Repositioning or Shifting Paradigms - An International Review of Dutch Positive Youth Policies

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Youth policy in the Netherlands is undergoing major changes in pedagogical focus, structure, funding mechanisms and the role of local municipalities and provincial or central governments. Several key players feel that a shift from a mainly risk-oriented, agency driven policy towards a more demand-led policy, flexible and open to all, has the potential to realise a youth field that is more efficient and effective than a youth field that takes a fire-fighting position or a youth field focused on control and prevention and therefore not able to get engaged with the people that need it the most. The consciousness is (re)gaining ground that the upbringing of children is a shared responsibility and a society should invest in accessible, basic social pedagogical infrastructure supporting people in their daily lives (Perquin, 1965). This shift is promoted under the flag of positive youth policy. Two adherents of this positive mind shift are the Nederlands Jeugdinstituut (Netherlands Youth Institute, NJi) and the Vereniging van Nederlandse gemeenten (Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG). These partners agreed on the organisation of a national conference, following the visit of an international review team and its subsequent report. The review team visited Gouda and Oss, two medium-sized cities seeking to transform a risk-oriented youth policy to a policy focused on positive youth development. The review team consisted of four experts: Howard Williamson (UK), Lasse Siurala (Finland), Filip Coussée (Belgium) and Loes van der Meijs (Netherlands). The team reflects a mix of research, policy and practice perspectives. The international experts are acquainted with the national youth policy review procedures of the Council of Europe (CoE). The CoE‟s youth policy guiding principles are very much in line with the proposed shift from problem oriented youth policy to a resource driven or opportunity focused youth policy. This positive approach is also visible on EU level. In the new strategy in the field of youth there is an increasing focus on positive principles as active citizenship, social inclusion and participation.


Filip Coussée, Howard Williamson, Lasse Siurala, Loes van der Meijs

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