Lorraine Gilligan, Head, Irish NA
Where is the network going in the next years? What is the current strategic thinking? What are the goals? How will future NA cooperation be shaped?
The NA network
The network is all of us. It is made up of everybody, in all their roles, from all the National Agencies that are implementing the Youth Programmes. It is me, it is you, it is all of us.
It is not an abstract thing. It is a practical part of every day work. It has a past, a history (see Hans-Georg’s input HERE). It is also about how we work together, and the ideas we build for the future. It is who we are and what we are, as a collective.
It’s something to take part in, to contribute to, to learn from, to benefit from. Mentoring and support networks are a part of what makes your work, in fact all of our work, more meaningful.
There are significant things that we have developed as a network. Without our collaborative ways of working, without the creativity and innovation that the strength of the network gives us, the evolution of the network and of our products would look very different.
Strategic framework for the NA network (workplan)
There is a framework that has been put together by different National Agencies during the Business meetings since 2020. The draft has been adjusted to incorporate different reflections and concerns. It’s a living strategy, to think where we want to take ourselves in the future. It has to be flexible, around changes and crises that influence our work (and our lives).
The framework collects the values, purpose and identity of the NA network.
A strategy works with the network’s capacity and experiences - but there is always space for innovation, creativity, challenges. We will find ways to work with new challenges as they come. We will work together to bring the European youth work sector to help with the challenges we are facing as European societies.
The strategy framework has strategic objectives. These have been divided and shared between the members of the Co-group, for them to develop into workplan actions, so that the strategy can become practice. A strategy should be a living engaging document that is constantly reflecting different conversations that happen at different stages.
We are very open for questions, feedback and reflections on the strategy framework. We are curious to know what you think: how can we work better as a network?
Values underpin what the network is and what it wants to become. IT helps drive us forward through challenging times, and through easy ones.
By having explicit and shared values, we can speak our message with one voice. We have a responsibility to safeguard the youth field through challenging times. In history, we have had to defend youth sector programmes. Being clear about our values, and expressing them clearly to others, will help us do this.
The European Programmes, with their clearly expressed values, are the common base between us all. Young people, youth work and youth policy are at the centre of what we do.
Shared values, ideas and sentiments are guiding lights for our network. They provide heartfelt purpose for all of us, from the Heads of NAs through to the officers through to the newcomer admin assistant. They inform the implementation of the network and programme, in our every day work. They inform practice, and should be communicated also to others as they implement projects and deliver their youth work practice too.
Values provide a common understanding to move together to deliver the programmes as best we can. It’s important that we acknolwedge these values, and try to link our work and activities back into the values framework as much as we can. Shared values help to knit our network together, guiding us as a bigger wider entity as we implement the Programmes.
We have a collective established purpose of our work. There are three main roles:
1) To implement the Youth Programme(s);
2) To contribute to youth work across Europe and on thenational level, including how Programmes support that;
3) To reinforce, support and develop youth policies at national and European level.
The strategic framework has these core objectives:
A focus on reconnection, strengthening the vision of the youth NA network during this cycle of programmes. The last couple of years have been very challenging. There is lots of work to do, and many challenges to address for NAs.
Supporting a specific youth identity. This is important to many. Some NAs are youth-specific and some are not. The youth elements of the Programmes are unique - they are implemented differently, and should be looked at differently. It is important to invest in, strengthen and build the identity of the two Youth Programmes specifically, as unique parts of bigger Programmes.
Community of practice. We are professionals working together for common goals, but doing very different things in diverse realities. There is a lot of practice that can be exchanged. Much of NA network’s good practice can inform strategy (such as the Youth Work Agenda) and we can work together to help achieve other objectives, as a collective.
We are used to identifying and dealing with challenges. However, we can’t see around corners. When new crises come our way, we have to be adaptable and respond to them. Here are some of the current challenges:
Renewal afer COVID: looking at what to re-build and what to adapt as we come back to a ‘new normal’.
Collaborative sharing of practices. Although it can be challenging to find a space in al lthe work, having a culture of practice sharing can support others in other NAs. THis is really important in our work and its good to recognise it.
Stability in the new programme cycle. While flexibility and adaptability are important to be able to respond to different siutuations, stability is also important to aim for and encourage. We mustn’t forget to balance both of these angles.
Communicate about the network. There are significant achievements throughout this network. We can do more to make this visible to others. We should get other stakeholders onside, so more people understand us better.
Crises - economic, refugee, pandemic, war. It’s encumbent on us to be able to look at those challenges and see what response is appropriate and possible,and to advocate for those responses within the structures of the programme. We must work with EC to develop good, strong and robust responses to the challenges. It’s a responsibility we have as a collective.
Strengths of the NA network
Community of the network. The network is all of us, together - it’s yours. It’s a unique space to collaborate on the sharing of pratice.
Creativity, imagination. We can solve problems, often with very little resource. Our flexibility and core values empower us to work together to do this.
SNACs. These are an incredible innovation that have huge power to bring change into NAs, into youth work, and into youth policy.
SALTOs. These were an innovation from the youth network, and we are lucky to have these as a resource available to all of us. The value of having them is recognised across different parts of educational sphere of programmes.
RAY. It’s significant that we collaborate together and are able to show evidence of our work and the acheivements of programmes, through a recognised academic research process. It is a strong tool that can demonstrate to policy makers and investors that the programmes achieve their objectives, and that they do that because of the ways we work as a network.
TCA / NET. Another strong tool we have. We use it well, through a systematic regularised approach of meetings, planning, coordinating and sharing - again, because our network is strong and can maintain that system.
KMST. Supporting us in our roles in implementing the Programmes, to do it better, do it bigger.
NAs in different countries are growing. They are becoming a more important player in youth work nationally - and how does that translate on the European level?
There is lots of funding to distribute on the European level that can have significant impact on youth work and youth policy. This is an important reposnsibility that we all take on.
Being part of community of practice can give motivation to continue our innovation and creativity. We can take inner strength from that opportunity to connect.
Having a shared purpose, a shared vision and values, is an every day way to demonstrate being part of the network. By doing that, we can contribute to the network, live it, and help make it grow from strength to strength.
Thank you for bringing the reality of the network to this room here in Istanbul. The LAB itself is an example of how the network works practically.