MYPLACE research team at the Ivo Pilar Institute, Croatia on the MMH – Croatian Youth Network.
For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE
Last year, Croatian Youth Network (Mreža mladih Hrvatske – MMH) celebrated its 10th anniversary. This network is the biggest and most important youth association in Croatia, with a high level of participation in decision-making processes and achieved considerable influence in youth policy. They have one of the shortest visions: Young people in focus, but more is explained in their mission: “The Croatian Youth Network reaches its goals through networking, advocacy, dialogue and partnerships, informing, non-formal education, research and publishing.”
We can analyse their work at several levels:
- youth education, coordination and networking
- policy and advocacy level
- the market and employment
It is quite similar to their own words regarding the main goals of the MMH as a resource organization:
– Raises awareness among young people about active and responsible participation in society through networking and empowering youth organizations and individuals,
– Co-creates and advocates quality youth policies at the local, national and international level and puts youth rights on the social agenda,
– Contributes to the development of civil society through shaping and implementing policies related to the development of civil society.
Although we do not want to neglect the huge impact and range of activities on the general development of civil society and youth’s participation, in period of the serious economic crisis in Croatia and its impact on youth, it is more suitable for the MYPLACE framework to focus on that point.
1. Youth work
It is beyond the scope of a blog paper to list everything that this network has been doing to help youth organizations. Some activities include facilitating cooperation between organizations frequently as well as providing space for their presentation to the state and public with a more solid foundation but also with visible connections to other youth organizations and strong networks. At the start, there were 28 founding members while today this has grown to 64 youth organizations.
Perhaps this does not seem so important when observed from outside of Croatia where the youth sector is well established and functions properly, or in the main capital, Zagreb where there are major logistics and resources, as well as human and financial capital. However, as it already had been emphasized, the MMH comprising of 64 members covers the whole of Croatia, including places with different population numbers, levels of GDP and development, quality of living standards and policies towards youth.
There is a huge commitment and persistence in working on education, capacity building and cooperation between youth organisations, because there are big differences within them as people move in and out and situations change. One of the more important parts of their program is work on youth rights, where they do not just deal with the economic situations of youth, which we will describe in the following text, but also with their level of social exclusion, equal opportunity for education, etc. Accordingly, most effort has been placed upon the implementation of civic education as a subject in schools, which has involved work with other partners. Last year, an experimental introduction of this programme was coordinated by the Education and Teacher Training Agency, Ministry of Science, Education and Sport, and National Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. The experiences, achievements and results of this programme will soon for public.
Over the last years, it is worth mentioning Studies about youth for youth. In their recent public document, the 6th edition of the bulletin I know, think, participate (April 2013) they not only created a space for memories and a written history of youth organisations and policies in Croatia, but this has also been a space for learning as well as experience exchange, knowledge and skills for successful youth programmes.
2. Policy and advocacy level
Besides the “need for cooperation and improved communication among youth organizations” which we covered previously, another aim of their foundation is “effective and efficient advocacy of the interests and needs of young people in Croatia and building partnerships with governmental institutions in creating and implementing youth policy”. This is still the most important achievement of the MMH today. There are many networks in Croatia and region based on this interest or project activities and regardless of their initial purpose or reason for setting up, they mostly work on cooperation and communication between their own members. The step of moving out in society, into a broader scene is much harder, especially if there is an expectation of successful coming out and working with other stakeholders, partners and beneficiaries.
The MMH were successful in getting out of an umbrella network and becoming an advocate and influential network at a general or societal level. On the one hand, they have always taken care of the autonomy and independence of their own members, and on the other they worked hard to support local youth groups and initiatives. In addition, they linked up with local institutions and policy bodies, advocated for youth interest and needs at a national level and also participated in youth networks at the EU and international level.
It is even harder to count how many working groups they actively participated in; where they gave their point of view and comments on final documents, strategies, laws, action plans, etc.
What is specific about the Croatian Youth Network is that they are not just active in advocating in the youth sector, but in civil society at large. Thus, they have had representatives in the Council for Civil Society Development for the last three mandates and are involved in all the major networks and CSOs’ coalitions.
3. The market and employment
Perhaps, it would be more valid to present some other aspect of MMH activity, but we decided to present their work in the market and employment levels for two reasons:
– In a number of studies, youth in Croatia expressed their fears and worries about future employment possibilities and it has become one of their largest concerns.
Moreover, the serious financial crisis that affects youth the most is still present in Croatia. According to Eurostat data in 2011, the rate of youth unemployment was 33.6% in Croatia, while according to more recent data, the rate of unemployment has increased to 46%. Thus, Croatia is among the few European countries with the highest rate of youth unemployment. In addition, the long-term unemployed accounted for more than half of the unemployed youth in the third quarter of 2011.
From this, it is obvious why employment opportunities and the job sector are one of the most important for youth in Croatia today. Of course, it is obvious why the MMH has worked a lot on this issue over the past years.
– They are currently presiding over the Minister of Work’s Council for the Creation of the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan together with the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (UATUC). Their aim is to comment and lobby for more friendly and needs based approach in the package of measures entitled “Youth Guarantee” that was created by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth.
Today, in their tenth year of activities, the MMH work as a Centre of knowledge for society development –the youth sector, that is a long term development of the CSO sector in Croatia, set up by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development. Likewise, they participate and work in the Advisory Council on Youth of the Government of Republic of Croatia that will set up a new Strategy for Youth Development and a new Youth Law. Within this activity, they are advocating for a law that will finally create a clear and transparent space for the financial and organizational stability of youth organisations.
They are taking care of 64 parts.