Youth Work in Finland well represented in a famous handbook

Finnish Youth Work and studies of it are well represented in the SAGE Handbook of Youth Work Practice. The handbook, published in July 2018, contains two chapters dealing with Finland in the part entitled Current Challenges, Future Possibilities. The book is edited by academics researching youth work in different universities in England, Australia and United States: Pam Alldred, Fin Cullen, Kathy Edwards & Dana Fusco.

The chapter by Tomi Kiilakoski, Viljami Kinnunen and Ronnie Djupsund has its basis in a project where the aim was to make the local processes of youth work visible at a conceptual level by aligning them to the Curriculum of Youth Work framework, and in doing so, further develop this framework. As with the five-year development process, this chapter was also realised in co-operation with a youth researcher, youth administrator and youth workers. The chapter questions what kind of youth work is needed to deliver the Youth Work Curriculum? Valuable ideas emerged as to the kind of youth work that supports, as far as possible, the individual development of young people but also her/his positioning relating to others, society and the environment. At the local level the consequence of this new understanding will result in changes in how teams are built and what kind of administrative touch is needed and offered, and what kind of evaluation is seen as relevant.

In their chapter, Anu Gretschel and Susan Cooper represent methods developed for evaluating youth work from England (Transformative Evaluation) and Finland (Deliberative Discussion Day). These methods evidence the impact, need responsiveness, and functional efficiency of youth work, but also increase accessibility as they use methods such as storytelling and group discussions. The aim of these methods is to produce a knowledge base for planning and decision-making related to youth work services. The voice is given to all: young people, youth workers, decision-makers and funders. Throughout the chapter, the understanding of what accountability is turns around: When evaluation takes account of multiple voices, decision-makers are able to make more informed choices; they can draw on a wide range of evidence as to why young people and society need youth work.

What is common to the chapters of Kiilakoski, Kinnunen & Djupsund and Gretschel & Cooper is the use of participatory methods and the action research mindset in developing youth work practices. These developments have their roots in local level practice but have been expanded through the application of theoretical ideas. There has also been similar processes repeated in different parts of Finland and Europe. The differences between these two chapters is that the first is devoted to development of professionalism in a profession targeted to young people (youth work as a profession) and the second involves young people in the position of power and gives them the opportunity for deliberative discussion with decision-makers and youth workers (youth participation). Youth work is at its strongest when both ways are used for the development of practice and the profession.

Chapter 43. Tomi Kiilakoski, Viljami Kinnunen and Ronnie Djupsund: Towards a Shared Vision of Youth Work: Developing a Worker-Based Youth Work Curriculum.

Chapter 44. Susan Cooper and Anu Gretschel: Evaluating Youth Work in its Contexts.

Contact information

Anu Gretschel

Senior researcher, Ph.D.

Finnish Youth Research Network

tel. +358 (0)40 516 9189

Tomi Kiilakoski

Senior researcher, Adjunct Professor

Finnish Youth Research Network

tel. + 358 (0)40 504 6432


Susan Cooper

Associate Professor

University of St. Mark & St. John, Plymouth, UK

tel. +44 7900 623333


The publication: The SAGE Handbook of Youth Work Practice

 Pam Alldred, Fin Cullen - St Mary's University Twickenham, Kathy Edwards & Dana Fusco (eds.)

Sage Publications Ltd, 2018

 Information flyer attached.