“I’m changing Europe!”
As a strategic partnership that supports municipal level local youth work, Europe Goes Local doesn’t only aim to raise the quality of youth work development but also to create and influence a multiplier effect through identifying and promoting diverse good practices of local youth work to its members, partners and stakeholders. Thanks to the quality of its cooperation, EGL has become a rich platform of activities and practices that showcase the diversity and success of local youth work in various local settings and contexts.
Capturing these good practices in local youth work, we interviewed Cosima Oesch, Sociocultural sector Manager from Kinder & Jugendarbeit Regio Kerzers in Switzerland. We asked Cosima to tell us more about their local youth work initiatives in rural areas and one such good practice – ‘Engage’ process, which is significantly contributing to youth participation efforts in the region.
We’ve been developing youth work in the region of Kerzers for the last 15 years. It’s a rather rural area, located near the capital Berne and the city of Fribourg in Switzerland. We offer different programs and activities and develop projects with and for a target group from 6 to 25 years old. The interaction between a favourable environment, a large professional network and a dedicated team of youth workers let the quality of youth work grow in our region, as well as in other regions, because we like to share good practices and learn about innovative ideas and best practice from others.
It includes questioning youngsters from 12 to 25 years about what they miss in Kerzers. The goal is to collect their ideas and opinions. This campaign lasts for about a month. Once we have a list with all the different requests, we summarise them under different categories, such as “infrastructure”, “public transport”, etc.
The next step is to invite the young people who had posted a request and politicians to an event where the requests are discussed directly together. Each table represents a category with the corresponding requests. As a result of these discussions, project ideas are born and project teams are built. The contribution of the politicians often consists of giving advice or a promise of support in case it’s needed for further steps of the project. This may be essential for the later realization of the project.
In our role as youth workers, it’s important to encourage and accompany the project groups and to support them through the different stages of their projects.
The “Engage process” is important for our municipality because it allows us to collect the dreams and needs of young people, and to discuss this directly with youngsters and on a political level. This experience leads to greater understanding, respect, and appreciation for each other. It helps build and develop a further sense of community in the municipality between different generations. In addition to that, youngsters learn about the political instruments and procedures that need to be followed if you want to put an idea into practice in your municipality.
We have a more youth-friendly infrastructure in Kerzers Due to the “Engage process”. A very cool skate park is a result of an Engage project for example. Youngsters, families, and even grandparents love the skate park. It also stands as a sign of solidarity and encouragement: it shows that the local politicians can support ideas from youngsters so that the resources (like space and funds) are given to make a project’s group dream come true. Besides this, the impact for youngsters is that their personal competencies grow in many ways as they play a very active role in their project groups.
For us as a team of youth workers of Kinder- und Jugendarbeit Regio Kerzers, the recognition of our work has improved by the “Engage process” because we met all members of the district council personally. This led to open and direct communication in other matters. In addition to that, we feel that the recognition for youth work on the political level has grown in our municipality.
It’s essential to reach all young people to give them the possibility to send in and voice their wishes and needs. Therefore, a very good collaboration with schools where all children and youngsters have access to is essential. In the first edition of “Engage”, the collaboration didn’t work so well. But in the second edition in the fall of 2021, the collaboration was very successful. In the second edition, our team of youth workers had access to each class for the duration of one lesson. That way they could make an appropriate introduction of the project, encourage and help youngsters to fill in the form and write down their ideas, wishes, and needs. We had double the input in comparison to the first edition! In addition to that, this was a very good occasion to connect directly with more youngsters who hadn’t known youth work and youth workers before.
We periodically read through the Charter together to discuss which points we already work on according to the charter (by giving examples) and on which points we could put more emphasis on in the future. It’s a good instrument to ensure and develop further local youth work.
Take a look at the Kerzers Skate Park, one result of the ‘Engage Process’ in 2019.