Summary of Outcomes

From March 10th – 14th of 2014 in Ireland took place a partnership-building activity (Youth in Action, 3.1 – PBA) with the aim to set up an European network of youth work trainers. 24 trainers from 21 countries, as well as 2 external experts took part in it.

The approach was mainly an open process with everybody being invited to participate or lead on equal level. This process was supported by open team meetings, an external observer and a digital reporter.

The main outcomes of the meeting and the processes around it are:

  • An open Facebook group has been set up, counting currently 381 members (03.06.2014,
  • On that Facebook group, a survey has been conducted concerning topics such as what defines a European youth work trainer, or what would be the needs of such a network or practice community of youth work trainers. 50 trainers have taken part in the survey so far, an analysis and summary of the results and tendencies so far has been produced. Find the summary as well as all results here:
  • Draft suggestions for the definition of mission and vision, aims, stakeholders, needs, culture, structure and resources of such a network / practice community have been made. Just as a teaser, here is the draft suggestion for the definition of the network / practice community.
  • A supportive community of trainers in the youth work sector, whose members contribute to each other’s professional development. The members fulfil the quality standards set by the network and are committed to deliver high-quality training activities. The network has a positive impact on Youth policy and non-formal education in Europe by communicating trainers’ recommendations to decision makers and advocating on behalf of its members.
  • A collection of all these outcomes, as well as a list of participants and a selection of photos of the PBA can be found here:
  • A blog has been called to life, documenting what happened during the PBA in Ireland. Find it here:
  • A list of suggested next steps has been made, and a good dozen of trainers have volunteered to follow-up on these steps and support the ongoing process. The process is by the way absolutely open to everybody! One milestone of the follow-up has already been reached: a follow-up meeting to take place in Hungary in fall 2014 has already been applied for under the ERASMUS+: YiA funding scheme. Once approved, an open call for participants will be spread as widely as possible.
In discussion

Creating the vision and forming next steps

The final day of the International Youth Work Trainers group meeting saw the morning taken up with planting the seed for the network and thinking about who ‘we’ as a group are with some fantastic results. During the afternoon the group continued with their parallel sessions to begin shaping the collective vision and culture for the network.

A collective vision for support and quality

One of the parallel groups after much discussion came up with a short summary to summarise their shared vision for the network…

A supportive community of trainers in [the] youth work [sector] whose members contribute to each others’ professional development. The members fulfil the quality standards set by the network and are committed to deliver high quality training activities. The network has a positive impact on youth policy in Europe and non-formal education by communicating trainers’ recommendations to decision makers and advocating on behalf of it’s members.

The group felt that more discussion was needed about whether the network was purely looking to influence youth policy in Europe, or whether it was also a place for providing collective input into youth policy at a national and global level as well.

Organisational culture

Organisational culture

Culture for growth and diversity

The group working on organisational culture envisaged membership through an open door but based on criteria to give structure but give opportunities for new trainers to gain entry, with the chance to the culture to grow and develop organically. They considered the ideas for decision making and establishing strong communications channels, though were clear on the need for further discussion on this topic to ensure an inclusive and diverse network.

Where to from here?

Nearing the end of the week on Thursday afternoon the group came together for one of the final sessions to start forming their next steps for the network. It was agreed that a small co-ordination group for the next development phase made up of Zora, Marcus, Koen, Onni, Mieke and Pavle would be responsible for pushing the network forward and submitting a bid to the April deadline of Erasmus+, with a view to another development meeting around October 2014. They would also have support from a second group who would act as a sounding board and give additional input around funding opportunities and the like.

An emotional journey

This week has been a challenging process for the participants and a great deal of learning for all to ensure that while building the foundations for a strong and resilient network, we consider the emotions of the people in the room who are putting themselves into the process with heart and soul.

