Belgium is a one of the oldest members of the EU and has well-established youth policy. The country is a federal state, which has 3 administrative units, characterized by ethnic origin. Each of the 3 administrative units has their own youth policies. Belgium has a common Parliament, but the education, youth, social affairs, and other ministries, are governed separately by the 3 administrative areas. For this example we chose to analyse Flemish youth policy and Cross-sectorial cooperation there.
In order to make youth policy fit to a Cross-sectorial framework, Flemings have established the Ministry of Youth. The Ministry is in charge of youth policy coordination that is based on youth strategy plan preparation and implementation. This plan is implemented by the Ministry of Youth in cooperation with the Flemish government. From 2011 the 3rd Youth plan came into power.
Another measure used by the Minister of Youth is an annual report to Parliament, which provides an explanation of youth plan implementation. This gives higher political weight to youth policy. In 2012 a strategic youth policy document “Youth 2020” was prepared and its implementation started. The document outlines all the Belgian youth policy priorities and development directions for the next 8 years.
The Flemish public sector understands Cross-sectorial cooperation as interaction between different ministries dealing with youth issues according to the basis of the youth plan.
This cooperation is especially used in areas where the Ministry acting on its own, is not able to solve a specific issue. The legislation covers different Cross-sectorial cooperation means. This guide provides several examples that could be applied in your country.
Since 1993, the Flanders state enacted legislation which established the principle that municipalities have to create and implement a local youth policy plan. According to this plan the state provides the budget for local youth policy. Since the legislation was enacted it was reviewed and improved several times. Currently the legislation requires that the youth plan should focus on two areas 1) how the Flemish state supports the organizations working with youth; 2) how the cross-sectorial work with organizations is conducted and compliance with other municipal, provincial and national priorities. Thus youth policy funding by the Flemish government depends on this plan.
Besides attention to problems faced by youth, young people are ensured by other means such as JOKER, a compulsory analysis of the impact of the legislation on children and young people. In order to adopt a law affecting children or youth, a mandatory assessment of the impact to these target groups would be conducted. This mechanism has existed for a long time, however only in the last decade it has started addressing youth issues. This gives a good insight into various aspects of public administration from the perspective of young people.
Public policy areas, which are governed by different administrative units of Belgium, are formulated and implemented by separate ministries. Each ministry has a designated youth policy representative or coordinator. The youth policy coordinator has to collect and share information about the work and actions of the ministry related to youth. This person ensures information collection and it also makes it clear which organizations need to be contacted if they have specific youth-related questions. The coordinators from different ministries meet every few weeks and coordinate their actions. These coordinators are mid-level managers. The Ministry of Youth is responsible for the work coordination of these specialists as well as preparation of their meeting agenda.
In order to monitor youth policy, the Flemish use a Youth Policy progress report (JOP). There is a youth research platform, where monitoring is conducted on a regular basis. The platform involves 3 Belgian Universities and 3 research groups which analyse the youth policy from three different perspectives; for example, sociological, criminological and social work. A regular assessment of the young people’s situation is conducted. In 2011, a report on the youth situation in Brussels was issued. The report claimed that the youth situation in Brussels differs significantly from the rest of Belgium. There were 3 youth situation analyses conducted; this research is conducted every 5 years. Research reports are publicly available. The periodic monitoring helps to reveal trends and developments and identify changes.
The Flemish youth plan implementation is based on cooperation between 2 or 3 ministries and their set objectives. By 2013 the Flemish had prepared two plans – youth policy and youth work. Their means are efficient, yet the Minister of Youth has no influence on other ministries and cannot enforce them to fulfil the defined obligations.
When the Flemish were preparing a youth policy programme they referred to European youth policy strategic documents and priorities, yet tailored it to the specifics of the local context. The main challenge for the Flemish is to balance the time cycles since the strategic documents at municipal level are prepared for 3 years, while youth documents are for 5 years. Additionally, the EU youth strategy is prepared for a period of 9 years.
One of the ways to mainstream youth issues and a youth-friendly approach is to use quality standards. This is based on the assumption that institutions are willing to do (something) good for young people but they may not always know what exactly is needed.
Youth policy covers and overlaps with numerous public policy areas and the term itself is rather vague. So providing a standard, or list of areas and actions related to young people makes the lives of politicians and public servants a little easier. It provides a “menu” of things to be done. On the other hand, it also shows that youth policy is much more than youth centre, playground or culture activities with and for young people. It is also participation in policy-making, transport, the infrastructure available for young people, and the cooperation of various institutions that aim to create better conditions or support for young people. based on our experience, civil servants are used to working with the documents, standards, and annual plans, so they appreciate short and clear documents.
In this publication we would like to share two such standards that have been developed by the Institute for Policy Research and Analysis and their international partners during Erasmus+ programme funded activities.
