About time... for a new youth policy manual

In this episode, we are discussing the new reference manual for youth policy, published by the youth partnership. What can you find in the manual? Who is it for? What is the state of youth policy in Europe? - these are some questions our guests provided answers to.

Welcome to UNDER 30, the podcast series by the youth partnership that brings the research results,
explores trends in young people's lives and themes so relevant for youth policy and practice.

About time- this is the title of a new reference manual for youth
policy from a European perspective, published by the youth partnership.

The manual is a reference tool for initiating youth policy and learning about the
diversity of national and international governance and about the infrastructure
available for youth policy, it's implementation, review and evaluation.

Thematically, it focuses very specifically on those areas of youth policy that have been
formulated and developed through European consensus building, such as participation, information,
volunteering, social inclusion, access to rights, youth work, mobility and digitalization.

In this episode, we are talking with the authors of the manual, Howard Williamson, Zara Lavchyan
and Max Fras about who the manual is for, how it was developed at what and what can be found there.

We are also trying to reflect on the state of youth policy nowadays.

My name is Dariusz Grzemny I'm co-hosting this episode with Tanya Basarab.

Enjoy listening!

Dariusz: Today, we are talking about the new manual on youth policy - About Time!

- this is the title of the manual.

There are already a lot of resources on youth policy that have been developed and published by the youth partnership.

And you actually make references to all those manuals and also other resources because they are not only manuals.

There's also a MOOC on youth policy.

So, how actually the idea of this manual came about and what extra things does it bring
to already existing resources on youth policy that were published by the youth partnership?

Tanya, if you can tell us a little bit about the history of this manual.

Tanya: So, as you know, there is one youth policy manual "How to develop a youth strategy?"

that was written and published in 2009 by Finn Denstad.

And that was a very important resource for many countries in Europe who were starting to
develop policy in the field of youth and who needed very practical guidance, how to organize
it, who to involve, how to do consultations with young people at what stages, and so on.

But of course, since then we have been gathering a lot of knowledge, really a lot of knowledge.

The European Knowledge Center for Youth Policy, we've been trying to create country pages and
update them and say there what exists in different countries and how it's structured, and so on.

And we also have been doing projects on youth policy evaluation, trying to learn
how these things happen, on implementation, different stages of implementation.

And it was time to bring all that knowledge together, but it is also a time to discuss the
complexities of policy making also in the field of youth because it is not an A to B line.

It is often starting, stopping and so on, as the manual describes.

So, we wanted to bring all that knowledge and to create, as you can see in the title, it's a reference manual.

It is not a manual that says, this is what you have to do.

It's not giving you step-by-step.

But it is an important resource collecting all this knowledge, collecting examples
from different countries, presenting the main European international support systems
and all the standards that have been developed in European youth policy context.

So it was time.

It is about time, but it is also about the timing of policy making in different contexts.

Dariusz: You basically said a lot of things answering actually the second question.

You said that there is a lot of examples.

There's a lot of references there are also ,questions how youth policy processes are developed and implemented.

What else can we find in the manual?

And it's a reference manual.

So who is it for?

Howard: I think I'd like to just step back a moment, please, Darek.

I think we have to remember the first youth policy manual was a rather, it was drawn from one particular place and
one particular place that had a very impressive, almost perfect storm of youth policy or youth strategy development.

And it was very linear in its approach.

So, it served its purpose.

Finn Denstad who sadly is no longer with us, but a good friend of mine.

But I had many arguments with him about the youth policy manual, because it
did not resonate with my quite diverse experience of youth policy development.

We had the Council of Europe, youth policy reviews that had also developed a sort of framework, and I
think, through discussions with Max and Zara and Tanya, we also realized that this framework needed to
focus very much on a kind of European level, where there is a reasonable consensus on some key themes.

And those are the eight key themes that we address in the book.

There's lots of other bits of youth policy, social security, criminal justice, employment to a significant extent and
other things, which is still very much, and formal education of course, still very much in the hands of member states.

But here we have had 10 years of evolution of understanding on these eight key themes.

And you might want to ask why we picked those eight themes and not others, but we did pick those themes.

And it's a framework to help people to understand.

I think when we're in this European bubble, we forget how many people out there who work in the
youth sector have very limited and often misguided understanding of the European level of activity.

Max: Yeah.

I think when we look at a particular place, and time when this manual's development started, I think it's
important to know that we're building on a lot of what's been done, but if you look at the, at least in the
last couple of decades, if I look at the parts of Europe that I work with, you know, in Central and Eastern
Europe and Southern Europe, it's been 30 years and I did in many places, you would consider this a generation.

So we are now a generation into development of youth policy, and we can take stock of many things that have been done.

But what I think the added value of this resource is that it looks at a youth policy
development as a non-linear process, and it highlights the fact that it's a cycle.

