Youth work essentials

Here you can find some basic information about what youth work is, about its main characteristics and approaches, as well as about how it links up with society and public policy.

This information may be helpful when you start using the Portfolio

What is youth work?

Youth work is commonly understood as a tool for personal development, social integration and active citizenship of young people. Youth work is a ‘keyword’ for all kinds of activities with, for and by young people of a social, cultural, educational or political nature. It belongs to the domain of ‘out-of-school’ education, most commonly referred to as either non-formal or informal learning. The main objective of youth work is to create opportunities for young people to shape their own futures.

The range of themes that youth work covers is just as diverse as the types of people and organisations involved. Political activism, street work, sports activities, social enterprise and leisure-time activities can all be termed ‘youth work’.

Youth work characteristics

Youth work usually has the following characteristics

  • Value-driven: youth work tries to serve the higher purposes of inclusion and social cohesion
  • Youth-centric: youth work serves key needs and aspirations of youth, identified by young people themselves
  • Voluntary: youth work is not obligatory, and relies on the voluntary participation of young people
  • Developmental: youth work aims at the personal, social and ethical development of young people
  • Self-reflective and critical: youth work tries to make sure it is doing its best to live up to its mission
  • Relational: youth work seeks authentic communication with young people and to contribute to sustaining viable communities.
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