Unit 1.1 Introduction to Youth Work and Disadvantaged Youth

Unit Introduction

This unit will offer you the content, activities and resources on youth work and disadvantaged youth.

Unit Objectives:

  1. To support participants to make informed on youth work.
  2. To help participants in understanding needs of disadvantaged youth

Unit Content:

The learning activities in this module is aimed at youth workers to support them build an understanding of youth work, and activities that are framed in order to support young people in understanding how to understand the needs of disadvantaged groups.

Learning Activities:

● 2 Content sessions with suggested videos,
● 1 Checklist,
● 2 Exercises Identify (Youth Worker Journey M1. U1.1 Ex1)

What's youth work?

Youth work is commonly understood as a tool for personal development, social integration and active citizenship of young people. Youth work is a ‘keyword’ for all kinds of activities with, for and by young people of a social, cultural, educational or political nature. It belongs to the domain of ‘out-of-school’ educational settings, most commonly referred to as either non-formal or informal learning. The main objective of youth work is to offer young people opportunities to shape their own futures.

This definition of youth work can be found in the Youth Portfolio Youth Work Essentials, and it effectively emphasizes the diversity of youth work. Youth work can find its place in a broad range from youth work programs in youth clubs to project-based youth work. From street-based to school-based youth work. From outreach youth work to local youth offices.
For better emphasis on the range of themes that are covered by youth work practice, have a look at the actions of youth work.

  • It enables young people to do the things they want to do together or individually.
  • It offers opportunities to young people to gain self-determination and to enjoy their leisure times.
  • It supports young people to take initiative for the thing they think to be changed in their society.
  • It provides learning opportunities that can enhance their competencies and skills through these opportunities.
Youth work practice can be detailed through these characteristics:
  • It’s based on social inclusion and integration, and it concerns social development, social assistance and personal empowerment.
  • It tries to focus on real-life concern, needs and aspirations of youth, identified by young people themselves.
  • It offers a concept that contains a critical approach and effective communication with the youngsters within professional boundaries.
  • It pays attention to solidarity between young people and local people, and it is aware of intercultural issues.
  • It tries to understand barriers standing in front of young people’s participation and inclusion.
  • It has an understanding of community, related partners, stakeholders that are active in the youth work.
  • It is implemented with an intentional and voluntary approach including values and principles on human rights, being respectful to others, gender equality, intergenerational and intercultural dialogue.
  • It is close to real-life concerns of young people, and it offers experimental opportunities that are based on learning by doing for young people.
  • It can diverse because of the national policy context of youth work.
  • It highlights the importance of practices that are based on teamwork, well-clarified roles and responsibilities.

These are the characteristics that we recommend you provide for young people getting involved in your youth work provision as a youth worker or any staff working with young people.

Activity time-Checklist:

There is checklist to download below. Please provide reflective comments on your work practice with youngsters, considering the characteristics that are given above. That will give you a chance if you follow the characteristics that are essential for effective youth work practices.

Moreover, youth work practices can be based on diverse practices worldwide. Below you will find a short film feat-uring interviews with youth workers to show that what makes youth work so unique and how it can be implemen-ted in different settings. We highly recommend you check the video and get inspired by it.
Video (5 minutes) in English

Exercise 1


Titel Identify Youth Worker Journey M1. U1.1 Ex 1
Objective To enable the participants to focus on and reflect daily youth work activities through snapshots of youth workers’ path
Module, Unit Module 1; Unit 1.1
Description/ Instruction

Given the diversity of youth work, motivation and pathways of someone becoming and remaining a youth worker vary significantly. As there are many
different pathways of becoming a youth worker, and also there are many
different ways in which youth work can be applied in youth work practice.
Below there are snapshots of youth workers’ path which visualize the
interviews done with 15 youth workers during the first European Training
Strategy conference in March 2018.
Snapshots of Youth Workers' Paths (Reading 10 minutes) It is in English.
After reading snapshots, think on the questions below and write your answers
(15 minutes)
● How was your journey till becoming a youth worker, or what is your plan to reach the way to be a youth worker?
● What are your suggestions on being a successful youth worker to your peers?
● What the meaning of being a youth worker for you?
When you identify your journey (10 minutes)
1. If you already have experience in working with young people, you can identify the sector within which your work might be placed.
2. If you don’t currently work with young people, consider roles that you have had in the past or places that you went to and services that you used as a young person.
3. If you work with young people or would like to, think about where you might be happy where you are or you might aspire to a different role.