Looking to the future

Looking to the future

In conclusion

Over the course of this week I have been very privileged to be invited along on the journey with the international youth work trainers group as they begin to form the network. What they are trying to achieve is an ambitious task but one that could reap great rewards, promoting high quality youth work training while also providing a communal space for shared learning and development on an international stage.

This week has been a challenging process for the participants and there has been a great deal of learning for all. While moving forward with building the foundations for a strong and resilient network, there was a recognition that considering the emotions of the people in the room who are putting themselves into the process with heart and soul is key.

As always the group are keen to keep involving the wider community and would love to hear your thoughts and reflections from across the week – and your ideas going forward. All the thoughts and ideas coming out of this first week are a starting point for a broader conversation that will continue to develop the network and nothing is yet set in stone.

More details about the next meeting of the group and ways you can get involved will be posted on this blog in the future, along with additional resources and video extracts from this first development week.

Packing the suitcase

Planting the seed for the network

This morning the group has been hard at work packing their suitcase with the questions and discussion points that still need addressing through this afternoons planned parallel sessions. The participants worked as individuals and chose the topics for discussion that were important to them, then coming back together as a group to identify any commonality and group topics together. Some of the topics identified included structure, vision, mission, who ‘we’ are, next steps and growth for the network – plus much more besides.

Who are 'we'?

Who are ‘we’?

Revisiting who ‘we’ are

The group wanted to investigate defining who ‘we’ as a community actually is during the morning – to kick off the process each individual spent time thinking about who they are one their owns, they then moved into pairs, then fours and finally two larger super organisms who distilled and refined their ideas into two statements that complement the one sentence to rule them all that was developed yesterday. The group were clear that further work on this would need to be done within the parallel sessions which are set to take place during the afternoon.

From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow

The final 20 minutes of the morning session saw an input from Mieke and Dagna who shared with us their seed analogy. They asked the group to think about the creation of the network in the same way as we would think about a seed – within it in the embryo (the idea and intention of creating this network), the flesh (the people involved) and the structure around it – from all of this the roots and stem can grow.

From tiny seeds

From tiny seeds

Over the past few days the process has been a challenging one and during that time some of the flesh of the group’s seed has been damaged and Mieke and Dagna stressed the importance of taking the time for individual reflection to help heal the flesh and protect the seed. This week, they shared with us, was the time for the seed to put down strong roots to ensure it doesn’t wither and fade – a time to begin growing the mighty trunk of the International Youth Work Trainers Network.

So what now?

During the rest of the day the group will be running parallel sessions of discussion to begin thinking about the range of topics packed away in the suitcase and of course I will be sharing the discussions here on the blog. Following on from this they will also be evaluating the week’s activity and planning the next steps – and where the network goes from here.

As always the group would love to hear from you on any of the topics that are being discussed so make sure that you join the conversation.

Open Space conversations

Open space dreaming

This afternoon the International Youth Work Trainers group has been spending some time in Open Space considering specific questions or topics for the establishment of the network. Following a hour considering the topics the group came together to feedback their thoughts and views to the wider group and for a period of discussion. As with the rest of the discussions taking place this week the group are keen to hear feedback from the wider trainer community so have asked me to share their discussions here.

Open space discussions

Open space discussions

What are the needs – and if the network didn’t exist what would be missing?

The group looking at needs felt that the network would be an important space for peer mentoring and informal supervisions – and a space to let off steam. It should also offer a space for trainers to physically meet, to learn from each other and provide mutual support. It was also noted that the creation of quality standards should be a key part of the network, as should be the provision of a unified voice for lobbying and representation of the trainers community.

Structure – what should the network look like?

This group stated that the network should be open and transparent – but within the established membership. There was some discussion around what systems and platforms would be needed to virtually cooperate in between physical meetings – and whether that was a space that already exists or if something new entirely should be created.

What is the structure?

What is the structure?

