This was the second time I got to take part in an international conference on youth work as part of Europe goes Local. This time, I travelled to Cascais in Portugal.
The sharing of ideas between the 150 or so participants from over 20 countries was really fascinating. Over the two days, many common themes were identified, such as the goal of raising the profile of the societal benefits of open child and youth work, and continuously improving quality. While the structures and environment may be very different across Europe, there are some common themes. We worked in small groups to further tweak a European Charter on Local Youth Work, which is to be applied on a broad scale and in the long term – a valuable product of the three-year Europe goes Local project.
In between the talks, we also had time to debate which issues we as members of the Swiss working group want to pursue for Switzerland. On the one hand, we would like to invite other European youth workers on a study visit to Switzerland to present best practice in professional youth work in a rural and urban context. On the other, we are keen to visit professional youth workers in a neighbouring country to find out how we can garner more political support for open child and youth work. Funding is closely linked to political recognition and is therefore crucially important to the long-term planning of open child and youth work.
In the first year of the project, I already implemented a great deal of input from Europe goes Local in my regional activities and improved the quality of my work. In concrete terms, insights from the first conference were incorporated in the revision of the existing approach and in the creation of an advertising concept for youth work in the Kerzers region. The opportunity to network directly with other European youth workers was also really valuable, especially if you want to plan a European youth exchange with “your” young people.
Last but not least, the conference offered a great opportunity for intercultural learning outside of the talks. I was able to overcome some of my own prejudices about countries I didn’t know through exciting encounters with people from all over our multifaceted continent. Experiencing magic, carefree moments and a sense of community despite our differences emboldens us in the sociocultural environment of open child and youth work and gives us energy to tackle the challenges of our time and our day-to-day work.