Europe and overcoming social exclusion of marginalised youth

It should be clear that the issue of social exclusion of marginalised youngsters is one that should be tackled on a wide range of different levels. Various member states of the EU find themselves at various stages of having implemented measures to both prevent as to aleviate social exclusion of youngsters.

Three objectives seem to recur however in the approach of the different member states as reported by national experts and synthesized clearly by Frazer and Marlier (2007):

  1. To ensure that children grow up in families with sufficient resources to meet their essential needs.
  2. To make sure that children, while growing up, have access to the services and opportunities that will enhance their present and future well-being and enable them to reach their full potential, and to make sure that children in vulnerable situations are protected.
  3. To promote the participation of children in society and in particular in social, recreational, sporting and cultural life.

Knowing how Europe and national governments aim to tackle social exclusion is one thing. Connecting it to the activities of youth work organisations is another. To make the picture complete, we mapped out the different activities of the 4 organisations working with us in the INCLUSO project and used our freshly gained insight into the theory and policies behind social inclusion to create a map or 'Big Picture' as we came to call it.

The Big Picture has helped us with connecting theory to practice and acted as one of the tools we used when sitting down with the organisations to discuss what the organisation's current activities were all about and how and were we would employ social media to support the organisation's activities. For the organisations working with us, the Big Picture helped them to visualise the scope of their own activities. Each of the organisations we worked with had different points they would focus more on than others. Subsequently we asked each of the organisations to map out in in more detail those points they were active on (The image below does not show this deeper level).

The resulting tree-structure going from overarching goal (Fostering social inclusion) to specific activities within the organisations proved to be a valuable tool for us to identify those activities that could benefit from being supported by social media. Later on in the project, as our partner organisations had started with running their pilot projects, the model was used to evaluate the different activities of these organisations and their use of social media. (E.g. "What do we think of the use of blogs in this particular activity as a tool to promote active citizenship?")

Whether the Big Picture works for your own organisation or not, drawing out a similar model yourself, could be a good first step for your organisation to map your different activities as part of a whole and use it as a tool for discussing on where social media could be used within your organisation.

More about our Big Picture
When connecting the 3 objectives mentioned above with our own we see find that the first objective falls beyond the scope of our pilot organisations. The youth work organisations involved in the INCLUSO project were not involved in providing material benefits to families. Hence the basis of our model was formed by objectives 2 and 3, which we labeled ‘Encouraging and supporting personal development’ and ‘Encouraging and supporting social participation’. The first starts from the notion that the individual itself must be armed with the right skills and state of mind to become an equal part of society. The latter places the individual within the society and stimulates interactions with peers. Going beyond the overarching goals, we go deeper into both of them and define ways through which the overarching goals can be met.

Facilitate Digital Inclusion entails making sure the youngster at risk of social exclusion is able to bridge the first, second and third digital divides, gaining proper and regular access to the internet, gaining the skills to make use of the internet and lastly being guided and stimulated to use the internet in such a way that it can benefit the youngster.

Improve Educational Attainment comprises assisting youngsters in such a way that it benefits their school work.

Increase Employability Skills entails actions that are focused on preparing the youngsters for an efficient transition into professional life.

Improve Communication Skills are those actions aimed at increasing the youngsters’ communication skills necessary to interact on an equal basis with peers, agencies and service providers and the wider community.

Foster Social Relations are those actions aimed at creating new and strengthening existing social ties between the youngsters and their peers, family and support staff working with them.Increase

Community Participation focuses on encouraging participation in community groups, clubs and cultural events, but also bringing together people from different social backgrounds. All of this focused on allowing the youngsters to transcend their current situation and gain the benefits from interacting with people that can offer different points of view, new information, insights and opportunities.

Promote Active Citizenship lastly, are those actions at encouraging a better understanding of the self and society and encouraging participation in local governance.
The members of the INCLUSO consortium jointly used this model to define specific actions to be taken in each pilot. Starting from the same model allows us to make better comparisons between each pilot and their subsequent evaluation, all while leaving the pilot organisations sufficient freedom in adapting this model to the specific ways in which they approach promoting social inclusion of marginalised youngsters.

The model has allowed us to test different kinds of social software against different actions towards aleviating social exclusion of marginalised youth and proved flexible enough to support the explorative nature of the INCLUSO project.

References for further reading

  • H. Frazer and E. Marlier, Tackling child poverty and promoting the social inclusion of children in the EU, Social Inclusion Policy and Practice, CEPS/INSTEAD, 2007. (PDF)