There was a proposal that a dynamic governance structure could be used to coordinate the activities of the network with a core ‘circle’ for coordination with a number of thematic ‘circles’ beneath it to feed in views and opinions from the wider membership. Initially these ‘circles’ may include Identity, Cooperation & Exchange and Our Learning – but there is no limit to the number of ‘circles’ created – though it was important to guard against creating too much of a pyramid structure.

There was also a brief discussion about whether an international non-government organisation should be created or whether the network should operate informally and within existing structures.

Trainers guild - collaboration vs cooperation

Trainers guild – collaboration vs cooperation

A trainers guild – collaboration or competition?

The trainers guild group discussed quality standards and the reality that if as a network there isn’t the responsibility taken for creating these some external body will impose them on the community anyway – so it is important that the community takes the power by creating the standards themselves.

The group felt that a guild would be an empowering concept offering peer support (to prevent lonely trainer syndrome) and a structure to pass on information and messages to new trainers by way of knowledge transfer. They also stated that the guild could operate in two strands, one vocational and the other around advocacy and providing united voice.

Continual learning – blossoming professionally

The group felt that the network should be a space for trainers to blossom professionally and to create a space for those who feel able to pass on support to those newer to the community – and to be a place where individuals can share methodologies and give feedback.

Open space discussions

Open space discussions

There was also a discussion around the opportunities for small scale conferences and discussion clubs held at a local level with written overviews shared through the online community. In addition to this it was suggested that regular webinars could be held by community member experts on particular topics to further facilitate the exchange of knowledge within the network.

What resources can be contributed?

The group suggested that the network could potentially have a membership fee which community members would contribute – but on the understanding that in exchange they would receive benefits. They also felt that more experienced members of the community could provide guidance to new comers and may be willing to facilitate meetings and other events for free.

Internal communications systems were discussed as something which could be provided, while there was recognition that an additional burden should not be created by whatever communications platform is chosen for the network. Several members of the group also offer practical skills such as proof reading, translation and design work. There was also a discussion about the possibility for the network to generate it’s own income by creating resources which could then in turn by sold on.

One sentence to sum up to network

One sentence to sum up to network

And finally one sentence to sum up the network is…

International network of trainers for trainers working in non-formal education in the youth field, to ensure quality of delivery, support it’s members and advocacy of trainers’ interests.

This isn’t of course the definitive sentence and the group are keen to hear the views of the wider community on whether this is correct so reply below in the comments with your views.

Closing council

After the open space session the group came together for a council session to share thoughts and reflections from the heart to close the days work. The session was a powerful and emotional space for the group to consider the events of the day and to talk openly and frankly as a group and listen to the other participants. The space give a valuable insight into the group dynamics and an opportunity to come together and reflect collectively.

The conversation continues…

Tomorrow is the final day of the International Youth Trainers Network event taking place here in East Clare, Ireland – and the group still really want to hear the views of the wider trainer community to make sure you join the conversation and feed in your views either in the existing online trainers communities on Facebook or in the comments below.

A picture of the International Youth Work Trainers Network

This morning in Ireland the group have been coming together to begin dreaming about what the International Youth Work Trainers Network might look like following yesterday’s laboratory beginnings – it was an opportunity to think big and think creative. After a slightly slower start than planned (due in part to an untimely fire alarm) the group set out as individuals on drawing their comic interpretations of what the network might look like.

Gallery of comic creations

After the group had created their individual comics to represent their visions for what this network might look like, a gallery was laid out on the floor and participants sought to group together around common themes or ideas to develop a more shared concept. Spending about 45 minutes in groups of between 5 and 6 each thematic cluster created a larger comic representation of the network on flip chart before breaking for lunch.

A peoplebox – not a toolbox

While listening to one of the groups they discussed not needing another toolbox of resources and methodologies as there were already many of these out there. The idea of a ‘peoplebox’ where you can find an expert or trainer on any particular topic – so that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel – and that this network could be a space for that.

So what are the aspirations?

