The Early Stages in Finland
Youth information and counselling took its first steps in Finland in the 1950s. Back then, the services were directed particularly at young people who moved from the country to the city. Between 1953 and 1977, the Youth Department of the City of Helsinki provided information and counselling to Helsinki-based young people and those who had just moved from the countryside. Themes covered included leisure activities, study options and the various non-governmental organisations that operated in the capital. With youth information and counselling services, the Youth Department tried to encourage young people who did not belong to any associations or NGOs to participate in youth activities. The service was voluntary for young people.
The European Influence and Cooperation
Even elsewhere in Europe – in France, Belgium, Great Britain, and Germany – the youth information and counselling work developed in the times of great societal changes, for example in the aftermath of the French protests in 1968, which resulted in the establishment of CIDJ (Centre Information et Documentation Jeunesse). France has played an important role in the development of European youth information and counselling work. However, CIDJ was not the first organization with the German Informationszentrum IFO operating already in 1967 and the Belgian Info jeugd in 1966.
Throughout the history, the work has aimed at providing a meeting place for young people and professionals as well as giving answers to young people’s information needs. The idea of information being emphasized in particular in times of great societal changes is supported by the history of youth information and counselling work. Often, the social context of a development has been a great turning point in the society, for example rapid urbanization or the social turbulence in 1968. This is stated by Marc Boes in his article on youth information and counselling work. Boes has worked a long time with youth information and counselling and chaired the European Umbrella Organization ERYICA (European Youth Information and Counselling Agency) in 2006–2013. This was also the case in Finland.
The Service Centres and Points
In Turku, planning for youth information and counselling services began in 1957, and the first services were launched two years later. A dedicated office facility for the services was opened in Turku in 1969. In the same year, the youth information centre in Turku was awarded a grant for the purpose of counselling young people who had recently moved to Turku.
Those who provided counselling to young people moving from the countryside are considered to be the pioneers of youth information and counselling. Further down the continuum, there are European youth information and counselling services and their umbrella organisation ERYICA. The Finnish network of youth information and counselling services has been and still is an active participant of ERYICA.
Elsewhere in Europe, the first youth information and counselling service points were established in Belgium, Germany, France and the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s. Little by little, the services started to expand their scope from specific problems of young people to various new sectors.
The oldest, best-known way of providing youth information and counselling services is through service centres and points. Service provision today is not so different from the past: responding to young people’s information needs and offering high-quality advice, counselling and support.
The tools and methods, however, have varied and changed over the years. Information and counselling in former youth departments was based on young people’s voluntary participation. Young people contacted youth information and counselling workers by phone or letter, or by paying a personal visit.
In its earliest form, youth information and counselling was problem-focused, while the approach in the 2000s highlights the inclusion and equality of young people.
Youth Information Centre Kompassi was established in 1983 in a place easily accessible to young people - the Station Tunnel of the Helsinki Central Railway Station. Kompassi’s target group were the young people spending time at the station, and its information and counselling services focused on the provision of youth information and on resolving young people’s difficult situations. The first youth information and counselling service in Oulu was established at the Santaholma Youth Club in 1985, the International Youth Year.
In 2005, the Finnish youth information and counselling network met in Oulu with the aim of establishing a national coordination model. In the meeting, the Youth Department of the Ministry of Education appointed City of Oulu’s Centre of Youth Affairs as the national coordinator. The activities began in early 2006 with the launch of the National Coordination and Development Centre of Youth Information and Counselling Services, currently known as Koordinaatti.
Characteristics of Finnish Youth Information and Counselling work
In Finland, not only the European reference framework but also the Finnish characteristics have influenced the development of youth information and counselling work. For example the interviewees for this research project recognized that the work in Finland is clearly part of the field of youth work, one form of youth work. This is also reflected in the previous Youth Act according to which ”municipal youth work and policies include educational guidance, facilities and activities for young people, information and counselling services, support from youth associations and other youth groups, physical, cultural, international and multi-cultural youth activities, environmental education as well as youth workshop services or other activities adapted to local circumstances and needs.” In this way, youth information and counselling work was institutionalized as a form of youth work.
Malm, K. 2019. Professionals in Managing Flows of Information: Youth Information and Counselling in the 2020s. P. 7-8.
Timonen-Verma, P. 2003. Nuorisotiedotus- ja neuvonta Suomessa. Timonen-Verma, P. & Fedotoff, J. (eds.) Näkökulmia nuorisotiedotus- ja neuvontatyöhön. pp. 109,152-153
Heikkinen, M. 2006. Kotikäyntejä, valistusta ja diskoja. Heikkinen, M. (toim.) Keinut, filmit, kerhot ja tatsat. Etnologinen katse nuorisokulttuuriin. p. 139