#SeparatedbutUnited - hope of a better future
As the world starts to look towards the social and economic recovery following the global coronavirus pandemic, the lives, rights and wellbeing of a whole generation of young people depends on what comes next. This series of short blog posts on how we build a better future are all written by the Board Members of the European Youth Forum.
Is Digital Youth Work the Way Forward?
Written by Andrea Casamenti
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, youth organisations across Europe have had to put activities on hold and postpone or cancel projects and events. Nonetheless, even in such difficult circumstances, many of them have demonstrated extraordinary resilience and adaptability, working hard to transform face-to-face activities into online ones, all the while ensuring that the educational component of their work does not get “lost in translation”.
Regardless of whether you call it digital, online or smart youth work, the practice of using digital media in youth work has now become the norm. But digital youth work existed long before 2020. Virtual-only youth clubs, webinars led by youth workers and gaming activities are just some examples. The difference is that, today, in several European countries and for the few months, digital youth work has been the only form of youth work that public health regulations have allowed.
What will be the long-term impact of this pandemic on youth work? Should digital youth work replace all other forms of youth work? Is digital youth work the only way forward, as some seem to suggest? No, I do not believe so. While digital youth work has vast capacity and potential, it also presents major limitations. In the first place, because the core of youth work is the encounter with other young people and youth workers. Making new friends during an outdoors activity, exchanging points of view during a discussion, laughing together over a missed goal at table football, learning from other members of a team.
Unfortunately, not every youth organisation in Europe has been so lucky to be able to turn to digital youth work. Today, several organisations are fighting for existence and are being forced to consider shutting down due to lack of funding. Due to Covid-19, youth organisations will have to overcome additional barriers to be able to do their daily work, provide quality youth work opportunities and foster meaningful youth participation. Therefore, exit strategies will have to prioritise essential youth services to reopen to avoid further negative impact on civic space, already at risk with economic downturn.
Andrea is the Board member of the European Youth Forum responsible for funding for youth organisations, youth work, non-formal education, volunteering and capacity-building for members. Andrea has a background in youth work and has taken on different roles in the youth work sector, including as a beneficiary, as a volunteer youth worker and as an advocate at European level. From Italy, he has been active in civil society organisations for over a decade and has a Masters’ degree in European Studies.