What is HEBE?
The HEBE Project was conceived to carry out research on youth empowerment. Its aim is to perform a more in-depth analysis of this concept, its implications, how young people experience it and what youth workers do or can do within different programmes and services designed to address it.
The HEBE Project is led by the University of Girona and the research team includes researchers from four other universities: the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Barcelona, Pompeu Fabra University and the Autonomous University of Madrid. This work is funded by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (Ref.: EDU2017-83249-R).
The concept of youth empowerment
The concept of youth empowerment addressed by this research is based on the idea that young individuals or young people as a collective should not take responsibility for this process, nor share this responsibility only with the community. Rather, we believe that public policies are largely responsible for the possibilities of empowerment that young people have at their disposal, because they largely depend on resources, services and programmes that can limit or enhance their abilities and, ultimately, their opportunities for empowerment.
An extensive documentary analysis of youth empowerment has been carried out as part of the research (Úcar, Jiménez-Morales, Soler, Trilla, 2016), and on the basis of this we have formulated our own definition and a pedagogical model for the places, times and processes involved in youth empowerment ( Soler, Trilla, Jiménez-Morales, Úcar, 2017). The core idea of empowerment refers to two different but successive abilities: firstly, the ability to decide, and then the ability to act in a manner consistent with what has been decided.
In order for these abilities to be put into practice and exercised, at least two necessary conditions must be in place:
Young people must have certain internal, personal or psychological capabilities (knowledge, attitudes, aptitudes, values, abilities). This condition is essentially subject to their education.
The environment in which young people evolve must enable them to make decisions and execute them. This condition is subject to political, economic, legal, and material aspects, as well as others such as rules and regulations, social pressures, stereotypes, modes, etc.
The concrete definition for our idea of empowerment is as follows:
“It is that process which increases the likelihood of a person being able to decide on and act consistently regarding everything that affects their own lives, participate in decision-making and intervene in a shared and responsible way with regard to the collective they form a part of. This requires two conditions: that they acquire and develop a series of personal capabilities (knowledge, attitudes, aptitudes, skills…), and that the environment facilitates their being able to use these capabilities effectively.” (Soler, Trilla, Jiménez-Morales and Úcar, 2017, p. 22)
The HEBE Project began in 2014. Since then work has been carried out on the following objectives:
- Defining and identifying the places, times and processes involved in the empowerment of young people.
- Identifying factors that foster and hinder youth empowerment through the analysis of youth worker discourse and practices.
The first years of the research focused on the former objective, mainly on young people’s narratives and experiences. Now, the research is more focused on the latter objective by taking into account the views and analytical capacity of youth workers.
Some of the current questions we wish to address are: How can youth empowerment be promoted in different socio-educational spaces? What elements do youth workers believe foster youth empowerment? What difficulties and limitations do youth workers detect in the support they provide for youth empowerment processes? Are the educational processes promoted by public administrations and policies effective in empowering young people?
To achieve the objectives of this project, the research has been structured through different lines of action applying a mixed methodology approach (quantitative and qualitative methodological tools).
A more in-depth investigation of the concept of empowerment has entailed theoretical analysis of the term itself. Different quantitative and qualitative techniques have been used, including questionnaires aimed at both young people and youth workers, the analysis of young people’s life stories and in-depth analyses of practitioners’ views using different narrative materials and focus groups.
From the very beginning, the HEBE Project has worked with the views of young people. A questionnaire was administered to a sample of 890 young people in order to learn more about the places, times and processes that, according to them, are involved in and determine their capacity for agency, autonomy and, ultimately, empowerment. Four participatory evaluation processes have been carried out with young people in order to determine their experiences and opinions regarding empowerment processes, with the life stories of six young people also being included within this. This material has been used to contrast and validate a proposal for empowerment indicators.
An audio-visual training and film language workshop has been given to a selected group of young people so that they might express their idea of youth empowerment based on audiovisual pieces. This workshop has given rise to the HEBE Web.doc (an interactive documentary on youth empowerment), which involved a participative research methodology on empowerment and the creation of an interactive platform for sharing empowerment experiences.
In the current phase of research, the study subjects are those education professionals who work with young people (youth workers, teachers, social educators, pedagogues, street educators, sociocultural instructors, etc.). The current research is structured into three lines:
- The analysis of youth workers’ accounts, using fieldwork diaries and audiovisual pieces.
- An online questionnaire administered to an intentional sample of youth workers to determine what work they do on youth empowerment and involving an in-depth analysis of the different dimensions of empowerment.
- Empowerment indicators displayed in a rubric format for the evaluation of youth empowerment actions and programmes. This tool has been validated and applied in pilot studies in order to present it as a resource for evaluation and learning.
The results of the HEBE Project must be used to generate knowledge among youth workers and identify those elements that best serve the empowerment needs of young people. In addition, they must contribute to decision-making in different areas of public policies.
Among some of the specific results, it is worth mentioning the following:
- The scientific contribution of the project, which can be consulted in the “Works cited” section of this website.
- The HEBE web.doc. An interactive documentary in which a group of young people share their experience on the processes, places and times where they encountered empowerment throughout their youth. It also includes an audiovisual pedagogy workshop as a youth empowerment experience and creative space.
- The rubric for evaluating youth empowerment actions and programmes. A tool based on the nine dimensions that have been associated with youth empowerment, according to which 27 indicators have been developed that are broken down to facilitate their analysis and subsequent evaluation by education teams wishing to incorporate youth empowerment in their work.