Participation in child and youth work


Prof. Dr. Benedikt Sturzenhecker
E‑Mail: benedikt.sturzenhecker (at) uni-ham­burg (dot) de

Participation in child and youth work

Participation is an essen­ti­al part of child and youth work. In Germany, the Child and Youth Services Act (Code of Social Law VIII §11) requi­res by law that child and youth work offer ser­vices reflec­ting the inte­rests and con­cerns of child­ren and young peop­le invol­ved and at the same time afford the child­ren and young peop­le the oppor­tu­ni­ty to actively take part in deci­ding on and shaping the various ser­vices offe­red to them. Apart from in the field of child and youth work, the­re is hard­ly any other insti­tu­ti­on wit­hin the scope of child and youth edu­ca­ti­on in which struc­tu­ral con­di­ti­ons chal­len­ge and encou­ra­ge child­ren and young peop­le more to par­ti­ci­pa­te in demo­cra­tic pro­ces­ses when defi­ning and plan­ning mutu­al acti­vi­ties. In doing so, child and youth work offers at a struc­tu­ral level young peop­le a uni­que space in which they can expe­ri­ence genui­ne demo­cra­tic decisi­on-making pro­ces­ses, joint action and mutu­al respon­si­bi­li­ty. Democracy wit­hin child and youth work is some­thing lear­ned by means of par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry demo­cra­tic prac­ti­ce. We call this demo­cra­tic edu­ca­ti­on (Demokratiebildung). However, child and youth work pro­fes­sio­nals as well as agen­ci­es and insti­tu­ti­ons need to use and enlar­ge the struc­tu­ral poten­ti­als of democracy.

Even though the­re are more oppor­tu­nities for demo­cra­tic edu­ca­ti­on in open child and youth work and youth asso­cia­ti­ons than in any other field of child and youth edu­ca­ti­on, the­re is still none­theless a gre­at need to incre­a­se the scope of demo­cra­tic par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on among girls and boys in decisi­on-making pro­ces­ses. The right to par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on gran­ted to child­ren and young peop­le by German law has to beco­me some­thing more tan­gi­ble to its hol­ders wit­hin ever­y­day youth work set­tings. More demo­cra­tic par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on also has posi­ti­ve side effects: stu­dies show that incre­a­sing par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on among young peop­le makes child and youth work more appe­aling and that par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry demo­cra­tic prac­ti­ce has a bene­fi­cial effect on child­ren and young peo­p­les‘ edu­ca­tio­nal outcomes.


The Institute for Participation and Education can pro­vi­de sup­port in the fol­lowing areas:

  • Establishment of a struc­tu­ral basis for and/or expan­si­on of pre­exis­ting child par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on prac­ti­ce wit­hin open child and youth work and youth associations
  • Development of appro­pria­te pro­fes­sio­nal prac­ti­ce con­cepts for indi­vi­du­al orga­niz­a­ti­ons and associations
  • Professional and vol­un­teer staff trai­ning in par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry demo­cra­tic practice
  • Design, ana­ly­sis and eva­lua­ti­on of pilot pro­jects on participation