In Turkey, adolescence is primarily understood to be a period of transition. Young people, under the tutelage of “authorities,” make their way from childhood to an “ideal” adulthood. However, young people are not simply a means of reaching the country’s tomorrows; they have common needs that vary in time and space. They encounter difficulties in a multitude of areas, ranging from social rights like education, health and housing to freedom of thought and expression. There is a vital need for a youth policy designed to solve these problems and to address the needs of youth. In addition, support must be afforded young people so they can participate actively in this process and become autonomous and equal citizens in social life.
In this regard, Youth Studies Unit which was founded in 2005 by a joint protocol between the University and the Community Volunteers Foundation (Toplum Gonulluleri Vakfi, TOG, is working under the Civil Society Studies Center (http://stcm.bilgi.edu.tr) of Istanbul Bilgi University.The Unit has been running projects on 4 main program areas mainly Advocacy, Research, Networking and Modeling in order to contribute to the recognition of youth work and to develop youth policiy proposals for a more a democratic youth policy in Turkey. As a principle, the Unit prefers to work in corporation with both active youth organizations and public stakeholders in the field.
Endorsing the understanding that policy proposals are only meaningful when they are formulated with the active participation of stakeholders, the Unit aims to support non-governmental youth organizations active in the field and to provide opportunities for dialogue both within and between public institutions and non-governmental organizations, where they can learn from and work with each other. Within the Networking Program, based on these aims, the Unit has implemented two youth festivals for and with youth non-governmental organization named Youthful (GePGeNc) Festivals in 2006 and 2008 where a total of 15.000 young people participated in the networking activities including conferences, workshops, forums, fares. Since 2009, this idea of youth festivals has been continuing as GapGenç Festivals organized with voluntary initiation and participation of youth organizations in Southeast Anatolia supported by the Unit. The Owl Youth Training programs and booklets on subjects ‘Youth Work’, ‘Non-formal Learning in Youth Work’, ‘Internet Technologies in Youthwork’, ‘Foreign Language Use in Youth Work’,’Youth Initiatives’ and ‘How to Organize a Living Library’ have been an important tool under the Networking Program to support and empower youth organizations active in the field and to make these trainings and innovative projects widespread.
In the Networking Program the Unit has been implementing and participating in thematic study visits for youth Ngos, such as Youth Work, Gender and Youth, Employment-Education and Youth. It has also been hosting different national and international study visit projects and Ngo participants in these projects.
For the benefits of the activities in the Networking Program to be more meaningful one has to develop new ideas and models to share. Under the Modeling Program, the Unit has been implementing innovative youth work projects and developing manuals and booklets for other stakeholders in the field. Living Library is an important example for the innovative projects, which the Unit has been implementing in collaboration with TOG since 2007. Short Wave Youth Center) , which can also be considered as a main program, has been the most important part of the Modelling Program between 2007- 2013.
To develop meaningful policy proposals, one basically has to know what is going on in the youth field, who are ‘the youth’ under consideration, what are their needs, problems and interests, what are the responsibilities of public institutions concerning youth and how is the quality of public services delivered to young people. Under the Research Program, The Unit has been doing youth research, specifically on issues of youth work and youth rights, youth and autonomy, youth and participation to develop statements about these questions in a scientific manner.
Based on the experience and knowledge generated through the aforementioned programs, under the Advocacy Program ,the Unit has been working on making youth and youth work more visible and on promoting democratic legislation changes. Working with a right based approach, the Unit implemented advocacy projects and writing shadow reports on the services provided to the young people by the public institutions including youth centers, councils, universities and the like.
Since 2013, the Unit has been focusing on the Research Program.
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