Mechelen, Belgium

Youth Work for All

Summary

Not every family finds its way easily to youth work. The youth movements of Mechelen are not yet a reflection and representation of the diversity in our city. The youth service has taken up the challenge to change this with the youth movements and their associations.  The project aims at: families (children, youngsters, parents) with a migration background and/or a refugee story (aim of guiding children/youngsters to youthwork); and youth movements (strengthening these organisations (and by extension youth associations) in order to reach the above-mentioned target groups more easily, and support them in setting up a diversity policy). The main objectives of the project are: guiding new members with a migration background sustainable towards youthwork; supporting associations regarding diversity, inclusion & accessibility; and raising awareness of the added value of youthwork.   

Impact

  1. Youth work as a safe space: Youth organisations have been strengthened in terms of accessibility and diversity by organizing training, networking moments; by 24 individual interviews with youth movements; all 24 youth movements have a "youth work for label"; annually we offer 5 intensive (diversity/inclusive) counselling processes for youth movements.
  2. Sustainable guidance of children and young people with a migration background to youth work in Mechelen: Recruitment of 60 children and young people with a migration background and/or a refugee story as participant/leader; and 100 home visits (on average 1 per week).
  3. Image creation and perception: Parents, children and young people have a better idea of youth work and recognise the added value and richness of it; bij organizing focusgroups with youngsters, volunteers, parents, professionals and employers; development of educational material (videos); collect and share minimum 15 testimonies on storytelling platform; and by organising yearly "warm welcome (CHILL) days".

We foresee a regular staff deployment by the youth service and J@m vzw, and in addition a secondment of Group INTRO vzw in close cooperation with the youth service and J@m vzw so that we can bring in Group INTRO vzw's expertise with regard to children and youngsters with a migration background (and refugee story) into the respective workings. We pay attention to the entire operation of the youth service and evaluate the experiences made. The co-financing ensures more shared leadership and shared involvement, commitment and ownership. It ensures that we build expertise, and can embed it in existing services. The ambition of shared ownership and expertise building is also reflected in the financial proposal: the city provides co-financing. We focus on the positive learning experiences of young people and the long-term impact. In addition, we continue to build up a framework for youth work and scale it up through supra-local exchange.

Lessons Learnt

The Project staff members (seconded from J@m vzw & Groep Intro vzw) are embedded within the youth service. This creates the necessary synergy (working on diversity from the inside). With the "Youth Work for All" project, all the knowledge and experience that has been present at various levels for years is bundled into one project in which all the partners participate and take an active role. This knowledge and experience is also translated into immediately usable toolkits and methodologies, as a result of which the results will also be immediately noticeable and will inspire others.

The emergence of new networks and new partnerships. The "Youth Work for All" project works with a label (10 point action plan), rewarding the youth work initiatives involved for their efforts. The youth movements receive professional support in various forms (tailor made, generic trainings, toolkit, etc.) to realise the 10 point actionplan. Monitoring & evaluation of these action plans and professional support is crucial. Pitfalls/challenges: A sense of urgency among the youth movements versus a lack of capacity (members stop) of youth movements. Sustainable embedding of the project within the regular activities of the youth service & J@m vzw (need of structural resources & personnel). Follow-up and monitoring of the action plans and therefore the labels “Youth Work for All” is necessary.

Youth movements are a special form of voluntary organization that cannot be compared to cultural or sports associations. Every three years there is a completely new leadership team consisting almost exclusively of young people who do this on a voluntary basis. The leaders often change their composition, so that knowledge and commitments are lost in the long term. Anchoring initiatives as 'Youth Work for All' in their operation will therefore take time and energy.

Priority Objectives
Eliminating all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse
Realising social inclusion
Supporting reception and advance community sponsorship initiatives
Country
Belgium
Local or regional government
Mechelen
Mayor
Alexander Vandersmissen
Start of Project