The International Learning Exchange, which originated in 2015, is designed as a cultural and educational experience for U.S. afterschool leaders to learn from—and with—leaders from other countries. Ireland's new comprehensive policy framework, Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, strong on-going dedication to developing youth workers, and enhancing the ways in which evidence is used to inform practice aligns with NAA's mission and made it an obvious choice for this year's event.
Participants included a range of thought and practice leaders from large for-profit and nonprofit programs to national, state, regional and city leaders in afterschool. Dale Blyth from the University of Minnesota coordinated the trip with Irish colleagues John Bamber with the Center for Effective Services, Conor Rowley from Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), Sean Redmond formerly with DCYA, Mary Cunningham with the National Youth Council of Ireland, and Martin McMullan with Youth Action NI.
During the visit, participants were impressed by the quality and quantity of the work done by their international colleagues and the overall framing of the policy and practices. The focus on the professionalization of the workforce, different ways to provide evidence of success, and the unwavering commitment to—and engagement with—children's rights were themes heard throughout the visit and included many ideas that could positively impact the afterschool field in the U.S.
"This was the best professional experience I could have ever received," said Tracey Lay, NAA Board Member. "We owe it to the children in the U.S. to collaborate with other countries and learn best practices to ensure we help young people gain the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in life."
NAA and the 20 International Learning Exchange participants were extremely grateful for the hospitality of the local people who generously shared their time and expertise. The lessons learned from this opportunity will be used to inform their work in creating systems and professional development opportunities that support the adults who serve children and youth, as well as improve youth and families experiences overall.
Invitations to the International Learning Exchange are a benefit exclusive to NAA's Executive Members. Join or upgrade today for the opportunity to be included.
Registration for ILE 2017 is open! Join us in Helsinki, Finland, June 26 - 30. More information announced soon! If you are interested and have questions, please click here.
Photo courtesy of Kasie Smith.