Five non-governmental organisations from Europe researched the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for young people and youth workers, within the AlwaysON for Youth Erasmus+ project. Between August 2021 and January 2022, 447 people from across Europe shared their opinions and insights in the research process: 121 respondents took part in interviews and 326 people answered the public survey. To this, a virtual laboratory was organised in late March, with the purpose of testing the draft research conclusions.
The final form of the report is now available online and it provides a series of inputs to understand the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the youth workers and young people, in relation to digital youth work. The key findings from the interviews, the public survey and the virtual laboratory are the following:
- More than 50% of the young people affirmed they have faced different challenges during the pandemic; around 40% of them said that they did not experience any challenge related to digital safety and wellbeing.
- Digital fatigue was the most observed negative trend during the pandemic. The participants of the public survey also rated the impact of the pandemic on their mental health as negative.
- The frequency associated with digital fatigue is worrisome, with 74.84% affirming that they have faced this situation sometimes or often. In addition to this, digital stress was experienced by 64.11% of the respondents.
- Digital youth work gained traction during the pandemic, and we can affirm that is here to stay; a new spectrum of activities opens and others, more traditional ones, are becoming obsolete since working digitally needs a lot of training that must/will be used from now on.
- While the formal education sector received government support to facilitate the transition to an online learning environment, the non-formal education sector (including youth work) has changed and adapted to the online environment but mainly due to the personal investment of youth workers.
- In terms of the challenges and opportunities identified to digital safety and wellbeing during the pandemic, the respondents mostly reflected the challenges in the answers. This might be explained because the pandemic triggered a sudden change for the professional and personal patterns, thus requiring more effort to adapt to the new situation.
- 1 in 5 respondents does not feel prepared to implement digital safety practices, thus making it a real need to invest in the related capacities of youth workers.
- Working on inclusion is time-consuming and it needs a lot of other resources (skills, funding, etc.). It is a challenge for many organisations to reach out to young people with different backgrounds because of the limited capacity they have in their organisation to invest in this work.
- The answers provided show that most of the respondents are not familiar with digital trends and new technologies such as inhumane technology, deep fakes, Internet of Behaviours, Internet of Things and hyperconnectivity. In the case of the metaverse, artificial Intelligence, facial recognition algorithms and working/interacting with robots, many respondents affirmed they are slightly familiar with these topics. The only two topics where 1 in 4 respondents evaluate themselves as highly familiar are artificial intelligence and facial recognition algorithms.
- 93.6% of the respondents to the public survey affirmed that it is very important to have well-equipped youth workers that can empower and support young people in the post-pandemic world.
The full report can be accessed here, and it contains a series of recommendations for non-governmental organisations and youth workers, tech companies and policy makers.
Young Men’s Christian Associations Romania Federation (YMCA Romania), the coordinator, together with Young Initiative Association – Romania (AYI), Sdrujenie “Nadejda-CRD” – Bulgaria (Nadejda), The Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service – France (CCIVS) and the Alliance Europeenne des YMCA – Belgium (YMCA Europe), as partners, are implementing the strategic youth partnership project #AlwaysON for Youth between April 2021 – April 2023. The project is co-financed by the European Union through the Erasmus+ Program.
YMCA Romania – www.ymca.ro
Founded in 1919 by Queen Maria of Romania, the Federation of Young Men`s Christian Associations (YMCA Romania) is part of the worldwide YMCA family that operates since 1844 in 122 countries, with the mission to empower young people in order to develop characters and strong communities, in the spirit of Christian values, creating contexts open to all. The vision of YMCA Romania is to build strong children, strong families, respectively, strong communities, in which everyone has equal opportunities to learn, grow and prosper. YMCA Romania programs are relevant to the communities it serves, offering real solutions and concrete answers to the problems that young people, families and communities currently face: education, social, healthy lifestyle, climate change, structured dialogue and public policies.
Asociatia Young Initiative – Romania
The Young Initiative Association (AYI) is a Romanian educational NGO that was founded in 2009 with the mission to empower people through education. AYI is doing that through 3 main pillars of action: Social Inclusion, Youth Empowerment and NGO Development. AYI aims at contributing to children’s and young people’s personal and professional development and to their education, so they can shape a life and career matched to their true potential. We believe in the power of education to change people and communities, to create opportunities and to support children and young people in reaching their true potential. A quality based education develops not only a free spirit, but also the spirit of initiative, critical thinking, curiosity and creates the premises of an independent life.
Sdrujenie “Nadejda-CRD” – Bulgaria – www.nadejda-crd.com
“Nadejda CRD” Sdrujenie is a non-governmental organisation from Sofia, Bulgaria working with children, youngsters and adults to promote cultural and educational values. Their aim is to encourage people to participate in clubs and activities, to develop their features, abilities and interests. Yearly the organisation works with more than 3,000 families as organises and supports club activities, concerts and performances, exhibitions, seminars and social clubs, and also takes part in national and European projects. As a cultural, educational and social organisation “Nadejda CRD” works also with youngsters with behavioral problems, people at the end of social exclusion and people with disabilities. The organisation believes that non-formal learning provides unique learning opportunities that bring big social change in the young European population.
The Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service – France (CCIVS) – www.ccivs.org
Founded in 1948, CCIVS is a coordinating body for international voluntary service (IVS) organisations it is made up of over 180 diverse independent grassroots organisations in 90+ countries around the world (including the international networks SCI, ICYE, IBO and Alliance of European Youth Organisations) coming together under a common banner and vision that of social change through IVS and the ultimate goal of world peace. These organisations mobilise 30,000 volunteers per year and work with 3,000 local communities. CCIVS acts as a link to establish relations between the members and international institutions such as the EU, different UN agencies or foundations, organizes interregional projects for IVS organizations, global meetings, participate in institutional forums at UN, INGOS, other public and private stakeholders in order to promote IVS, holding trainings for volunteers, leaders, trainers and for IVS organizations personal in order to develop its organizational capacity.
Alliance Europeenne des YMCA-Belgia (YMCA Europe)
YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen YMCA European movements where people grow in body, mind, and spirit, operating in Europe as an umbrella organisation serving 32 national members and 5 national associated movements. Through its members unites also over 3,200 local YMCA associations in this region of the world. YMCA Europe primarily organizes/coordinates activities and events at a European level. It organizes yearly several activities and exchanges of all types involving more than one million young people across Europe. The main beneficiaries of all actions are young people from different social, cultural and religious backgrounds. YMCA`s objective is to reach out and engage young people and their movements to become active and participate in society, connect them across Europe to learn from each other and empower them to fulfil their potential and influence decision making, as per the new EU Youth Strategy and Youth Goals.