And in many countries enter the cycle, repeated cycles and
many policy developments mechanisms enter in different places.

Some of them go back, some of them, go forward.

And what I think this manual can offer, because it's also in the title, we tried to highlight
that we are looking at it from a European perspective, which is by no means an exclusive one.

We were not implying that it's the one to look up to, but we're saying that this is
a certain limitation of our work that we look at it from what's happening in Europe.

And I mean, obviously it's very difficult to draw conclusions into what happened across
Europe, because you would have all those differences from north to south and from east to west.

And let's hope we can take some time to take stock of that as well, because there
are some interesting processes at regional level and even at European level.

But what I think is obvious from a European vantage point that the wealth
of evidence and analysis you can use to develop youth policy is great.

And especially at the European level, the development of EU youth Wiki and the development of the European Knowledge
Center has done, it allows us for a much better understanding and comparison, and also then helping, countries at
national level and also youth organizations and structures at regional level to better inform their development.

Because a lot of the things that they aim to do have been done
or tried or experimented with in many places successfully.

So, I think this temporal divide and this European perspective are very important, added value points here to the
manual that we can look at it and say, okay, especially over the last 10 years, there's been a lot of aggregation.

We've been talking about evidence-based and monitoring and evaluation for quite a while.

A lot of good things have happened over the last 10 years.

We, a lot of them are now consolidated.

So either in the EU or the Council of Europe or the UN, we bring them together at the reference manual.

And going back to your question about who this is for.

I think it's for a range of audiences, but it's probably closer
to the policy maker and more informed reader, end of the spectrum.

So, you know, for a policy maker to pick this up and see what's been done here and there, and we
can, I mean, even though we probably in this room and in this group of authors and editors had a
good understanding of what's happening on youth policy, the fact that it has grown so much, it also
means that there are so many processes and outputs and publications that might escape our attention.

So I think the good thing that this manual does is obviously it's been piloted by the EU and Council of Europe jointly.

So we're looking at what both organizations have done separately, what
they've done jointly and collecting the experience of the authors.

We'll look at the academic output related to youth policy, but we also look at what's happening in the field
and in practice and the work experiences that all the authors and editors had in a range of European countries.

Zara: Now, when we talk about the target audience of this manual this was a discussion that
I think we had with many colleagues with experts, with different people around the manual.

And of course, this is fully for people who are interested in youth policy, but it can seem
that the manual is only for the policymakers, whereas in fact, it is not at all only for them.

It is for activists who would like to advocate for youth policy, it's for people
who are involved in participatory processes on national, international level.

It's for non-governmental organizations who would like to build a dialogue, and
be part of the policy, it's for people who are in general, interested in policies
affecting, supporting any group of people, and here specifically the young people.

So, I would say the target audience is wide, and the manual is constructed in a way that
it doesn't only give conceptual frameworks, which many people are looking for actually.

But also outlining specific examples from different countries,
which also could be useful, usable and applicable in many settings.

So, someone who is looking for examples, they will find example.

Someone who is looking for theoretical, conceptual frameworks, philosophy of youth policy, it's also there.

For people who are looking to understand how things work in terms of structures,
hierarchies, links, organization, et cetera, they will also find the way.

So, it's really a manual that can give various responses to different needs coming from different target audiences.

And I think one important thing, which we consciously had in mind, and I
think we really put into the manual, is the geographical coverage as well.

So we made sure that the examples were coming from various countries from east to west, from north
to south, coming from new member states of the Council of Europe, from Western Europe, from Balkans.

So, really also to show the diversity, which exists in Europe, where everyone can find their reality
as well, and then reflect on how to incorporate things whenever it is needed, then wherever is needed.

Dariusz: Thank you for mentioning these different elements that the manual consists of.

It also starts with discussing what youth policy is, and presenting different debates and
approaches and the topics it covers under part four, which is about instruments and practices.

We all know that there is a lot, about youth policy and you also highlighted in the manual
and also you said it here that a lot of things have changed in the past 10, 11, 12 years.

So, I'm really interested how you worked on this manual?

How was the process on deciding on what goes in?

What you leave out?

You said eight themes, not more themes.


If you can tell us a little bit about the process of developing such a manual,
taking into account that it has to cover so much on a limited number of pages as well.

Howard: I think Tanya probably is the best person because she guided us through this process.

But if I could just offer one view of that about how we did it.

I mean, I've been involved in youth policy in the UK and elsewhere for 35 years.

And the idea of youth policy was really not an idea at all until the early 1990s.

And then the Council of Europe established its policy reviews in 1997.

And really, we didn't know what we were doing.

Family policy, did that count, you know, what was in and what was out.

And so we slowly built a kind of long list that got longer and longer.

that was something that we thought could fit into something called youth policy.

