Digital Youth Work Research Hub

The Digital Youth Work Research Network

is hosted by the University of Leeds within the INCLUDE+ Network, and represents an initiative aimed at exploring the intersections of equity, inclusion, digital technologies and youth work.

Our network seeks to foster an environment of knowledge and practice co-creation between researchers, youth workers, young people, policymakers, tech organisations, and other relevant stakeholders.

Our work is grounded in this area’s existing research and practice guidelines. Dr Alicja Pawluczuk, who leads the work of the network, has been and continues to be proactively involved in the work of national and international research and policy networks (e.g., the Europan Academy of Youth Work, SALTO Youth, Digital Youth Work Network, Youth Link Scotland, and Youth Partnership – European Union and Council of Europe).

You can learn more about Dr Alicja Pawluczuk’s previous work in the area of digital youth work here.

What is digital youth work?

Digital youth work refers to the utilisation of digital tools and methodologies to support the personal and social development of young people. It encompasses a broad array of activities that utilise digital technology, including social media, online gaming, digital making, and virtual reality, to engage young individuals in educational, social, and creative endeavours.

The primary aim of digital youth work is to enhance young people’s capacity to actively participate in society, improve their skills for the contemporary digital world, and foster their overall well-being. This approach recognises the significant role that digital technology plays in the lives of young people today and seeks to leverage these tools to support their development in positive and meaningful ways.

Digital youth work can take place in a variety of settings, including schools, youth centres, and online platforms. It involves not only the use of digital tools for communication and engagement but also the teaching of digital skills and critical thinking about digital media and technology.

DYWR.HUB Timeline

Over the next few months, we’ll work on getting a clear picture of Digital Youth Work across Europe and beyond. We aim to keep an eye on both the ideas and the actual work being done in this area.

We’re hoping to co-design our DYWR.HUB with the help of people involved in the field.

March – June 2024 Co-designing of the network and aims.
June 2024The official launch of the DYWR.HUB
June – September 2024Activities informed by the DYWR.HUB co-design process.
2025 onwards TBC

What DYWR.HUB is not

The objective of this research network is not to aggregate and disseminate all existing knowledge, nor to encompass every study within this domain. Such a task would be unrealistic, given the dynamism of the field and the inherent constraints of time, capacity, and potential biases. Instead, our mission is to establish a dynamic space for the exploration and co-examination of specific thematic areas. As previous resaerch indicates, it is essential to embrace digital youth work’s ambiguity and steer away from restrictive ideas of impact (Pawluczuk & Serban, 2021).

We recognise and openly acknowledge our limitations, choosing to focus on fostering a community where shared interests and collaborative inquiry can thrive, rather than striving for an unattainable completeness. This approach allows us to contribute meaningfully to the field while being mindful of our boundaries and the practicalities of our work.

DYWR.HUB: Areas of interest

The Digital Youth Work Hub aims to study the socio-political and economic complexities linked to the digital transformation in youth work and the youth work sector.

We recognise the significant contributions already made in this field. Rather than replicating or improving upon these efforts, our goal is to foster an environment that encourages the exploration of diverse concepts, facilitates connections, and supports collaborations

Guided by the IN+ Principles and existing research, we begin our work with the following thematic areas:

Digital equity in [digital] youth work: to investigate the disparities in access to and engagement with digital technologies among young people and youth workers, and to identify and monitor the barriers that prevent equitable participation in digital youth work (e.g., including socioeconomic factors, geographic location, access to reliable internet and digital devices, and critical digital and data literacy skills).

Strategic and people-centred digital transformation of youth work: we’re interested in exploring strategies to support digital youth work effectively, sustainably, and in a people-centred manner. Our work aims to explore if/how digital transformation affects youth work processes, values, and goals.

Innovation and ethical use of technology: we’re keen to explore the ethical use of digital technologies in youth work by exploring innovative approaches that respect privacy and promote meaningful engagement. This might involve evaluating the implications of AI and big tech in youth work settings and developing guidelines for their responsible use.

Research and policy development: to facilitate research on the impact of digitalisation on youth work and use the findings to inform policy development at local, national, and international levels. This involves collaborating with academic institutions, technology experts, and policymakers to ensure that digital youth work practices are evidence-based and aligned with the needs of young people, youth workers, and all relevant stakeholders.

Networking and collaboration: to nurture a space for networking and collaboration among young people, youth workers, youth organisations, educators, tech professionals, and other stakeholders involved in [digital] youth work.

The work of the hub is led by Dr Alicja Pawluczuk (INCLUDE+ Resaerch Fellow)


Upcoming events and engagements