Developing potentials - German youth welfare offices take a stand on international youth work
The Federal Association of the Youth Welfare Offices of the Länder (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Landesjugendämter) in Germany has clearly spoken out in favour of strengthening international youth work. In line with the Bonn Process, this strengthens the internationalisation of youth work from a German perspective.
The state youth welfare offices justify their paper with the increasing nationalism in Europe and the need to "bring social cohesion back into focus". The recommendation states that international youth work "enables intercultural learning and diversity awareness. It serves international understanding and makes a special contribution to securing peace. (...) International youth work has a positive effect on the development of young people and thus also on social development."
With the paper, the youth welfare offices of the Länder want "on the one hand to highlight the strengths of international youth work and on the other hand encourage the municipal youth welfare offices to further develop this field of youth work. In practice, municipal youth welfare offices should actively support international youth work together with non-governmental organisations.”
Lack of resources
It is not self-evident that the youth welfare offices of the Länder are committed to international youth work. After all, international exchange is not part of the "everyday business" of youth work in Germany. The paper therefore describes in detail which conditions are needed for international youth work for, by and with young people. The youth welfare offices of the Länder refer to new research in Germany, which shows that international youth work only works if there is a well-developed infrastructure. Because: "Where youth work is not adequately funded and staffed in its core tasks, international youth work will not be able to take place and be effective.”
Conditions for international youth work
Especially young people, who have not participated in international exchange measures so far, need reliable and knowledgeable professionals in their local environment/surroundings. Many young people need encouragement and more, correct, and adequate information. It is helpful to have ‘taster’ experiences and formats that meet their needs. Especially helpful are familiar people, who have their own international experience, who can dispel concerns and advocate for the meaningfulness of international youth exchange. In this way, the fears and needs of young people, who have never been abroad and who believe or experienced that international offers were not meant for them, can be addressed. Such entry points into international experiences can be offered by local youth work activities. More young people could be reached and encouraged to participate, because research has also shown that many more young people are interested in participating than previously assumed.
For these efforts, local youth work needs support, reliable structures and finances. It also requires the training of youth work professionals, one of the core tasks of the youth welfare offices of the Länder in Germany. It is also important to make youth work ‘European’; this requires meetings of professionals and "especially in the European context, the dialogue of those involved - that means also with politics - at all levels: Municipality, state, federal level and EU level as well as the supporting organisations and the young people themselves - across national borders. This is an important step towards strengthening democracy, international understanding, and European integration. The youth welfare offices of the Länder and the youth welfare offices at the local level are important stakeholders in European and international youth work”, the paper notes.
The Federal Association of Youth Welfare Offices of the Länder has already taken steps for confirming a common ground for youth work with its papers "Municipalities as a place of youth policy - focusing on youth work", "Maintaining and strengthening the infrastructures of the municipalities, the Länder and the federal government!” and "Tasks and responsibilities of the youth welfare office in the field of youth work". The current paper contributes once more to the Bonn Process in Germany.
The research results can be found in English here: https://www.zugangsstudie.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Zugangsstudie_en_web.pdf
Further reading - in German only:
"Developing, strengthening and using the potential of international youth work": http://www.bagljae.de/assets/downloads/148_papier-internationale-jugendarbeit-129.-at.pdf
"Municipalities as a place of youth policy - focusing on youth work": http://www.bagljae.de/assets/downloads/5b362538/126_kommune-als-ort-der-jugendpolitik.pdf
"Maintaining and strengthening the infrastructures of the municipalities, the Länder and the federal government!”: http://www.bagljae.de/assets/downloads/5b362538/appell-der-bag-landesjugendaemter.docx.pdf
"Tasks and responsibilities of the youth welfare office in the field of youth work": http://www.bagljae.de/assets/downloads/141_aufgaben-und-verantwortung-des-jugendamtes-im-bereich-der-jugendarbeit.pdf