Reet Kost

SALTO’s gift of participation

Reet Kost

Estonia

Reet’s elusive SALTO dream is slowly turning into a reality

Having been involved in European youth programmes for 23 years, I cannot even remember what my first SALTO experience was.

I have interacted with various SALTO centres throughout the years and have always found the idea of the SALTO network very good and helpful in improving how the EU Youth programmes work and contribute to implementing European youth policy objectives.

What I do remember is how useful I found the SALTO format and its contribution to European youth programmes. Over the last couple of years, SALTO became a sort of elusive dream for us here at the Estonian NA. We really wanted to host one of the Resource Centres and share the experience and ideas we had with the rest of Europe. We had previously applied to host SALTO EECA, as co-operation with Eastern Europe and the Caucasus is very important for us in Estonia. We put a lot of energy and effort into the bid, but unfortunately it was not successful. We did not give up, and so when years after the European Commission announced a new call for a SALTO covering issues of youth participation and information, we knew we had to give it a go.

Both issues are at the core of what we do.

We understand SALTO’s mission not as mere dissemination of information, but as an active promoter of the role of young people in society and democracy as well as critical thinking and media literacy.

We do a lot of this work with young people in Estonia at national level, and we thought we had a unique contribution to share with our colleagues across the continent.

Participation is another pillar of our work. We think that SALTO is uniquely positioned – in the world of European youth programmes, between the COM and the national agencies. It has its ear to the ground, engaging with hundreds of youth practitioners, trainers, and youth workers and learning from and about their work. This is one of the reasons why we set up the SALTO Think Tank on Participation – to encourage more structured critical reflection on what’s happening around us by youth and researchers.

I also had it at the back of my mind for a long time that there is a lot more that SALTO can contribute, and that both Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps would benefit from a clearer focus on our core values.

National Agencies can be so busy running the programmes and dealing with the admin side of things, and they can only devote limited resources to the contents and quality of the youth activities run by beneficiaries. When we set up our SALTO, we focused on promoting the youth participation agenda, and started thinking about how SALTO expertise can be shared with the rest of the Erasmus+ world, empowering the enablers of youth participation. We have just completed our work with the European Commission and many stakeholders on the new Youth Participation Strategy (A strategy for enhancing youth participation in democratic life through the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programmes). This should help the next edition of EU Youth programmes to be more participatory. It will also help to make my little SALTO dream become a reality, and I hope it will make a difference.

 

Connection to SALTO:

Reet is the deputy director of the Estonian National Agency for Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps, which is home for SALTO Participation and Information Resource Centre since 2018.

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