Best Practice 33

EP-DeM Labs

The project targeted youth, service providers and policy makers involved in measures directed to youth in transition in 4 European cities (Dublin, London, Cagliari and Bologna).

In detail:

    • Youth with a disadvantaged background aged 16-24, including young beneficiaries of Youth Guarantee Schemes (or similar interventions targeting transition paths), or who are already in a system – VET, work, school. 16-24 who are not in a system because they could not access (equity in access), just dropped out (equity in retain), failed in meeting an objective or did not yet complete a transition path.
    • Regional/National/transnational authorities in charge of designing, implementing and managing policies targeted to youth in transition, in particular YGSs;
    • Public and private organizations, practitioners, stakeholders (businesses etc) who deliver services and/or manage/participate in YGS (or similar) systems. The project was seeking to answer to their needs to have better and integrate tools to detect the emerging needs of the most disadvantages in their contexts, to improve their capacities to deal with them, to generate and detect knowledge and innovation across their contexts.

EP-DeM Labs engages and enables disadvantaged youth (16-24) in transition moments in 4 EU cities (Bologna, Cagliari, Dublin and London) to express their voices, co-develop and co-delivery projects and measures aimed at improving their education level and employability. The laboratories of dialogue and co-design experimented had (and hopefully will continue to have) the ground-breaking role of permanent generators of knowledge and incubators of innovation in education, training and employment systems.

Its approach was built  around important pillars:

    • Test and develop the EP-DeM Labs as innovative dialogue and self-empowerment experiences targeting excluded youth;
    • Develop and test a new professional, our “Labs facilitators”, as agent of change of formal education, training and employment frameworks;
    • Prepare and engage education/employment policy makers to dialogue with youth and to integrate the outcomes in program and project design, delivery and implementation.

EP-DeM tackled the issue of youth social disengagement, having consequences on their education, training and/or employability levels through a holistic approach, starting from the individual’s empowerment and arriving to the systemic change in considering “the youth issue” by education and training structures, counselling and employment providers and policy makers. Aims:

    • Build evidence, experiment and scale up the intrinsic linkages between a holistic approach, not focusing on single measures to improve educational outcomes of the disadvantaged youth, but on their participation, empowerment and engagement and on the responsiveness and flexibility of the systems themselves;
    • Develop and test a new approach to the professional figure of the “youth worker”, as a real agent of change that can influence and play an active role as model also in formal education, training and employment frameworks and not only, as traditionally is meant, in “leisure” and in tackling “anti-social” behaviors;
    • Adopt, adapt and develop innovative dialogue and self-empowerment experiences and approaches targeting excluded youth, typically relegate to the informal and youth work contexts, to engage them in an open dialogue and co-design of education, social and employment measures targeting them;
    • Prepare and engage education and employment service providers and the relevant policy makers in VET and employment to dialogue in a continuous manner and to structurally integrate the outcomes of the dialogue with youth in program and project design, delivery and implementation mechanisms;
    • Develop a set of innovative, sustainable and cost-effective tools encouraging local, National and European policy makers to integrate direct voices and ideas of youth in planning and delivery of educational and employment services directed to the most disadvantaged, and to undertake a path toward a genuine and transparent evidence-based policy making

Contexts’ needs. EP-DeM was built on the solid experiences and detected needs of the partners at the city, National and European level to adapt, test and refine an innovative and participatory approach to dialogue and co-decision between excluded youth, service providers and policy makers.. Common and unsolved issues included: (1) Lack of tools to avoid the “creaming effect” generate by the quantitative indicators applied in planning and delivering social measures; (2) Lack of structural integration between the typical “youth informal activities”, and the education, training and employment provisions in each of the cities addressed; (3) Need to reinforce and update a multi-agency and multi-service approach to work.

It was observed that in all the regions targeted, a very relevant context to improve the equity – in terms of access, retain and outcomes – of the offer to youth in transition from one system to the other is the Youth Guarantee Schemes. The status of the strategy implementation in each of the partnership countries was leaving, at the beginning of EP-DeM, some important issues open in terms of equity of the measures and their capacity to really empower the more disadvantaged youth.