After lunch the group came back together to feedback on their vision and creations and a number common themes and aspirations emerged (some similar to those identified in day one) including…

  • Always being needs led
  • Strong values and trust, which are common to everyone
  • A space for personal development and continual learning, which welcomes beginners and has an open door
  • Open for the world and accessible for everyone
  • Representative to influence decision makers
  • Peer support structure or community – that is light and joyful to be a part of
  • Collective decision making process which everyone can engage in

This is by no means an exhaustive list as there were a huge amount of aspirations that came out of the session, and I’ll be making all of the notes from the day available to participants and the wider community to help inform development going forward.

And what exactly is this?

Also during the feedback a number of different words emerged to name the group including network, guild and union – and that naming is still up for discussion as part of the process.

So where to next?

This afternoon the group is going to continue to develop their vision for the network (or guild – or union) and thinking about the questions which need to be answered.

I’ll be blogging again this evening and sharing with you some videos of personal reflections from some of the participants to further help you be part of the process. As always the group are extremely keen to hear your views so that you can feed into the creation of this network.

Entering the Laboratory

This morning the International Youth Work Trainers group have been starting to develop aims for the week and begin to come up with questions which need to be posed, and consequently answered, not just by those here in Ireland but also the wider trainer community.

Participants at their appointments

Participants at their appointments

The group began taking part in an exercise where they had a number of ‘appointments’ with other participants to discuss a set of topics to start them on the journey of taking the development of the network forward. Within their appointments they considered things such as personal expectations, how each individual could contribute to the network and what unites them as a whole.

One comment that I heard during the appointments was that this week should be seen as a time to get into ‘the laboratory’ and use this time to discuss and to experiment with ideas and concepts – and the group would be love to hear from anyone not here with us about their thoughts to be fed into the lab.

What are we aiming for?

Following on from the ‘appointments’ the group split into smaller working parties to begin developing aims for the week to give a clear structure for how things move forward. In the discussions there were common themes of…

  • Transparency and openness
  • Being totally needs led
  • Shared or collective responsibility and identity
  • Providing coherence or being a route to respond to consultations (such as EU Training Strategy)
Aims for the week

Aims for the week

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of everything that was discussed, it should give you a flavour of the topics that the group came across, eventually leading them to these aims for the week…

  • To create an open networking / learning structure (with clear aims, shared responsibility and transparency).
  • Exploring opportunities for taking responsibility for trainers to create identity, voice, rights and supporting pathways.
  • To create a professional practice association of international youth work trainers.
  • To agree on next steps after the meeting.
  • To be ready to propose something to those who couldn’t join us here.
  • To find out the identity of myself a motivation to belong to the network.
  • To identify the specific purpose of the network and it’s tasks.
  • To explore how to ensure diversity within the network.

But who are ‘we’?

One thing that came out of this morning was a lack of clarity over exactly who ‘we’ are as a network of trainers. It was clear to the group in the room that it was also very important to consider those who can’t be with us during this week – and ensure that they are part of the ‘we’ that is being created. If you’d like to share your thoughts on who ‘we’ as a collective network are the group would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Questionnaire Results

The questionnaire created by Buzz has started gathering some data around who else is out there in the wider trainer community and has gathered some interesting results already – although the group are still keen to hear from as many more people as possible so click here to complete it.

You can view some of the early feedback from the questionnaire below…

Don’t forget that you can of course continue the conversation in the comments below and we’d encourage you to do so. There will be another blog this evening to update you further on the progress of the group here in Ireland.

What do you wonder?

This evening and tomorrow morning the participants of the International Youth Work Trainers are holding their first Open Team Meeting to begin planning tomorrow’s programme and what the group want to get out of the day.

Tomorrow morning they will be thinking about what questions they would like answered over the course of the week, considering the aims and objectives of the week. While it is important that the group here in Ireland are able to pose their questions – they also feel strongly that other members of the International Youth Work Trainers community have the opportunity to feed in their questions.

So reply to this post with the questions that you have that you would like to be fed into the process during this week and become part of the discussion.