How to involve young people?

One of the very valid question that youth workers asks themselves quite a lot is how to involve young people into our activities. We do observe our local community, then we identify the challenges and we propose the activities to tackle those challenges. But what happens when young people are not interested in the activities that we propose? How we can improve our reality when no one else is interesting in joining us?

This question appeared again in the last seminar I did on the role of youth work in tackling the challenges raising from the refugee crisis in Europe. And yes we know that we need to work a lot towards developing the attitudes if inclusion and acceptance, developing the willingness among youth to cherish the diversity. And again we have the tools to do it, but young people have a tendency not to participate. In the end youth workers are loosing motivation and hope.

I don´t have a solution, but few years I go I did some experiment that might help us look at this problem from the different perspective.

I was asked to run the workshop during the CHARMing conference on mainstreaming the Human Rights Education within the youth organizations– so literally how to make youth organization interested in Human Rights and becoming more active and doing more activities. I remember I was struggling a lot what to do, since we have been already sharing our practices, complaining that they don´t work and understanding that if you will say to youth we will do Human Right Education those whom we want to address will not come. And then I realized that we are in the conference dedicated to this issue, with over 60 participants, so why not checking how they got involved.

So I did the experiment, I cannot call it research since it was not properly implemented, but I was inspired by the research tool called phenomenology, that is qualitative research, where you do in-depth interviews and you don´t need a big sample of people, nor big variety. You try to build some conclusions based on the peoples´ experiences.

Firstly we did the interviews with the participants from the workshop. The task was to find out factors that motivated participants to get engaged into the Human Right Education. Each person was sharing their personal story and the list of factors has been identified.

After listening to all participants we have ended up with 3 factors how they got involved into the field of Human Rights. The first one is a strong personal interest – that can be caused by personal experiences, or simply high motivation as it is. The second one is an obligation – and we have observed that it happened quite often, it can be an obligatory course at the university, or workshops at school, or our work and our organizations. Finally the third factor is coincident – like many people mentioned they had their first experience during the international mobility or local project and simply they got interested.

That leads me to the reflection that although most of our tools are not directly influencing the engagement of young people, and sometimes we cannot observe the expected results that are proportional to the efforts that we put, we should continue creating programs, and dissemination efforts to create the possibility of ¨coincidence¨, as well as work in the institutions like schools that young people will come anyway, since is part of their educational curriculum.

I guess I will continue writing on this topic:) And what was your story of getting involved in the youth work? What triggered you? Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones:)

Some of the examples of factors supporting the engagement in the topic of Human Rights mentioned by the participants of the conference:

  • Bad personal experiences
  • Participation in the international mobility that has opened eyes
  • First contact with Human Rights – workshops at school that we had to attend
  • Personal/family history – like for example the family experience with holocaust
  • Obligation – as part of the work duty (being a teacher and the need to support underage pupils to attend conference on human rights)
  • Personal experience by working with refugees increased motivation.
  • Work that person is doing increased the motivation and engagement in the topic
  • Coincidence – for example participation in the international mobility that happened to be dealing with human rights, or not having much to do during the winter break what caused the enrollment into the training
  • Strong personal motivation – like a decision to study human rights at the university
  • The possibility that occurred – being invited to participate in the Project
  • Being motivated by friend – the suggestion what to do, offer to participate in the project
  • Having the disability caused the additional motivation to work on the topic

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