We are kicking off this Q&A series with our former Programme Manager for the Fund for Youth Employment, Grethe Haugøy. What has she learned after six years working with youth through the EEA and Norway Grants? Find out below.
Why is it important to empower and invest in youth?
“It‘s important to empower and invest in youth because they are our future. Young people today live and will continue living in a world that is very different from the one I‘ve lived in so far. I think it‘s my responsibility to do whatever I can to ensure that young people can make good choices and create the best possible future for themselves and their communities.”
“It‘s important to empower and invest in youth because they are our future.”
The project YES! (Young Entrepreneurs Succeed) is supported through the Fund for Youth Employment with the aim to activate unemployed youth and promote entrepreneurship.
What is the Fund for Youth Employment to you, personally?
“Since I was responsible for developing and implementing the Fund for Youth Employment over six years it has great personal value to me. However, looking back, the most prized memory I have from the Fund is the joy of working together with my colleagues at the EEA and Norway Grants, the Fund Operator, the Project Partners, the Donors and everyone else that contributed to its creation and success.”
What are the most memorable projects you worked on with the Fund for Youth Employment and why?
“If I were to pick out some projects, I would select those that focus on young people in rural areas - (in the more depleted areas) in Europe. What I like about those projects is that they have such a positive view of the people in the countryside. These projects highlight the opportunities for young people in those areas. That gives me a lot of energy and positive vibes for the future. I always feel happy when I read about all the good work we do in those projects, for areas that in the general discussion comes across as a bit negative. I like that we focus on the opportunities.”
How do Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein through the Fund for Youth Employment contribute to empowering youth in Europe?
“I think we made a number of good choices when setting up the Fund for Youth Employment. We analysed the current situation and other available funding opportunities, and found that we did not want to focus on short-term easy wins. We wanted to ensure long-term, substantial funding for organisations that are capable of supporting the empowerment of the most vulnerable among young people. There are not any easy fixes in this work, but the success of the Fund rests on the excellence of the project partners - their knowledge, experience, dedication and skills.”
“...I think that our contribution is most valuable when we focus on the most vulnerable. When we focus on the forgotten, the invisible, the hidden.”
In what way does the EEA and Norway Grants make a difference in your opinion?
“In my personal opinion, I think that our contribution is most valuable when we focus on the most vulnerable. When we focus on the forgotten, the invisible, the hidden. I think we make a difference when we work with civil society organisations and other structures that support people in vulnerable situations.”
How do you see the future for the youth in the EU?
“What I see from Youth EU policies, is that it’s quite ambitious. There are a lot of initiatives, and the EU pours a lot of money into education, training, and unemployment opportunities for youth. So, it is difficult to criticize the way the EU or many countries work on youth policies. But I see why the Fund for Youth Employment has been so relevant - it is because it focuses on those who fall outside the normal pathways. What I think is important is to try to find solutions for those who fall outside and there is a need to invest more in civil society organisations or other structures that are more flexible, that talk directly to the people (the target group) and perform the kind of work and do the activities that are necessary for these groups.”
FOLM "From Outdoors to Labour Market" is a project supported by the Fund for Youth Employment which aims for young people's social and personal growth through outdoor learning.
What gives you hope for European youth today?
“Oh, that is difficult. If I compare 20-year-olds today with myself and my friends at that age, we were also concerned about the future, but we were much more optimistic and many of us believed that we could make a change. Of course, as it turned o was not the case we turned to cynicism. Now the concern of young people seems to manifest itself in passiveness, helplessness and depression. It is heartbreaking. I am not optimistic of the future. I think young people will face a lot of difficulties in the next decades. We tried to change the world within the established systems, but it failed. Privileged people will never give up their privileges, and the current systems protect those privileges. I think the only way to change the world is to find new ways of making change, and if anyone can do this, it is the young.”
“...I think the only way to change the world is to find new ways of making change, and if anyone can do this, it is the young.”
If you could give a 20-year-old advice today, what would it be?
“I think the older I get the more I understand the importance of close friendships, the right life partner, and the satisfaction of being true to oneself and one’s values. But what has been most important to me in my life is that I have been able to be independent and act independently of others. It has given me a lot of freedom and peace of mind.”
We thank Grethe for sitting down with us and sharing her views. Next time we will be talking to Mateusz Wiśniewski who works with the Fund Operator of the Fund for Youth Employment. Stay tuned!
Read more about the Fund for Youth employment here https://eeagrants.org/topics-programmes/fund-youth-employment
Read about the youth projects that the EEA and Norway Grants support here https://youthemploymentmag.net/