What is the meaning of Jyväskylä? A book for youth work communities

Tommi Hoikkala (ed.)


This book for youth work communities was produced at the end of the project called “The Meaning of Jyväskylä? Youth work practices in Central Finland” (2016–2020), also known as the “Meaning of Jyväskylä” (MoJ) project. The project developed youth workers’ pedagogical thinking through methods for studying their own work. The purpose was to ensure that such methods would take root as youth work practices. The MoJ project is an example of a slow project.

The MoJ process continues in the book. Most of the authors are youth work professionals based in Jyväskylä and Central Finland who are involved in practical youth work. In their articles, they describe and put into words their work and its structure and framework. Their articles illustrate what they think about their work – or how their work is thinking within them, as a cognitive anthropologist might say. The articles written by researchers for the book serve as reflective surfaces for the texts written by youth work professionals, and vice versa.

All of the authors were asked the following questions: Firstly, in your opinion, what are the most important tasks of youth work in the context of the current transition? Secondly, how do you see the transition? Where is it taking us and what opportunities will it offer? Thirdly, what is your idea of professionalism in youth work? What does it mean in your experience? Fourthly, what does genuine interaction mean? Fifthly, what is the meaning of being youth-oriented? Finally, above all, what is the meaning of Jyväskylä? That is, how would you describe this town?
The authors’ responses created a thematic consistency for the book.

The book’s 34 articles written by 40 authors painted a picture of the history and development of youth work in Jyväskylä after the recession in the 1990s. This also serves as a framework for the MoJ project. The articles also discuss other areas in Central Finland. The book deals with the theme of transition to a great extent and discovers a conflict through which developments in the field of youth work in Jyväskylä and Central Finland are interpreted. This conflict concerns the development of youth centres and other facilities on the one hand and targeted youth work on the other hand.

The articles also explain why collective methods for employees to study their own work are important. It is valuable for operators in the field of youth work to understand what their own environment and place mean to them from the perspective of their work and profession. The book is also a way to dismantle the persistent myth that youth research in Finland focuses on the Helsinki metropolitan area. Local and regional approaches and sociocultural environments are factors in the context of social and pedagogical operations that characterise local activities. Herein also lies a theoretical point: local + global = glocal. This is also the landscape of the coronavirus era.