Scientific research project
The project “Europe for all” included an accompanying scientific research project that was carried out by the University of Applied Sciences of Cologne (TH Köln). The research was conducted by Stefanie Bonus who is working in the research unit Non-Formal Education, led by Prof. Dr. Andreas Thimmel. The study examines the barriers to access to voluntary activities in the European Solidarity Corps for young people and organisations that have not yet had access to the programme. The study assumes that access and barriers do not exist naturally, but are produced by speaking and acting with other people and organizations. Or to put it differently: barriers are not simply there, they are made by concrete people and institutions. Therefore they can also be changed. That's why the study asked: What are the barriers to access for new organisations and young people? How can these barriers be changed? In the following the results of the research are summarised. A more detailed report can be found in our publication.
Networks of local and international services and actors
The project “Europe for all” has shown that establishing networks and cooperation among local and international partners can open doors to reach young people for international youth mobility programs who formerly did not have access. At local level, access to different target groups already exists, which shows how access can also be created at European level. Opportunities for participation and voluntary activities in local communities form a core link for young persons’ access to the international voluntary service format such as European Voluntary Service/European Solidarity Corps.
Adequate funding for structural participation
Young people are highly motivated in taking part in an international voluntary service but organisations suffer from insufficient financing and structural support, which is often required to realise increased access to programmes. Therefore the issue of access to the programme for young people should be approached as a social-structural problem rather than an individual one. Research has shown that adequate funding for these formats including a flexible management of financial resources is necessary to be able to react to changing needs and changes in participants.
(De)Construction of “young people with fewer opportunities”
The strategic highlighting of the target group young persons with fewer opportunities is an attempt to create opportunities for young people who have not yet had access to the European Solidarity Corps. In order to draw attention to social disadvantage and exclusion, a temporary categorization of a group seems necessary. However, this affirmative action strategy can only be understood as a temporally measure. The categorization must be questioned again and again and should not play a role in practical work.
Civil Society Involvement
The Strategic Partnership Europe for All has shown that volunteers, professionals, and organisations are interested in becoming involved and participating in the European Solidarity Corps. There is no lack of motivation and commitment. This commitment and the concept of non-formal education should be taken more seriously. Organisations and volunteers are not only the target audience and users of this programme, but primarily civil society actors and they are doing European Solidarity Corps. We have observed strict programme requirements for organisations and young people, as well as how the programme’s high-threshold to entry limits access and opportunity for all actors. This calls for strengthening the actors’ perspectives. If processing strategies no longer focus on the individuals but on the structural barriers, civil society actors must be given the opportunity to shape the European Solidarity Corps to a greater extent than before. This also means more direct involvement of young people and their organizations. In this way, new formats can be developed and tested that take into account the interests of young people and local structures. The possibility of short-term and group voluntary services is already pointing in the right direction.
Transparency, active support and lobby
There are differences among various national agencies concerning processing applications and agencies in some countries do not always provide active support. Thus, actions of the national agencies prevent, perhaps even limit, some inclusion strategies followed by the organisations. The organisations expect more transparency and better communication.
The project has shown that different formats, such as short-term volunteer services in tandems or the group volunteering projects, were more accessible for the young people and very motivating to take part in other voluntary service formats. The protected environment and the shorter period of time have the advantage that separation from family and friends is shorter, fears can be discussed and reflected in the team/group and the shorter period can be brought in line with school or professional obligations.
The involvement of former participants in the acquisition of new participants has a long tradition in the field of international voluntary services - also in the EFD / ESC, where this is done by the Europeers. Our practical experience shows, however, that young people with fewer opportunities are rarely represented in networks of former volunteers. Within the framework of Europe for All, we made very good experiences with the involvement of young people at the international team meetings. Some young people took part in all international team meetings as so-called youth advisors in order to share their perspectives.