The first example – Quality standard of Local Youth Policy – lists the areas important for young people. Its has been so far translated into Lithuanian, Latvian, Portuguese, Armenian, Georgian, Romanian, Ukrainian, and has been used for advocacy actions and campaigns.
The second example – Quality standard of cross-sectorial cooperation in the youth field at local level – is created as a checklist, as a tool to evaluate different aspects of cooperation. We talk a lot in Europe about cross-sectorial cooperation but it is still not clear what it is and how to do it. So this checklist is also educational and raises awareness about different aspects of cooperation.
The whole document and assessment tool can be found at
European Youth Forum distinguishes 3 indicators for cross- sectorial cooperation and provides list of criteria for each to be assessed.
Youth Friendly Municipality Certificate (programme and certificate) – a recognition award presented to self-governing local communities that have been successfully implementing measures under vertical and horizontal priorities of youth policy, namely:
The basis of the programme: The social situation of young people in Slovenia has deteriorated over the last few years. The unemployment rate among young people has been increasing, frequently there appear unsteady and less quality forms of employment, and consequently, there is a growth in the financial dependence of young people on their parents, the feeling of uncertainty and the time frame in shaping their own families and moving out of their home. Therefore, the young do not become independent for (too) long (a) time, decide later and less often on the formation of their own families and for taking on responsibility in life in general. Factors such as education, work, housing, the young being informed and their participation in various institutions affect the young people aiming at autonomy. Ensuring the youth-friendly environment is a necessary step in improving their position in the society and, consequently, in ensuring sustainable social development. The programme Youth-friendly community was developed by the Institute of Youth Policy and the Youth Council of Ajdovščina (MSA) with a sole purpose to upgrade and to obtain sustainability of the all-Slovenian project of establishment and development of local youth policies. The programme covers more regular annual activities, amongst which the most important are to award the #youthfriendly communities to a certification and to implement the system support for the development of local youth policies in all Slovenian communities.
Youth Council of Ajdovščina developed, and in the first half of 2012, conducted the first certification of local communities in Slovenia, which by being active and by implementation of public policies, are establishing and maintaining a youth-friendly environment where young citizens have the possibility of achieving full autonomy and active participation in all spheres of public life. The certifying of youth-friendly communities includes: ― the development and implementation of certifying the local communities in Slovenia, which establish and maintain a youth-friendly environment in which young citizens have the possibility of achieving full autonomy and active participation in all spheres of public life; ― establishing systematic guidance, encouragement and evaluation of the development of quality local youth policy in Slovenian municipalities using the long-lasting regime of continued certification of youth-friendly communities; ― the facilitation of transition of young people from childhood to adulthood, improving the quality of life in local communities and enabling better involvement of young people in decision-making processes at local levels. The target groups of the programme are local communities (administrative and political representatives), youth organizations, the young, media and the interested public.
The programme Youth-friendly community provides ongoing professional support – education, information and counselling aimed at local communities, young people and youth organizations. The programme has in the past few years experienced exceptionally positive reactions among these target groups and has shown a strong potential in strengthening the systematic engaging with youth on a local level. In this particular project, the local communities and the representatives of the national authorities as well as the media have recognized the original and effective dealing with problems youth faces in Slovenia, which have a negative impact on the development of society. This is the first such certification in Europe, which gives the added value to the project and is increasing its visibility.
“Our Proposal to the Municipality” Web Portal (www.predlagam-obcini.si) – 212 of Slovenian municipalities and towns on one portal.
The My Proposal to the Municipality Portal (sl. predlagam obcini) is a tool giving young people the opportunity to be directly involved in the decision-making processes and to participate in the development of their local communities. The portal provides an opportunity for young people to participate in the management of public affairs online. The Municipality gains greater youth participation in the management of public affairs in the domain of the municipality.
Numerous Cross-sectorial working groups are present in Norway and their work is closely monitored in order to ensure that different ministries would be on the same page and would have a good understanding of the actual youth policy strategy. Otherwise there is a risk that Cross-sectorial cooperation will only focus on narrow issues rather than broad Cross-sectorial cooperation issues.
It is important to have a platform when youth policy is being formed, where government, youth specialists, youth researchers and youth workers could meet. This platform is present in Norway. The youth researchers are willing to facilitate Cross-sectorial cooperation as their work is to delve into the issues and not to limit themselves to the public sector. They also have an alternative to the platform – annual Cross-sectorial conferences on youth policy and youth issues.
An effective example of Cross-sectorial cooperation in youth policy in Norway is the annual publication, which provides information on how much and in which way different ministries invest in youth. The publication also covers cooperation. This publication ensures that state funding is following the required procedures and priorities. Furthermore, the other benefit of this publication is that youth can obtain relevant information about different programmes and financing possibilities that exist in Norway. This process has been applied for the past 16 years and it serves well to keep the youth issues on the ministries’ agendas. The publication also reviews the relation between the national and local youth policies. We would suggest that this method could be identified as one of the best means of Cross-sectorial co-operation across Europe.