And by the middle of 2010, around 2015, it was just an unmanageable
and unwieldy thing that was implementable at different levels.

and so the Council of Europe first had a kind of fairly high level
meeting where it tried to work out what were its competencies?

What were its skills?

What were its priorities?

And it came up with six of those things that of the eight that we
have, the two that were missing were digitalization and volunteering.

The other six are the six priorities for youth development policy within the Youth Department of the Council of Europe.

And of course, as Max has said, there's huge overlap with EU priorities, but not quite the same.

So some of those things are shared between the two institutions, some are more specific to each institution.

And when those six things were developed, there was less attention to digitalization and
volunteering within the Council of Europe, but particularly important within the European Commission.

And so we added those two things.

And so we had this kind of shopping list or checklist of eight themes, and that's what we felt
were important at a European level for practitioners, as well as policymakers to understand
that this is our frame of reference for the work we do in the youth sector at a European level.

That's more about content development in terms of the process of how we work together.

It was not always easy.

Max and me can testify to that, but Tanya can probably tell us more about that.

Tanya: I think that we didn't just invent the manual, the four of us.

Of course, we came together in late 2019, and we developed the concept and we thought what would be important
parts of a manual, for example, this is how we came up with the main structure to have a a little bit of
conceptual references to have a description of the landscape across Europe of different approaches and also to
present the main European and international structures that could be a reference for policymakers and then to

pull together all these resources that have been developed in cooperation in the Council of Europe and in the
European Union formats, to have a reference point for anyone in different countries, initiating or reviewing
or updating or wanting to connect better their policies to these European processes and to see which are
the standards, but also what are the support tools that have been developed to implement those standards?

And in April, 2020, this was probably the first meeting we had to cancel because of the lockdown measures.

But this is when we held a consultative meeting, an expert meeting where we had the main representatives of
European structures contributing, but also we had policymakers, researchers, youth organizations, and practitioners.

And that's where a lot of ideas were shared actually.

And then we had to make sense of those ideas and we had to find a way to integrate most
of them to respond to many of those experts, proposals, and to still keep it workable as
a manual and already some feedback we were getting was that it's going to be very dense.

It's going to be too complex.

So we are already in the partnership thinking about how to help
with the implementation, but maybe about that, we can talk later.

Dariusz: Thank you.

After studying all this and looking at all these documents and putting the things together, we can have
a little bit of reflection or your opinion about what's the state of youth policy nowadays in Europe.

Howard: Well, I guess I should start on that one simply because I'm probably one of the biggest critics
of the youth policy at a European level than Tanya and I have had many a conversation about this.

Because I've also worked at a high level in the UK, around youth policy development over many years.

And the big driver of youth policies is usually problems caused by young people.

The beauty of the European level is they don't have to worry too much about those things.

Certainly not in our sector, not in the youth sector.

We are much more focused on opportunities for young people and, you know,
using the old cliche, young people as a resource and not as a problem.

And that's what we're trying to focus on.

And I have always believed that at national levels, we've got to try to win the hearts
and minds of governments, that your best way of addressing some of the problems that they
see in young people is to extend opportunities to those who are least likely to get them.

So, you know, I'm a huge fan of this sort of European strategies within both the Commission and
the Council of Europe in terms of empowering and engaging and participating and all the things that
we've covered in this manual, but you know, let's not get too self-congratulatory that this has
filtered down and permeated international level youth policy, because a lot of national level youth
policy is still driven by short-term political wins in response to problems caused by young people.

And we have to try to establish platforms for discussion so that the kind of things we've written about in
this reference manual become more prominent and dominant within national levels of youth policy thinking.

There is a huge disconnect between the European level and the national level, whatever people might say.

But you know, the European Youth Work Agenda, the two strategies of the two institutions,
all of those are about trying to strengthen those bridges, strengthen those connections.

And we hope the reference manual will contribute to that process.

Max: You know, it's a very tricky question whenever you ask about the European
comparison or just about anything in saying on one word it's good and two words not good.

So it really depends on where you look and which aspect of youth policy we look like.

And I think what is really important to remember is that, you know, we focus here on youth policy and the
youth policy structures, but our book is not on youth per se, in many things have changed with regards
to the youth, especially over the last 10 years, you only look at the 10 years, we say that between the
previous manual and this manual here and what I think it's important to remember, Howard mentioned the
disconnect, there is also a disconnect between youth policy and what is the situation of young people.

And we have to remember that youth policy, as much as we believe in it, is a great instrument of change,
especially resource-wise it's usually a limited instrument to instill this large societal change.

There are some values and some ideas that we promote that I think are great.

And we can talk about those as well.

But when you look at the fact that many places in Southern Europe, there are good
things happening with policy and the good frameworks developed and the situation
of young people, especially with regards to unemployment, for example, is dire.

And we can't really address that through youth policy, at least not the way that we understand it here.