Starting from the contexts’ needs, partners’ experiences and research undertaken, the partnership trained 4 local facilitators’ teams who would have planned and managed concretely the Labs in each city.

Then, 3 kind of EP-DeM Labs were experimented in the 4 cities:`

    • 3 Youth EP-DeM Labs. 16-24 in a transitions paths, having experienced some kind or multiple disadvantages or being at risk of exclusion;
    • 3 Institutional EP-DeM Labs, involving Regional/National Decision makers, VET/employment providers (public or private), relevant stakeholders (trade unions, businesses, umbrella and sector organizations) confronting and discussing successes, bottlenecks and challenges of their cooperation and policy implementation;
    • 2 Mixed dueling Labs, where participants of the 2 previous Labs will come all together and openly discuss, negotiate and advocate the each other’s point of view, vision, and proposals.

After the City Labs, a European Lab in Dublin and the final Conferences in Rome highlighted common actions and recommendations to be brought forward at the EU level.

The City Action Plans highlight, on the other side, the paths identified jointly by young people and stakeholders to improve local situations.

So far, EP-DeM reached around 350 individuals directly (young people, professionals, authorities) through the Labs, many organizations and networks in partner countries and beyond.

Significant networks have been established at local levels and are working to bring forward the results.

The City Action Plans and the EU recommendations are the most visible synthesis of the work done through the Labs, the networking sessions etc.

We also have a variety of products and tangible results that are interesting and can be used handily to gather information, train persons, informa about the project, ie

City reports (results from Action researches);

    • EP-DeM criteria
    • EP-DeM Guidance outline for facilitators
    • EP-DeM toolkit for trainers,
    • Newsletters, brochures.
    • The video-documentary etc
    • City action Plans

All the products are available at the project website, in the “products” space:

The video-documentary gives a lively insight of what happened in the cities and in the Labs and was already shown and discussed in several stages:

As the project finished in February 2018, it could be early to see impacts. However, the variety and quality of products let us predict that there is good room for a longer term impact of EP-DeM. Besides that, in each of the cities local actors have agreed, to different extents, to continue with the EP-DeM path.

Different National authorities and European networks have expressed interest in deepening and bringing forward the EP-DeM concept.

Several ideas for follow up are currently under discussion within the partnership and beyond.

Citizenship & Civic Engagement

□  Health & Welfare Benefits

□ Language Access

□ Access to the labour market

□ Education

□ Participation in political processes and in decision-making

□  Others (please describe): improvement of public measures for transitions of young people (16-24)


□ Study Visits

□ Mentoring Services


□ Others: The participatory and bottom up approach that involved young people, decision-makers and a wide range of stakeholders at city level to build confidence, trust and enhance the direct participation of young people in public life and especially in designing effective ttransition measures.

The project, coordinated by MetropolisNet EEIG, a unique EU network on employment and social inclusion strategies, involved 9 organizations from 5 countries.

Partners are experienced and innovative skills/employment/VET players, including 2 Regional and 1 National (IE) ministries in Ireland. All of them are engaging a wide range of youth, employment, VET organizations.

This was really important as the whole project concept concerned the experimentation of innovative dialogue and participation tools to improve measures and provisions targeting young people, especially from disadvantaged social/economic backgrounds, to improve the quality and effectiveness of transition and employability measures.

The Labs experimented were primarily, but not exclusively, integrated within the planning and delivery processes of Youth Guarantee Schemes (YGS) concerned, or, where these did not exist (i.e. UK), within the measures targeting disadvantaged and excluded youth in transitions in the 4 cities. The structured dialogue and interaction mechanisms allowed gaining update and qualitative knowledge about the reasons and typologies of disparities between youth in accessing, benefiting and succeeding in completing the educational and employability services and projects being currently offered in the respective contexts.

Name: Elena Grilli

Organisation: MetropolisNet EEIG