Panel discussion: Understanding Digital Transformation

Year of production: 2023

The Digital Transformation is happening now and affects almost every element of our lives. This all-encompassing transformation should be one which is made for and with young people, in order to ensure an inclusive digital transformation, which provides services and tools that are of good quality, participatory and truly inclusive. Other vital elements of the digital inclusion are sustainability, ethics and access.


What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation describes the evolving integration of digital technologies into social, economic, and cultural processes and structures. In the European youth field, digital transformation is understood as a multi- stakeholder and inclusive process encompassing the co-design, implementation and utilisation of people-centered digital technologies with and by young people, youth workers and other relevant stakeholders. Digital transformation is changing the way most areas of the youth field operate. 


Underlying culture and behaviours

The definition of digital transformation is open-ended, as it is such a huge term. Because transformation is taking place in so many different areas; both in terms of processes and technology, but it also involves a transformation of the underlying culture and social norms. Digital transformation encompasses how we interact with each other. And these changes are happening everywhere. Therefore, it is not a transformation solely concerning processes that we can see and control; but also the underlying behaviours linked to these processes.


What does this mean for the youth field?

  • The digital transformation offers great opportunities for the youth field. It means that everyone (given the right access, tools and skills) should be able to participate. Distance should no longer be a barrier, since – for example, to take part in youth work projects – you do not necessarily have to be there in person.
  • No one size fits all approach: In youth work, each project is different. This means that the digital transformation affects every project differently. Idea: Pay attention to the small transformations that happen in your projects.
  • Digital literacy: the digital transformation is more than about simply getting people online; digital literacy and skills need to come hand-in-hand with the transformation, in order that all the potential of this transformation can be realised. And, whilst there is a lot of information, there is not always the required knowledge on how to implement it in practice. Idea: digital literacy should be part of other topics and disciplines, as a horizontal priority in education both formal and non-formal.
  • Capacity building: the recent (and sudden) shift to online prompted by the pandemic, which meant that education – both formal and non-formal – had to go online, shone a spotlight on the gaps, both in terms of the technology available and the skills needed. There is big potential to boost the capacity in the youth field when it comes to online and hybrid youth work, as long as tools, skills and policy are given the attention needed. 


Key themes in the digital transformation

  • Youth participation & inclusion is often seen in digital transformation as a by-product, not as a driver. Even though young people tend to be early adopters of online tools and trends. This makes them inherently well placed to be a part of and, indeed, to drive the digital transformation
  • Education: Digital tools can support in achieving student-centred learning. Technology can enhance the focus on the student and the way they are learning. But, so far this opportunity has not been grasped: the tools are there but, up until now the processes to make use of them are lacking. Idea: combine the best tools for the project and find the best use cases for them.
  • Access: In order to establish a truly participatory process the best of both online and in-person youth work can be achieved through a blended approach; by creating both online and physical spaces for participation. Idea: The youth field should capture the innovation that exists in the sector to support digital transformation
  • Emerging technologies: Innovative practices are out there! Gamification and use of VR and other online tools are great examples. These can be very effective forms of digital youth participation which enhance traditional modes of practice.
  • Taking a strategic & supportive approach: Policy makers and the youth field, by taking a strategic approach should look to new ways to support the youth work community. Whilst great ideas and innovation exist in the sector, youth workers need new support systems and approaches. Idea: A youth worker community supporting each other to develop a thriving, participatory digital transformation in the youth field. 


Panel: “Understanding Digital Transformation”.

This was the first of six panel sessions hosted by SALTO Participation & Information Resource Centre (SALTO PI) and SALTO Inclusion and Diversity Resource Centre (SALTO I&D) on Inclusive & Participatory Digital Transformation.


The event featured:

  • Dr. Alicja Pawluczuk (Digital Youth Researcher)
  • Martin Fisher (Media educator at Game Over Hate)
  • Dr. Tomaz Dezelan (Professor at the University of Ljubljana) 
  • Mateusz Hoffmann (DYPALL Network)



Photo of Sarah Farndale
Sarah Farndale

Sarah is a communications specialist with 15 years' experience working in-house for a wide range of organisations and institutions, from international NGOs to EU associations and institutions. More recently, she has been advising clients as a freelance communications consultant - based in Brussels - working with organisations on enhancing their communications.