Reflect your thoughts in the Forum section.

Time needed 35 Minutes


Disadvantaged Young People

‘Disadvantage refers not just to economic factors, such as income poverty, or lack of experience in and poor understanding of the formal job market, but also social factors such as gender, racial, ethnic or migrant background, and geographical isolation with poor access to quality education and job opportunities.’ (ILO 2011)

Here are some of the challenges disadvantaged young people could face:

Bad housing conditions: over-crowded areas, vandalism…

Challenging social network: ‘wrong friends’, over-crowdedness, intolerance between different cultural groups…

Lack of leisure time opportunities: limited access to youth activities, no/bad/expensive sports infrastructure, reluctance of youth workers to work in difficult areas…

Poor economic situation: divorced families, unemployment, job opportunities, illegal income, low standard of living, low income, dependent on social welfare, long-term unemployed, homeless, in debt, etc.

Feeling of insecurity: higher crime rate, anti-social behaviors,

Drug and alcohol abuse: to be part of the group, survival mechanisms,

Social obstacles: discrimination, limited social skills, anti-social behavior, (ex) – offenders, young single parents, broken homes, etc.

Disability: mental, physical, sensory or other.

Educational challenges: learning difficulties, early school leavers, school dropouts, no qualifications, different cultural/linguistic background, etc.

Cultural differences: young immigrants, refugees, national or ethnic minorities, linguistic adaptation and cultural inclusion problems, etc.

Health problems: chronic health problems, severe illnesses, psychiatric conditions, mental health problems, etc.

Geographical obstacles: remote, rural or hilly areas, small islands or peripheral regions, urban problem zones, less serviced areas, etc.

Especially, young people living in rural and geographically isolated areas often don’t find an opportunity to reach all the information that is available in the city centres. Moreover, distances and lack of public transport can make it more difficult to set up international projects. In this case, youth work and youth workers are scarce, so no initiative is taken.
Youth work is also a way to recognize that young people are motivated to contribute to the improvement of their own situations and those of their communities and to provide the means, support, opportunity. It is also about influencing society, politics and power relations, especially if those position young people at a disadvantage, marginalize them or exclude them.
Below, you will find a video on reaching young people to bring youth work with to young people, especially the ones who are discriminated by society.
Video (6:51 minutes) in English

First, you may already recognize that what we mention about ‘working with disadvantaged young people’ takes place in a wide range of different settings. It might alarm you to go through possible opportunities that you have not previously come up with. Moreover, you can also be confusing as you may start to get to know what these different ‘settings’ have in common and whether any general conclusions can be highlighted. This might be due to different expectations of disadvantaged young people within society or changing understandings of their needs and concerns. Working with disadvantaged young people can be seen at different times as a way of managing their behavior, ensuring a safe environment within which they can prepare for their role in the local society.

Secondly, there are differences in the work between different localities, for example, differences between urban and rural work. In particular, you may recognize differences of approach between different countries. Inno4Impact Comperative Research can be a good tool that has been developed by the Inno4Impact project consortium to notice the differences of approaches in youth field in different countries.

Exercise 2


Titel Searching Settings for disadvantaged young people M1 U1.1 Ex2
Objective To enable the participants to use the internet to find out what kinds of settings
are available for disadvantaged young people in your local authority area.
Module, Unit Module 1; Unit 1.1
Description/ Instruction The aim of this activity is for you to use the internet to find out what kinds of settings are available for young people in your local authority area. First of all, find the website for the local authority that provides services for young people in your area, you can usually find the website quite simply by typing the name of the authority and see what links it comes up with. Click on any link that looks interesting or useful and see what information you can find about the kinds of settings that are promoted on this site and then repeat the exercise with a neighbouring local authority so that you can compare and contrast the settings within the two areas.
Additional information for trainers If you do not find very much information from your own local authority website,
it might be useful to compare it with that of a neighboring authority, or some
other authority known to you.
Time needed 30 Minutes