Cohesion, commonality and creativity: youth work across borders

Annette Coburn, Sinead Gormally

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


On the 1st June 1973, the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) and 43 years later, on the 23rd June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European
Union (EU). Despite the benefits of an economic union that brings cohesion in terms of Human Rights and increased mobility across Europe, this Union does
not in itself define continental Europe. Nor does it clarify what it means to be European in the context of changing relationships across the EU and among
its closest neighbours.

While the UK situation offers a significant example of exceptional change, our analysis of the impact of Brexit in the youth work sector in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, suggested a need to look at possible alternative responses to the widespread pessimism in the current climate of uncertainty. This think-piece draws on findings from an empirical study on how young people learn about equality in youth work, and from another study conducted across six European countries (Ireland, England, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland) on relationships between youth workers and young people. It explores possibilities for youth workers to use a new, transnational approach in their engagement with young people. This is an approach designed to sustain cohesion, commonality and creativity – and to empower young people to help shape the kind of European society they want.

The first part of the article outlines the theoretical concepts that inform our analysis of the current cultural context for young people and youth work. The second discusses findings from two research studies that informed understanding of young people’s relations with youth workers – with particular reference to identity formation and transition. The third considers possibilities to create new transitions by means of progressive nonformal learning. The article concludes by outlining a purpose for youth work that is emancipatory: assisting young people to understand shifting landscapes in diverse cultural contexts, in order to shape the kind of Europe they want – complex, multi-cultural and everchanging; including, but not limited to, the European Union; above all, a place where they can take pride in their own identity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEurope in Transition
Subtitle of host publicationDiversity, Identity and Youth Work
EditorsSever Dzigurski
PublisherSALTO Cultural Diversity Resource Centre
Pages46 - 51
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2017

Publication series

NameEurope in Transition: Diversity, Identity and Youth Work


  • Brexit
  • community
  • youth work


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