Engagement training of CoSIE won the challenge competition of Itla in Finland

Photo by Timo Jakonen

The Encounter training model developed by the CoSIE project and the Youth Council of Turun Kaupunkilähetys ry (in English: Turku City Mission) has won the Itla Innovation Challenge 2020. Itla stands for Children’s Foundation in Finland. The competition looked for innovative ideas to get children and youth heard in the decision-making processes. Supported by CoSIE and Turun Kaupunkilähetys the Youth council presented the Encounter training model in the competition. The training targets all professionals working with young people.

What makes the training innovative is that the youth themselves are the trainers in this model. The training itself has two parts. First part is a self-reflective questionnaire for professionals, which forms a base for the professionals to evaluate their working methods and encountering skills. The “encountering” in this training means that the professional really is present without checking one’s computer and listens without prejudices and assumptions.

Elevating youth voices to be heard in decision-making

The Itla Challenge sought for innovative models and ideas to boost the possibilities for children and youth to get their voices heard – especially those who are not usually being heard during the decision-making processes. Itla challenged all communities, organisations and other actors working with children and youth.

The competition jury based their evaluation on six criteria, e.g. how much children had participated in  the design, guidance, development and evaluation of the presented model, the applicability of the model to different decision-making processes and how innovatively it does strengthen the voices of groups with special needs.

– In the Encounter training model, the idea has originated from the young people and the encounter element is clear. The model is also an indication of good NGO and researcher collaboration, the chair of the selection jury Silja Kosola states about the winning criteria.

– There is an urgent need for this model; the professional knowledge cannot help the youth if there is no successful encounter. This victory is also a message to decision makers that this is important! Kosola emphasises.

Young participants of the award ceremony were both anxious and enthusiastic:

– We are doing this because we want to be heard. We want to have an impact on our future and of other young people and be involved in creating something where young people and professionals develop together as equals. We want to make a mark that we have done this!

Youth do not always get the help they need

The CoSIE project facilitated a co-creation event where young people from Turku together with decision makers and professionals thought about ways to prevent youth marginalisation. During this event, young people explained how they often feel that they are not encountered, heard or helped by the services provided to them.

This is how the idea of Encounter trainings was born; the idea to develop the encountering skills of professionals by letting the young people themselves to tell the professionals what they see that could best help them. The Youth council, together with the CoSIE project, planned the practical implementation. The City of Turku ended up offering several Encounter trainings to the professionals working with youths.

– I have never done anything like this in my life that can really have an effect to the future and to the world. It feels good and right! This comment from one of the Youth council members summarises how important the Encounter training has been for them as well.

The professional participants agree that they have received something unique from the training:

– So lovely and brave young people! They have the best expertise and personal experiences! The voice of the young people and their personal stories touch quite differently than general information.

– These young people were good talkers and had the courage to bring out their own experiences. I got a lot to think about from this and will certainly be able to apply the information and ideas I gained in my own work as well. Awesome experience! ”

The youth and professionals in collaboration

The starting point of the Encounter training is the presumption that young people are the best experts when it comes to youth related issues. Instead of being just consulted, young people want to be actively involved when youth services are being developed.

According to young people, who have participated in the Encounter trainings, these trainings have brought them possibilities for participation and real opportunities to influence in the society. Co-creation processes have ensured that the youth have been heard, their opinions and ideas have had value, and the development ideas they have presented have been actively taken into implementation.

For the professionals, participation in co-creation collaboration has given unique information and experiences. Especially significant for them has been to learn how to meet with a youth in a way that leads to co-development and effective collaboration.

Translated and shortened from a news article on the web site of Turku UAS. Original news article available in Finnish

And on Itla web site (in Finnish)

Photo by Mari Hirvonen