Gender-reflective Open Youth Work Professionalisation through participative knowledge production

How are gender positions established, reinforced, broadened and questioned in the practice of open youth work?


  • Lead school(s) School of Social Work
  • Institute Institute for Social and Cultural Diversity
  • Duration (planned) 01.09.2018 - 28.02.2021
  • Project management Stefanie Duttweiler
  • Head of project Stefanie Duttweiler
  • Project staff Eveline Ammann Dula
    Dominik Bodmer
    Aaron Rhyner
  • Partner Mercator Foundation Switzerland
    Federation of Open Children's and Youth Work
  • Keywords Gender, Youth work, Intersectionality, Participatory research, Practice research, Professionalisation


Gender-reflective open youth work can play a key role in ensuring equal opportunities for all genders while allowing for diversity. Its success depends on professionals who reflect on their actions and attitudes and refine their methods on an ongoing basis. The project combines research with continuing education, as we assume that those involved in the research will find that their own practice benefits intensively from what they learn.


The project purposes the sustainable professionalisation and quality assurance of professionals in open youth work with the following learning objectives:

  • Raising standards by increasing theoretical awareness of the challenges adolescents face regarding gender positions and how these relate to ethnicity, religion, class and sexual orientation.
  • Raising standards by improving methodological skills. The ‘ethnographic competence’ and reflective and analytical skills acquired will enable participants to recognise the impact of their own educational practice, reflect on their own attitudes and plan and evaluate a conscious and appropriate use of interactions, settings and methods.


At the heart of the project is the question: How are gender positions established, reinforced, broadened and questioned in specific interactions in open youth work?’ To answer this, we observe the practice of open youth work – following methodological preparation. The project uses ethnographic methodologies: working in tandems, the youth workers observe their day-to-day practice, interpret it in partnership with the researchers and develop alternative approaches for their practice.


Gender-reflective open youth work is viewed as a whole, combining a consciously structured culture of place, an active building of relationships and committed pedagogic intervention.

  • Culture of place refers, on the one hand, to the design of the youth centre. On the other hand, it also refers to the space available, the dominance of one particular group, access and the location of the venue. For gender-reflective open youth work, it proves helpful if young people are able to use the space independently, feeling free and, at the same time, protected and valued, and if the space allows points of conflict and inspiration to arise.
  • To build relationships successfully, partners who are trained in relationship building are needed ndash; and must be approachable, open and appreciative as well as able to deal with conflict and capable of development.
  • Gender-reflective open youth work also entails targeted pedagogic interventions – for example broaching the subject of gender-specific discrimination, setting specific boundaries with regard to inappropriate behaviour or a conscious invitation to and participation in (gender-atypical) activities.

Because the interaction of these factors is so fundamental, it is not enough simply to launch occasional gender projects. What is needed is to modify the whole socio-pedagogical approach. The ‘(socio-)pedagogical triangle’ illustrates this aim and helps us to analyse our own work.

Reports and articles

  • Duttweiler, Stefanie (2021). Verkörperte Professionalität – Zum ‹Mitspielen› von Körper und Leib in sozialpädagogischen Situationen am Beispiel der Offenen Jugendarbeit. In: Ganterer, Julia, Grosse, Martin & Schär, Clarissa. (Hrsg.). Erfahren - Widerfahren - Verfahren. Körper und Leib als analytische und epistemologische Kategorien Sozialer Arbeit (S. 109-122). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.
  • Duttweiler, Stefanie (2020). Genderreflektierende Offene Jugendarbeit – eine bleibende Herausforderung. In: impuls 3/2020, S. 17-18.
  • Duttweiler, Stefanie (2019). Durchmachtete Möglichkeitsräume. Überlegungen zu einer intersektionalen Jugendarbeit, in: SozialAktuell März 2019, S. 28-29

The (socio-)pedagogical triangle

The (socio-)pedagogical triangle