paper mentioned in the introduction, as well as the recommendations of the Council from late 2012 concerning recognition of non-formal learning in all EU member states. In his view, it would be desirable if the outcomes of Innovation Fund Projects were to contribute to the European process.
During a World Café session in the afternoon, the previously mentioned four dimensions of recognition were discussed and analysed at length. Political recognition of non-formal education, for example, was looked at in a legal context, as political strategy, and within educational reporting. The discussion about social acceptance focused on the best ways of reaching as many social stakeholders as possible in order to develop an awareness of the strengths of youth work. The discussion about personal empowerment focused on young people: how do they perceive and assess their competence development and new skills? How can they transfer these to other areas of life – for example, by demonstrating this in job applications? Formal recognition by certification and other formal proofs was the last of the four topics to be addressed.
In animated discussions, the participants used examples to examine the four dimensions, drawing on past experience as well as introducing the objectives of their current Innovation Projects. IJAB is collating the results for a short documentary of the launch event, which will be made available to the stakeholders.