Although the Youth Worker figure cannot yet be identified at the European level under a single definition, it’s a constant element among the Member States of the Union regarding work done with and for young people. Particularly, the value and importance of YW is affirmed in the European “Council conclusions on the contribution of quality youth work to the development, well-being and social inclusion of young people”(2013/C 168/03) also based on the “Resolution of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of November 2010”, on youth work, through which it calls for a better understanding of the role of youth work and the figure of the Youth Worker, especially as regards the promotion, support and development of this activity at various levels.
Through these documents, it is possible to recognize the versatility of the YW, who becomes at the European level a promoter of activities of a social, cultural, educational or political nature, carried out by young people, with young people and for young people. Increasingly, these activities also include sports and services for young people, through national and international projects aimed at the inclusion of disadvantaged groups.
At European level again, the figure of the YW assumed a strategic importance already in the “European Youth Strategy (2010 – 2018)“, to be taken up even more extensively in the one currently in force until 2027. Before the Covid-19 crisis, the importance of Youth Worker and Youth Work was assuming a relative centrality in the European Political Agenda thanks to the different aims of inclusion and prevention of social exclusion, shown through all the activities that have marked national and European social planning in the last three decades.
In the process of defining the profile of the European Youth Worker, the “Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Youth Work” have a really great importance: in fact, through this recommendation actually the YW becomes an important component of the contemporary social innovation process and this especially at local level since it is able to offer and maintain a concrete space of contact, exchange, sharing between young people, as well as between different generations. In this sense, considerable positive effects are demonstrated in terms of development of skills and strengthening of networks and social capital on the different territories of the European Union, also in a social cohesion viewpoint, as revealed by numerous studies commissioned by European institutions in order to highlight aspects related to inclusion and to redefine socio-educational activities on the basis of the real needs of young people, linked to unemployment, migration flows and economic difficulties. Based on the data collected in these studies, good Youth Work practices appear to be those that enable young people to develop their human capital, strengthen their social capital, and support efforts to positively change any risky behaviors.
Finally, at European level, the recognition of Youth Work is a widely discussed issue that finds a key milestone on December 1, 2020, when in the “Official Journal of the European Union” n. 2020/C 415/01 reference is made to the “Bonn process” which clearly lists the multiple challenges existing in Europe that hinder a full recognition of Youth Work and invites the European organisations involved to propose strategies and measures in response to the growing challenges that have emerged; the Bonn process takes shape specifically through the implementation of the European Agenda for Youth Work, which provides a strategic framework to develop and strengthen the recognition of Youth Work and the quality of the work done, based on common European strategies and guidelines.
We can confirm that the role of Youth Work and Youth Workers is increasing to face all the new challenges at EU level, and promote the innovation in the non-formal sector will be one of the one step of this new generation of YW.