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They know, that they know; Do not know, that they know; Know that they do not know; Do not know that they do not know?

28 Jun, 14:12

Or Why is it Important to Recognise Achievements and Competences of Young people in Youth Work?

Agnė Rapalaitė
Badgesmith @ Badgecraft

Diggin’ Deep

When we talk about Open Badges, we talk about the development and achievements of young people, youth workers and organisations. A person in an NGO is learning and developing, but how should one understand and track the progress or even show it to the others?

In recent years suggests an innovative tool to recognize learning achievements, digital Open Badges ( and adjusts it to the context of youth work. At first sight – this tool is flexible, attractive, digital, easy-to- use – just plug and play! Nevertheless, we noticed that the tool itself might not be the main challenge. It appears to be difficult for some NGO to understand WHY this tool should be important. And the answer is quite simple (though not always easy to implement) – just because recognition of youth’s learning and achievements is very important in their future careers and life. Eventually we understood that some of those organisations do not give enough attention for this area or does not have practical skills to implement it.

To Participate or Not Participate

Most probably every young person that has been a member of a local youth NGO, had a meaningful voluntary experience in homeland or abroad, implemented a local youth initiative or international project would say – Yes! It is useful, important, somehow different, exciting, etc. But if you ask – what did you learn, what skills you gained, what attitude you developed in yourself, it becomes a struggle to name it and even more – to prove that to the others.

In other words, a young man John is a member of an NGO ‘Active Youth’. By participating in various activities John joined a movie making team in his community, participated in international youth exchange about ecology, attended national and international seminars and trainings for youth leaders.

In few years, when John might try to enter a university or find a job in a company, the previous experience for him is like hitting a jackpot. Well, the actual credit will matter if John will be able to name not only what he has done but also what he has learnt or can do (management skills, ability to use IT (computer, projector, video camera, micro), tolerance to people from other cultures and ability to perform in multicultural team, positive attitude to eco-lifestyle, understanding and planning learning, etc). These are only few examples what John could have learnt in the NGO. But did he actually grasped that (by reflecting, evaluating) and were the learning achievements tracked and recorded somewhere? (certificate, award, CV, etc.)

Everything connects to a huge competence recognition chain: a young person participates and develops; a youth worker or peer learners help him/her to comprehend the learning outcomes; an organisation applies different recognition tools to recognize achievements; the tools become meaningful to employers or other stakeholders (universities, NVO, institutions, parents, etc).

Based on Numbers

Let us have a look a quick view at several tools and studies in youth work field. The European Civil Society Platform on Lifelong Learning (EUCIS-LLL) implemented a study on European level about recognition of competences gained in voluntary work from a perspective of employers. The conclusions only confirm several important aspects:

  • Employers value soft skills (e.g. problem solving) of the candidates. Most valued competences are the following: problem solving 57.02%; initiative and entrepreneurship 55.26%; social and civic competences 47.73%, intercultural and interpersonal skills 45.61%, learning to learn 42.11%;
  • 40% employers stated, that young people are facing a challenge to present competences gained in voluntary work. They suggest that young people should be able to name their learning achievements for themselves and be able to present it to the future employers.
Most of the young people who have participated in EU programme ‘Erasmus+:Youth in Action’ international mobility activities have heard about European competence recognition tool called Youthpass. Few years ago, an impact study was implemented and the results showed that more than 80% of respondents agreed, that this specific tool used in the learning process afterwards helped to explain the others what they have learned, what they still want to improve in the future, what kind of competences are developed in these international projects, in general, and what specific competences they gained.

Over 75% of respondents (both organisations and individual participants) stated that a Youthpass certificate could help them in the future while applying for an internship, practice, vocational training, apprenticeship or job positions.

‘Institute for the Future’ realised that in 2020 competences of employees in the labour market will be quite complex. Competences like sense-making, social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competence, computational thinking, new media literacy, transdisciplinarity, design mindset, cognitive load management, virtual collaboration are not easy to grasp by youth workers, not to mention the young people themselves.

We Wish

Well well well… understanding what we learn is not an easy task, but as the studies show – really important for the future of youth.

Let us answer several questions - How do we educate and develop different skills in youth? If and how we help the learners to understand that they know, that they know; do not know, that they know; know that they do not know; do not know that they do not know...(are able to..)? How we make sure that others will know that the learners have competences and experience they tell about.

Based on our and colleague’s experience we would like to wish to all Youth NGOs:
  • To understand what kind of learning opportunities you are providing to young people (e.g. what do young people learn and how they develop even during the smallest activities. Is learning quality and recognition of achievements your aspiration? Is it planned systematically?
  • To help youngsters to understand what they are learning (organize reflection, evaluation rounds, peer learning groups, apply various evaluation methods and track outcomes)
  • To develop and adjust different certification tools. How would you recognise learner’s achievements? How those will be recognized by others? Whether it would be Open badges, a certificate of your organisation or a personal CV – make it valuable, informative and understandable both for the learners and others.
Let it become your best practice and a tradition. Open the doors to recognition for young people and let new opportunities inn! Would you like to join the connected learning movement? Do you have a great practice to share?

Are you a young person or a youth worker? Visit ir discover innovative opportunity to recognise learning with Open Badges.

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