If you look at what's been happening in Eastern Europe again, and a lot of great policy frameworks developed
and in terms of those technocratic tools of developing policy, I think that things have gotten a lot better,
but if you look at the reality of young people, especially the realities of immigration and the realities of the
fact of many of those countries where there's just fewer and fewer young people and their lives are increasingly
hard rather than easier, then we have to see what is the connection there between what the people want and need.

And I think at the European level, there is another sort of disconnect between the public and
the private, maybe that, you know, young people are increasingly optimistic and most places
about their own lives, but not necessarily about the way that their countries are going.

So, you know, can those national frameworks and those policy governance frameworks address
issues that they want, or are there any other ways for them to fulfill their, their needs.

But when it comes to the contribution that youth policy has had, I think that a lot has changed in the
fact that within this sector, youth participation is now nearly universally recognized as a core value.

And the approach to youth participation is this as part of the wider kind of
set of values, rather than just something that youth policy screams about.

Zara: I think when we talk about the current situation of youth policy on European level, in any
level, I think it's important again to understand that the European institutions are really trying to be
responding both proactively and reactively to the youth challenges, to policy challenges, I would say.

There is a lot of programs.

There is a lot of priorities, objectives in the youth policy on European level youth
field which go to have deeper changes, to have deeper measures supporting young people
in Europe, but also they have been, I think, quite well responding to the new challenges.

So for example, now you have mental health related issues as one of the 11 priorities in the European Union goals.

In the Council of Europe, you have everything that is related to peace, working with refugees.

So things which are very current things, which are happening right now, right here with real
people today, and trying to have priorities, which are also supporting people in these situations.

So, I feel currently the policies on European level are really trying to both have this approach
and response to reoccurring issues, but also being open to tackle the new issues, which are there.

And here it is quite important that the dialogue on European level
between, with youth organizations, young people themselves is ongoing.

And this is I think quite an interesting new paradigm that we should be aware and also proud of.

Dariusz: You mentioned it several times in the manual that political championship is
crucial in the youth policy development and you said also Max, that this manual is
rather addressed to policymakers, to people who are responsible for these processes.

But the young people are in the center of it.

So how this manual can help young people to get involved, youth organizations which
are sometimes pushing for youth policy on national or they are crucial actors for
pushing for youth policy on national level, on the regional, on local level, especially.

Can it be helpful in any way?

Howard: I once gave a lecture to a big conference and I finished with the words that
politicians and funders must learn the art of patience, which was that about expecting things
to happen overnight and to be able to measure outcomes after a few weeks, or a few months.

Youth policy intervention and support takes time, but I would change that comment to young
people and youth workers and other people in the sector also have to learn the art of patience.

The things do not happen overnight.

The things do take time.

And as we have said in the youth policy clock, things stop and start, they stall, they move forward fast sometimes.

I wrote in the beginning of this manual that you know, where you have a prime minister and the finance
minister wanting to know what has happened since last week, you can move policy forward very fast.

Where politicians are not very interested, you can keep arguing very rational
positions forever, and really, it never gets to the top of the political priority list.

So, we need young people and adults in the youth sector to recognize that things will not happen overnight.

We're not the politicians.

And ultimately it does depend on political championship.

So, we have to go round the course again, and we have to find access points to those who might make the decisions.

We have to find allies and supporters of our agenda maybe beyond the youth sector.

Maybe, and it's very controversial in some countries, maybe the police or faith groups or other groups who may
support particular ideas that we have and enlist their support because the stronger we can develop a united position
on certain things, and this is the second half of the youth policy clock, the greater chance we have to develop
a sense of direction to make those things happen and be sure that politicians will stand behind those ideas.

Dariusz: So the manual is ready.

The manual is published.

We covered in this episode a lot of issues what's inside, who is it for, and so on.

The partnership has already organized the launching event of the manual.

And during the event it was mentioned that this is not the end of the process, so what's still there.

Tanya: So, of course we are trying to work in parallel in making the manual accessible in more languages, especially
in South-East Europe or translating it into Serbian in Eastern Europe, we are translating it into Russian.

But already in parallel this year we launched work on a new
T-Kit, training kit, which will be on participatory youth policymaking.

And that is something that will be an important support tool
for using and adapting and trying different parts of the manual.

And, we will be working not only on just simple dissemination, but trying to engage with different
parts of the youth sector to use the manual and different sections of it in an adapted manner.

So work is only starting, as you have said, we are also foreseeing to re-run the MOOC on youth
policy essentials, and that MOOC will integrate again, the new knowledge that we put into the manual.

So it's work in progress, let's say.

Dariusz: Thank you all for your contribution.

The manual of course can be downloaded from the EU-Council of Europe youth partnership website.

This is all for today, and we invite you to listen to the next episode very soon.


© 2020 EU-CoE youth partnership