2020 has been a year nobody will ever forget. For the best or the worst.
The fields of youth & education have not been spared; may they be the formal or non-formal sectors. Whatever challenges we have faced and will keep on facing in 2021, responses brought to these may have been quite different in our field. Questions have arisen in the youth field on various aspects of the faces of what youth work is and what youth workers are supposed to do to support “no matter what” young people in time when human (face-to-face) interactions are not (in most cases) possible. We all have been asked to be adaptable, flexible, creative and everything else to find solutions in overcoming those challenges, to support our beneficiaries as best as we could. It has affected our ways of working and, we can all agree on that, there will be a before and an after.
Based on these observations, as a SALTO Resource Centre working in the field of youth, trying to accompany and support the development of competencies of youth workers, we too feel the need to “refresh” and “reflect” (“refreflect?” ) on what we do, why we do it and how we do it.
The Tools for Learning Strategy we have set up for more than 15 years now, with the support and impulse of a group of different actors in the field of youth, will see an evolution to respond better to constant challenges faced by youth workers, to be more in tune with the necessary evolutions of the youth work field and to support innovation and different learning approaches.
The “first” version of this strategy was based on 3 main pillars: the International Tool Fair, the ToolBox in English (https://www.salto-youth.net/tools/toolbox/) and a working group composed of experts on tools for learning and educational practices as well as representatives of National Agencies having organised an “International Tool Fair”. Thanks to these first components, the strategy has continued to evolve in order to support the development of youth work by strengthening the skills of youth workers.
The “second” version of the strategy brought another valuable element: the multilingual dimension. This aspect was integrated into the strategy on tools for learning and educational practices to reach youth actors no longer only at the international level but at the national, regional and even local ones. This was done possible, on the one hand, through the creation and implementation of National Tool Fairs and, on the other hand, through the development of a Multilingual Educational Portal (ETP: Educational Tools Portal, where you possibly find yourselves now reading this article ). The switch to multilingualism expressed the wish and need to work as closely as possible to all actors in the fields of education and training in general and to widen the circle of beneficiaries without them being excluded for linguistic issues. Bringing this dimension was definitely one of the turning point of the Tools for Learning Strategy with now the ETP being available in 10 languages (Arabic, Armenian, Croatian, English, French, Hungarian, Hebrew, Italian, Polish and Turkish).
The “third” version of this strategy will be possible through the setting up of a Tool Fair Club, which will gather different profiles of contributors (representatives of National Agencies/SALTO Resource Centres, youth trainers, youth experts, academics). They will reflect on all the current components of the Tools for Learning Strategy to accompany its evolution (or revolution?) in the framework of the new EU programming 2021-2027 for the Youth programs. Evaluation, need analysis for the future of youth work, recommendations will be at the core of the objectives of this new “body”.
Over those past 15 years, many resources have been collected, shared by you and others or developed directly by the SALTO EuroMed Resource Centre, in order to share reflection and knowledge on the subject in the field of non-formal education in particular.
More than 2800 tools for learning are now freely available on both the SALTO Educational Tools Portal and the Toolbox. Articles, publications, and educational videos (TF Talks: inputs from experts during the “Tool Fairs” events, https://educationaltoolsportal.eu/TFtalks) are also freely accessible on the ETP. Thousands of youth actors have come together during the different Tool Fair events that have been taken place since 2006 (15th edition of the International Tool Fair in 2021) to share, develop, experience, criticise, challenge, confront their ways of working to increase the quality of youth work.
All the work done can only live up if YOU, as practitioners, bring your values and contributions to all these components. Nothing can be possible without your involvement, passion and dedication to the youth work field. We know that the pandemic has affected many of you, making you reflect a lot on your daily work, on what you missed, what you had that you could try and adapt, on how important it was to stay “connected” together (although everyone experienced at some point an allergy to virtual meetings ^^), on how creative we can all be when are facing such moments.
More vividly, it had cast a light on how the youth work community is essential and has a role to play in accompanying the evolution of the youth field. Nothing for you without you!