In 2011 the Prime Minister of Norway proposed a new project. Now in the state budget, on a separate annex, there is government report data that indicates how much the state, in different public management areas (social, youth, education, national defence, and so on), intends to allocate funds for youth and children.
The ministries can contribute to a better understanding of the youth policy situation, planning the means and actions, emphasize tendencies and increasing the political weight of the youth policy issues, by financing youth policy implementation, allocating resources and facilitating information sharing.
SLT are preventative measures against drugs and crime at the local level. SLT ensure that municipal and police resources are well coordinated with each other. The SLT model is delivered by the crime prevention council in order to assist Norwegian municipalities with youth problems and effectively use its capabilities and resources. The SLT model was introduced in the early 1990s by KRÅD (the Crime Prevention Council); it was based on the Danish SSP model. In 1995 the SLT model was scientifically evaluated for the first time and also thoroughly tested across 200 Norwegian municipalities.
The SLT model ensures cooperation between police and local government in an area of drug and crime prevention. SLT mainly focuses on children, youth and their parents or caregivers. The goal of the programme is to provide the required help at the right time to children and youth of the municipality. The SLT is based on a support system that works well between institutions. Numerous private and public institutions contribute to the programme. The model allows the coordination of expertise and resources between the police and the relevant municipal institutions, private sector and NGOs. In order to effectively tackle the problem, one thing is crucial: each group in the partnership must have a common understanding about the problems and potential solutions.
The institutions meet on a regular basis and share their information, experiences, and best practices and learn about different methods and work cultures. It becomes easier to purposefully and effectively implement prevention. Cooperation helps to identify negative signals and take action at an early stage, thereby avoiding work duplication and overlap of risk.
One of the STL application examples is SAMBUS (Samarbeid om Barn og Unge i Skedesmo) project – cooperation for the benefit of children and youth in Lillestrom, Skedsmo Municipality. The objective of the project is to ensure that children and youth (up to 18 years old), that require help, would receive it through coordinated, interdisciplinary cooperation. The project worked with crime prevention in the community in order to ensure constructive and effective cooperation between preventative services and municipal institutions.
Health and social services sector has granted the key role to the Department of Family and Children. Education sector: key role to 20 nurseries, 16 schools and the Department of Music and Culture. Culture sector: key role to Department of Youth and Leisure.
Like authentic Participation (see Grace and Grace, 2017), real Cross-Sectorial Working has to be founded in partnership; in an authentic relationship, that is honest, based upon respect, and committed to collaborative achievement. This is not always an easy path, complicated by a range of discrete, but sometimes interlocking, factors: inter-agency rivalries; differing objectives; competition for resources; fear or suspicion; inequalities of power; political access and influence; varied histories; often challenging statuses; and perceived or real aspirations. This list is not exhaustive but rather indicative of the complexity of working with others.
In our complex societies, there are myriad examples of cross-sectorial working at the macro and micro levels, and everywhere else in between. The example offered here is NGO Youth Work Europe.
Aside from operating at a pan-European level, Youth Work Europe works in local settings in its home city of Birmingham, and surrounding municipalities. Youth Work Europe is currently working in a partnership involving a University, a charitable trust, and a non-departmental public body as co-funder, to develop and deliver a detached (street-based) youth work project in local neighbourhoods. Led by professionally qualified youth workers, the project works alongside youth work students from the University to develop their practice skills. This cross-sectorial approach means that the youth work students are able to develop essential practice skills; the university is enabled to broaden their impact via informal youth-led community research; and the charity knows that the funding provided is used on real community involvement, with the potential to change people’s lives.
All of this work is done in partnership with local young people, ‘alongside’ them rather than ‘on’ them. The project is developing an authentic relationship based on dialogue without any ulterior agenda; this is genuine, open youth work, offered without prejudice, through negotiated access to young people’s space, and exploring their place. Concepts of place and space are linked with opportunities for youth voice; for young people to engage with, if they choose, those who make decisions about their lives. The work is not easy and developing trust takes time; not dissimilar to cross-sectorial working.
Whilst the detached/street-based youth work is happening, the youth workers are separately developing contacts with local agencies: the Police service; faith groups; schools and nurseries; local government services such as the library and welfare advisers; local politicians; the park ranger service; local businesses and shopkeepers; senior officers in the local municipality; and other NGOs operating locally. The youth workers are promoting the idea of the need for a Community Conversation – of bringing the various groups together, young and old, professional and volunteer, to share, discuss, and plan, how they want their neighbourhood to grow and develop as a shared space for all. This is a sophisticated piece of youth and community development work that is taking shape; there are no guarantees but the outcomes will be community-owned. In the UK, professional youth and community workers are educated and trained for just such endeavours; with respect for community values, and a humility of purpose, it is intended that boundaries will be eradicated and new forms of cooperative working developed.
All Youth Work Europe’s projects are informed by three keywords: Association, Conversation, and Education (ACE).