Promoting Policy Reforms or fostering dominant ideologies? Assessing the nature of EU-funded youth organizations across Europe

Research Paper by Domenico Valenza



Recent literature stresses that youth organisations (YOs) are critical to advance initiatives and develop policies in Europe and beyond. Through YOs, youngsters can in fact exercise their right to participation and take action in order to reach out to other marginalised youth and foster their entrepreneurial skills. While scholars have paid attention to the role of youth actors in promoting social change, the real nature of the EU-funded youth sector has been so far largely neglected. To fill a void in the literature, this paper attempts to assess the features of the youth sector promoting political goals and hypothesises that the EU supports selectively YOs based on their adherence to European standards and values. In order to justify the hypothesis, the paper analyses a selection of Terms of References (ToRs) under Erasmus+ Key Action 3, and uses the three indicators of status, agenda and capacity to assess the nature of eligible YOs. Within this framework, the study looks first at YOs structure (formal/registered versus non-formal/non-registered; youth-led versus non youth-led) to assess whether their status affects the size of the EU-funded youth sector. Second, YOs requested agenda is analysed in an attempt to see whether those promoting controversial views are supported under KA3. Finally, the study enquires on the expected capacity of YOs receiving EU funding, including previous experience in management, staff and network resources. Overall, the study shows that KA3 displays a significant concern for inclusion, and that the European Commission does not seem to impose its agenda to EU-funded YOs. Even though initial assumptions are nuanced, the study finds a number of barriers to participation, including a lack of opportunities for informal groups and the absence of stricter requirements on the involvement of youth-led organisations in order to avoid top-down actions. Also, it highlights a risk related to budget coverage and policy-makers’ participation, resulting in a competitive advantage to those organisations owning greater financial and network resources.