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Long Term Effects of Erasmus+: Youth in Action on Participation and Active Citizenship

"How did it change my life?"

Looking back at their participation in an international youth mobility project at a later stage, participants are frequently quoted to have said: “it has changed my life”. In line with this quote, this study aims to explore long-term effects of participation in Erasmus+: Youth in Action on participants and project leaders, in particular with a focus on active citizenship and participation in society and in democratic life.

Aims & Objectives

The aim of this project is to provide evidence for the effects of learning in projects funded through Erasmus+: Youth in Action on competence development, in particular with respect to active citizenship and participation in civil society and in democratic and political life.

Objectives are:

  • to explore competence development through on-formal and informal learning in Erasmus+: Youth in Action projects, with a focus on participation and active citizenship competences, in particular in the framework of youth exchanges, European voluntary service projects, structured dialogue projects and youth worker mobility projects;
  • to explore long-term effects with respect to participation and active citizenship practice as well as concerning educational and professional pathways.

Participation and active citizenship are understood in a broad sense and covering all domains of life, i.e. political, civil, social, cultural, private and working life. In this sense, participation and active citizenship competences can be understood as competences, which are relevant in order to participate as active citizen and to live together with other citizens in a democratic community.

General research question

  • How does participation in Erasmus+: Youth in Action contribute to active citizenship, in particular in a European context, and thus to socio-political participation in society and in democratic life?

Specific research questions

  • How does Erasmus+: Youth in Action contribute to the development of citizenship competence (awareness, attitudes, values, skills, knowledge) and the ability to participate as active citizens, thus to apply the developed competences?

  • What are long-term effects (i.e. 1 to 3 years) related to participation and active citizenship on participants and project leaders resulting from their involvement in Erasmus+: Youth in Action?

In the analysis, it is planned to differentiate effects

  • between ‘short-term activities’ (with a relatively short core/intensive international experience, e.g. youth exchanges) vs. ‘long-term activities’ (with a relatively long continuing/international experience, e.g. European voluntary service);
  • depending on different groups of participants (e.g. young people with fewer opportunities vs. other);
  • between ‘hosting’ participants vs. participants visiting another country (‘sending’);
  • with respect to changes over time (1 months, 1 year, 3 years after the project experience).
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Research Design Long Term Effects on Participation and Active Citizenship

There are two research modules:

  • a module on the effects with respect to the development of competences relevant for active citizenship and participation;
  • a module on the long-term effects with respect to citizenship practice, i.e. if and how thecompetences developed through a Erasmus+: Youth in Action project are applied and transferred into practice.

In this respect, a multi-method approach applying quantitative and qualitative social research
methods is taken.
A literature review explores previous studies on this topic (learning mobility, participation and citizenship), including the research methodologies applied (in particular studies on competence development and on long-term effects), in order to develop an adequate conceptual framework.
Existing knowledge resulting from RAY research activities is used for developing the necessary research instruments (see Fennes, Gadinger, & Hagleitner, 2012; Fennes, Gadinger, Hagleitner, & Lunardon, 2013).
A pre-study explores basic dimensions of this research project by interviewing participants of the Youth in Action Programme (2007-2013), who had participated in a funded project aimed at fostering participation and active citizenship around three years earlier.
 

Module on competence development

Standardised multilingual surveys are conducted with project participants and project leaders as well as with control groups. The same participants and project leaders are surveyed at different stages before and after the Youth in Action project:

  • as early as possible in the project, in any case before the (first) activity/the intensive phase3;
  • approximately two months after the end of the project/(last) activity/intensive phase (after having had time to reflect and to look at the experience from some distance and without the potential initial enthusiasm);
  • one year after the project/(last) activity/intensive phase.


The questionnaire is based on indicators for participation/citizenship competence and for participation/citizenship practice. In principle, the participants and the project leaders complete the same questionnaire every time (probably with some adaptations depending on the timing), assessing their own competences and practices.
The sample for the online surveys consists of 100% of participants of a mix of projects (different Actions/project types; bilateral, trilateral and multilateral projects; different types of beneficiaries; different participant profiles, including young people with fewer opportunities etc.). At least 250 participants per partner country involved in this study are invited to these online surveys. Additionally, the project leaders of the respective projects are invited to participate in the surveys.
Furthermore, qualitative interviews are conducted as outlined below for the module on long-term effects. These interviews will also explore the competence development, complementary to the quantitative surveys.
 

Module on long-term effects

Selected participants (around 10 to 15 per partner country) are interviewed individually at different stages before and after the Youth in Action project:

  • as early as possible in the project, in any case before the (first) activity/intensive phase;
  • one year after the end of the project/(last) activity/intensive phase;
  • three years after the end of the project/(last) activity/intensive phase.

Participants to be interviewed are primarily selected from the sample selected for the quantitative surveys on competence development (see above). At the end of the study there are planned to be at least 10 participants per partner country who had been interviewed three times (see above).
The sample is aimed to be heterogeneous with respect to the participant profile and experiences: a diversity of participant profiles, including young people with fewer opportunities; ‘hosting’ participants and participants visiting another country = ‘sending’; different project types/actions).
The questionnaires for the third online survey for the module on competence development as outlined above (one year after the project/activity) also refer to long-term effects on citizenship practice.

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Partners Long Term Effects on Participation and Active Citizenship

Research partners of this project are the RAY Networks partners in Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden.
The pre-study is carried out by the RAY Network partners in Austria, the Czech Republic and Estonia.