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Strategies for Youth Engagement: Key Principles and Practices

Have you ever thought about the fact that some children receive a ticket to life with limited rights even before they are born? Has it ever occurred to you that emotionally cold or perfectionist parents who demand maximum results from their children can provoke their social failure? Maybe you have thought that an individual's trauma is solely an internal family issue and does not affect society? Are you interested in learning more about how the ratio of dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen affects your behavior?

The staff of our Multicultural center attended a remarkable four-day seminar funded by Erasmus+ for workers dealing with youth living in socially disadvantaged conditions. Along with colleagues from Brainery Prosocial organization from Slovakia, we spent very productive days gaining access to select theories, the most prominent practices, and examples related to societal communication, how to set up diversity and inclusion, and foster a culture of diversity and inclusiveness in challenging conditions. It was an intense time for exchanging experiences, identifying major social and behavioral issues, and expanding our interaction networks.

The Multicultural center Brusinka bases its work on interaction, acceptance, an individual approach, and the creation of a safe and open space.
Brainery Prosocial pays special attention to the development of a key future competency - Future Skills, which teaches individuals to think more complexly, think critically, understand human behavior, and adopt a more tolerant view of the world around them.

Due to the significant amount of stress affecting modern society, there is an increasing need to engage employees from various organizations, especially educational, social, charitable, and cultural centers, in the interaction process. We are constantly faced with the consequences of armed conflicts, domestic violence, life instability, and academic underachievement. Such institutions provide a range of services, from psychological support to leisure activities, and often become the first places people turn to in times of crisis. Effective communication with clients and colleagues in such centers is a key element in successfully providing assistance and building trusting relationships.

Such organizations play a significant role in society by uncovering all the most hidden and deep-seated conflicts and issues.


There are ways not only to survive in such conditions and not lose oneself but also to effectively help people within our capabilities and competencies.

The first and most important principle is empathy. Clients reaching out to social and cultural centers often experience stress, anxiety, or depression. Specialists should demonstrate genuine sympathy and understanding, creating a safe space for clients. Empathy helps establish trust and facilitates further interaction.

Below are the key principles of such work:

  • Active Listening Active listening involves giving full attention to the client's words as well as nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and gestures. This includes summarizing key points and asking clarifying questions, which helps the client feel truly heard and understood. Active listening contributes to a deeper understanding of the client's needs and issues.

  • Confidentiality Maintaining client confidentiality is a critically important aspect. People must feel confident that their personal information and discussed matters will remain confidential. This is not only a legal requirement but also the foundation for building trustful relationships.

  • Professionalism Professionals need to demonstrate a high level of professionalism, which includes respectful, friendly, and courteous treatment of clients, knowledge of their duties and boundaries, and ongoing professional development. Professionalism helps create a sense of reliability and confidence in clients.

 

Important communication strategies

Examples of successful communication

 

It is crucial to understand that we are not only dealing with individual people but also influencing the entire society. We cannot work in isolation from the surrounding conditions and atmosphere. We must consider the social, economic, and cultural contexts in which our clients exist. Staff members of assistance centers, as well as educational centers, often have to act as mediators capable of identifying and alleviating social tension. However, we see the same problems among the staff, albeit to a lesser extent, because such environments rarely attract individuals who do not understand their role.


On the other hand, the society's response and alignment of approach and mutual understanding with key stakeholders (family, school, public organizations, society) are paramount. With society's improper tuning and lack of attention, real tragedies can unfold.


For our team, the Brainery Prosocial seminar was an absolutely fantastic experience, filled with important information and answers to our main questions about working with people with behavioral disorders and special needs. The seminar content was incredibly well-adapted to what we experience in practice, providing an excellent balance of theory and practical experience that allowed us to better understand the topic. Additionally, it was very important for us that this involved international collaboration, focusing on the important social work and collaboration between two countries - Czechia and Slovakia.

We especially appreciate the scientific information they provided regarding neurology and the biochemistry of human stress behavior. These insights have allowed us to better understand the mechanisms affecting people in complex situations and have provided us with new tools for effective support. Everyone received answers to their questions and experienced significant shifts in consciousness.

However, even within the framework of one seminar, where people from different social situations with varying experiences and native languages come together, unforeseen events can occur if attention to detail is lacking. It is necessary to consider this before conducting it by outlining and discussing all communication principles. It is important to establish social roles from the very beginning. Misunderstandings in these areas, especially in team settings, can lead to very serious consequences.

A mixed-level group by default is at high risk for social experiments; it is only suitable for research. It is not the right place to create conditions for competition and a competitive spirit, as emotional reactions take precedence over intellectual ones.

According to one study on the educational environment, the most common reason for communication difficulties cited by participants was the influence of an inadequately developed and tolerant environment (46%), followed by low social intelligence (33%). Among other frequently selected options, innate predispositions were chosen by 13% of respondents. The influence of another native language was selected by 7% of participants.

In our collective work, we can discuss the influence of biochemistry, neurobiology, evolutionary biology, psychology, and even physics. In one way or another, the harmony of all processes in this world is tuned according to the same principles, and therefore, it is crucial to understand from within how they work. From chaotic data, it is necessary to create a structure that will be functional and yield the required results in terms of alignment and healthy professional networking.


We know all these classic examples - from William Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde. We all have experienced how misunderstood roles, egocentrism, inability to deal with emotions, misunderstanding, and lack of communication can lead to tragic consequences.


We also know this from physics. Brownian motion can be a precise metaphor for chaotic and directionless interaction among people, especially in an environment lacking structure and clear rules. Like particles in Brownian motion, the absence of coordination and instructions can lead to misunderstanding and conflicts. And what about chemistry? Of course - catalysts (in our case, mediators), accelerating reactions, providing an alternative path with lower activation energy. Without catalysts, reactions can be slow or inefficient.


It is also worth considering the principle of entropy in a closed system, which is nothing but a measure of uncertainty. It's no secret that in organizations, in the absence of clear procedures and rules, disorder grows, leading to chaos and inefficiency.

In mixed communities, only clear, open communication and a structural approach help maintain low entropy and a higher level of order.

Certainly, studying natural sciences, historical examples, and gaining knowledge from the latest behavioral and social research can help us better understand and improve our communication and organizational skills.

This seminar was truly important because education doesn't end in school or university. To improve the socio-cultural and even economic situation, we need to adhere to this principle. Moreover, the education system should also incorporate how to develop emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and interpersonal interaction. Without this, society won't become healthy and will constantly be in a critical state due to an inability to cope with stress. Upgrading skills in this aspect brings significant benefits and long-term effects of application.

Author: Mgr. Viktoria Netíková

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