During the spring and summer of 2018, the Centre for Applied Anthropology of Estonia (CAAE) collaborated with University of Tartu’s Centre for Applied Social Sciences in conducting a research for Estonia’s Ministry of Education and Science titled “The Motivation for Participation in Youth Work for Young Adults aged 19–26”.
The purpose of the research was to map which conditions, experiences and social networks contribute and support participation in organised youth activities for this age group. The findings serve as an input to the new youth work development framework and include suggestions on how to plan activities while taking into account the needs and interests of this age group.
CAAE’s role in this study was explore the perspectives of those who have, for different reasons, remained disengaged with organised youth work or various extracurricular activities. This included young people in various risk-groups as well as those who have too little leisure time due to the responsibilities at school, work or home. Participant observation was carried out among four different types of young adults with the aim of getting a better understanding of their experiences.
The study revealed that in this age group, young people are inclined to fill the roles they are familiar with – achievements and setbacks, but also the interests developed during the teenage years play its role. While lack of time is commonly brought forth as the reason for not participating in youth activities, the underlying reasons are also that some activities are sensed as “unfamiliar” or incompatible with one’s self-image.
The findings of the study suggest that in order to attract more young adults to youth activities, it is necessary to review and accommodate the practicies of youth work, also to take into account people’s background and earlier experiences in order to offer support for acquiring new experiences.
In the summer of 2018, the Centre for Applied Anthropology of Estonia conducted research on mobility patterns on the island of Saaremaa. Lümanda village and its immediate surroundings are situated 35-50 km from the island’s capital and are sparsely populated. This presents a challenge for both local inhabitants as well as the local municipality in providing the necessary means of transportation.
We lived a week in the area and interviewed close to 50 people. Our goal was to study the current mobility patterns and practices of a community in a rural area in order to probe their readiness for alternative ways of organising transportation, e.g. demand-based transportation.
We concluded that in rural areas an organic form of demand-based transportation exists, where people are used to planning their mobility ahead and cooperating with other community members in the area. However, we brought forth certain user groups who’s mobility is limited and whose quality of life is negatively affected due to that: mothers with small children, elderly people with reduced mobility or special needs, people working shift-hours and children and young people who participate in extracurricular activities in Kuressaare.
The results were presented to the Government Office’s Innovation Team, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Road Administration and Ministry of Social Affairs. They concluded that the user personas we developed based on our fieldwork are well applicable in other rural areas of Estonia.
Saaremaa island’s municipality is currently searching for solutions on how to manage public transportation in a more efficient way while providing the necessary mobility to its inhabitants. We made four suggestions in order to improve the situation, based on the results of our research: a network of community drivers, school buses that take children to extracurricular activities in Kuressaare, safe bicycle lanes to schools and official hitchhiker stops on the outskirts of Kuressaare. A pilot project of community drivers is taking place at the end of 2018.
In March 2018 the Center for Applied Anthropology of Estonia conducted a pilot research on the parcel courier’s journey for the Estonian postal serviceOmniva. We used a method of shadowing: during a four-hour-period our researcher observed the work of the courier on his daily circle from the parcel center to the package machines and back to the center.
The aim of the research was to get a brief overview of the everyday work of the courier. Out of the variety of aspects that influence a courier on daily basis, we focused on figuring out what disturbs or even disrupts his workflow and finding ways to make the system more efficient from his perspective.
The fieldwork yielded valuable insights in preparation for a workshop we conducted for the management and developers team of Omniva where we opened and discussed the multitude of factors that influence the work of various functions whose operations remain largely out of sight for the team. This helped to see small changes that could improve the effectiveness of the processes and encouraged the developers to conduct similar fieldworks with their users.
Our thinking sessions were invigorating, the debates compelling and constructive, refreshing and inspired by contradictions that rose from experiences. I felt at ease because we were thinking along the same lines, our partnership created a space for healthy self-criticism and humour. I enjoy cooperating and co-working with the anthropologists from the Centre for Applied Anthropology of Estonia, because with them the analysis phase is not a mundane task to get over with. Instead, it is a playful exploration, where progress is carried by self-analysis, discovery and learning.
Maie Kiisel Centre for Applied Social Sciences, University of Tartu
During November 2017-February 2018, the Centre for Applied Anthropology of Estonia (CAAE) collaborated with University of Tartu’s Centre for Applied Social Sciences in conducting a research for Estonia’s Youth Work Center, titled “Youth Participation in Decision-Making Processes”. The resarch was based on a premise that the youth in Estonia is not particularly eager to participate in decision-making processes on societal level.
In order to get a better overview of the lifeworld of the youth, the way they sense and conceptualise it, CAAE’s anthropologists carried out fieldwork in five Estonian towns. We employed methods of participant observation and ethnographic interviews with youngsters of different age-groups, and of different ethnic, social and educational backgrounds. One of the aims of the fielwork was to establish contacts with people who are not active in youth work, and to find new ways and forms of engaging the youth.
It emerged from the interviews that young people often associate participation in decision-making processes with political activism, and therefore sometimes fail to see themselves being engaged. Many pointed out that they do not vote at the elections because they feel that they lack both necessary information and life-experience in choosing the right candidates. In their dealings with city officials, the youth clearly sense a hierarchy of age and power, and politicians’ sudden rise of interest towards the needs and wishes of young people prior to the local elections.
The youth also pointed out how there are no places in the public sphere designed for young people and how they can spend time in the public areas only at the mercy of adults. The young people expressed a yearning for much bigger freedom in making decisions over their own life and in conducting their daily activities, incl organising their leisure time.
In order to engage more young people in wider social issues, they need to experience trust, equal partnership and meaningful co-operation.
The Center for Applied Anthropology exceeded our expectations with their abilities of focus and analysis, we are thankful for such a good partnership!”
Agnes Aljas Estonian National Museum
Between December 2017 and March 2018 the Center for Applied Anthropology of Estonia conducted a research on museum communications for the Estonian National Museum (ENM). The project focused on the representation of religion and items related to religion within the permanent exhibition ‘Encounters’. ENM was intrigued to know (1) what are visitors’ expectations on the exhibiting of religion, (2) which conceptions impact the representations, perception and reception of religion in a museum context, and (3) how do the visitors perceive museum’s communication activities.
CAAE interviewed visitors and curators of the permanent exhibition. The findings uncovered a trend that is relatively characteristic to Europe – religion is interpreted from deeply individual perspectives. Every visitor’s as well as curator’s perception of the exhibits that are related to religion is influenced by his/her (non-)religious/spiritual, professional and educational background.
In 2015-2016, a project focusing on Ülejõe, the historic area of Tartu is conducted on the initiative of Tartu City Museum. The project encompasses both Tartu Ülejõe and Raadi-Kruusamäe districts and is called Üle Jõe (Over the River). Ülejõe is one of the most severely damaged areas in Tartu in World War II. A large part of the historic buildings was destroyed and the population of the district changed. The aim of the project is to get to know and familiarise the citizens of Tartu with Ülejõe as an area with a fascinating history and valorise it as an interesting place to live.
Our role was to map the area through biographical interviews, to attract students to participate in the project and tutor them and to carry out the activities associated with the project. The aim is to link the world of science with the society and to encourage young researchers to deal with the problems and questions of the university town. This allows us to demonstrate the applicability of the humanities and social sciences by showing how the scientists of the aforementioned fields can give us new kind of information about the society and the ways it can be furthered.
Collaborators: Tartu City Museum, University of Tartu, Estonian National Museum