Why are we running this project?

There are more opportunities than ever before for young people to engage in exchange programs. And yet, the majority of today’s young generation do not seem to be accessing international mobility initiatives and projects. There are many barriers that prevent young people from participating in international exchange activities; these may be of a psychological, economic, structural, social, or even political nature.

What are our goals?

Even though extensive research has been conducted on international youth exchanges, as yet there is no reliable data available from Germany on the actual share of young people participating in international exchange projects, those not reached by the program offerings, factors that impact their decisions, and the types of barriers hindering them. This research project aims to close the existing knowledge gap.

Based on the findings, we intend to map out recommendations on how to reduce the mobility barriers and give as many young people as possible access to international exchange programs.

How does the project work?

The study will consist of the following research activities:

  1. Analysis of existing studies on previously underrepresented groups and in-depth interviews with teenagers who have not participated in any international programs yet (IKO Institute for Cooperation Management, Regensburg, Prof. Dr. Alexander Thomas and Dipl.-Psych. (MSc) Heike Abt)
  1. Representative survey among young people about participating in international exchange programs (SINUS Institute Heidelberg, Dr. Silke Borgstedt)
  1. Qualitative interviews with experts, primarily about structural conditions (Technical University of Cologne, Prof. Dr. Andreas Thimmel)
  1. Panel survey and special assessment of previously completed questionnaires of the project “Evaluation of International Youth Exchanges” (research project on recreation evaluation, Dr. Wolfgang Ilg and Judith Dubiski)

The findings of the study are expected in June 2018.

Who organizes the project?

The access study is a project led by Forschung und Praxis im Dialog (FPD) (Research and Practice in Dialogue) and supported by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

What are the main findings of the study?

It is not the young people’s fault!
The results of the access study strongly contest regular assumptions, such as lacking interest for international exchange by many young people.
•    The interest for international exchange projects is much larger than expected: 2/3 of all young people can imagine to participate in an exchange project, including both young people with and without previous experience in organized youth exchange. The interest for international exchange projects is spread across all sociocultural milieus.
•    The reasons for non-participation are different and individual; evidence for fundamental discrimination of specific target groups was not found.
•    The narrative of international youth work as an “excessively bureaucratic luxury activity” prevails in the field. It is presumed that implementation is costly and requires special knowledge, benefitting only a specific target group. Therefore, it is likely that access barriers are predominantly structural in nature and are a result of selection mechanisms.
•    The study particularly shows that there is a mismatch between the existing formats of youth exchange and reality of life of young people. 

What are the next steps?

The results of the access study will be disseminated among representatives of the open youth work, municipal authorities and representatives and policymakers of the state and federal level. Within the framework “access to the access study”, we will continue to discuss the results and implications with international school and youth exchange actors.