Quality Assurance for All?
Ensuring quality of youth work through intersectionality and human rights (Q&A)
“Improving quality, innovation and recognition of youth work” is one of the key areas of action to support empowerment of young people in the current European Union (EU) Youth Strategy 2019 – 2027 (Council of the EU, 2018).
In the last decade there has been considerable progress to develop quality assurance tools and competence frameworks for youth work (“Quality Assurance of Non-Formal Education a Framework for Youth Organisations” of the European Youth Forum; “Promoting Quality in Youth Work Practice in Europe” of the EU-Council of Europe Youth Partnership; and the “Youth Work Portfolio” of the Council of Europe).
Even if there are no official statistics about the number of youth workers across the EU, about 800 of them think that “developing quality youth work” is paramount, and are eager to know more about “toolkits, standards for youth work and guidelines to develop quality in youth work.” (DG EAC, 2021, p.ii).
If youth work aims to be truly inclusive and empowering, the quality assurance tools used should be developed and implemented based on an intersectional approach. We understand intersectionality as a perspective that helps us better grasp the complexity of power relations and young people’s lived experiences; as Rabe et al. (2021) suggest, intersectionality is “fundamentally relational” and allows us to understand “how systems of division based on race, citizenship status, class and so forth are interconnected and often reinforce one another.” (p.229).
Youth work has the potential to help us overcome asymmetrical power relations, but a change in the narrative is needed to move beyond the “singular binary of oppression” (Sallah et al., 2018, p.140) to a perspective that acknowledges the multiple facets of injustice that young people experience in their everyday lives. Hence, we need quality assurance tools that are designed, implemented, and evaluated from an intersectional perspective.
Nonetheless, there is little availability of adequate quality assurance tools that focus on intersectionality in youth work.
Besides some resources that provide checklists and proposals, there aren’t comprehensive quality assurance models that include elements such as a monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEAL) framework to ensure intersectionality. Moreover, these tools often are developed from a deficit-based perspective – e.g. for “excluded” or “marginalised” youth -, which perpetuates discriminatory labels and assumptions about young people based on class, gender, ethnicity, age, sex, etc. (St Croix, 2018).
We see these gaps as an opportunity to develop a quality assurance model (including a MEAL framework) from an intersectional, participatory, and democratic perspective (so as to “Engage” and “Connect” young people, as highlighted in the EU Youth Strategy), hence supporting youth empowerment through the improvement of the quality of youth work.
This project aims at ensuring the high quality of activities in the youth sector by using an intersectional perspective and upholding common EU values such as human dignity, inclusion, solidarity, and equality, in non-formal education and youth work.
For the purpose of this project, we focus on non-formal education activities in the youth sector that have intersectionality, human rights, and common EU values as key components of their content and/or pedagogical methods.
Hence, the project objectives are:
To explore the key features of existing frameworks currently used to ensure the quality of non-formal learning activities within the field of youth work.
Through active participation in developmental processes, to cultivate competences among young people, trainers, and youth workers, to design and implement a quality assurance model tailored to non-formal education activities that promote an intersectional approach, human rights, and common EU values.
Fostering the promotion of an intersectional approach, human rights, and common EU values within the framework of quality assurance for youth work