How it all began
In the late 1980s, European youth information was generally difficult to find in European Union (EU) Member States. Eurodesk began life in March 1990 as a regional project in Scotland to support the youth work sector by collecting and managing youth information in a small office in Edinburgh. The idea was simple: to gather all European youth-related information in one place in an organised, easy-to-understand way to help youth workers in their daily work of informing young people about the opportunities available to them.
“In the weeks following the launch event and the attendant press attention, Eurodesk received several hundred enquiries relating to European information. Initially, this was very hard work, since not very much of the service was in place then. However, the main benefit of what happened was that the developing service of Eurodesk was shaped by these few hundred questions - they were real questions from real people and indicated very clearly what sort of information people needed to know and how they wanted to receive it.”
– Bob Payne, co-founder of Eurodesk, and former Director of Eurodesk Brussels Link.
The success of the project happened fast, with the number of users and the demand for services beyond Scotland growing rapidly in a short time. The first step in the expansion of Eurodesk was to establish the network throughout the UK, just one year after starting.
During these early years of Eurodesk, the production and sharing of information relied mainly on print, although there were some basic (by today’s standards) websites. A typical example of an information booklet is the 'Making sense of Europe' publication that explains EU initiatives and programmes. For something a bit more colourful, have a look at the first Eurodesk websites – links are in the sidebar.
1994 saw a big advancement with the launch of the Eurodesk Opportunity Finder, something of a pioneer as this was before search engines were widely used (Google, for example, was founded in 1998). The Opportunity Finder is still thriving today, now with thousands of opportunities.
Becoming a network
In 1995, Eurodesk was established in Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, making these countries the first additions to the network outside the UK. The development continued apace, and by the year 2000 Eurodesk had 23 member countries.
“At the project base in Edinburgh, it was imagined as a ‘franchise system’ - no matter which Eurodesk you approached, the service (and the answers to enquiries) should be the same. This was essentially a matter of training and quality control in relation to the enquiry answering and the accuracy of the information. Procedures were introduced to deal with this, and the service with its regional outlets continued to develop as we had hoped.”
– Bob Payne
With this expansion, a co-ordinating office called Eurodesk Brussels Link was established at Scotland House in Brussels to provide services to the Eurodesk members and coordinate projects at European level.
Celebrating thirty years
Fast forward to 2020, and we are celebrating 30 years of Eurodesk. Now operating in 36 countries, with more than 1100 information points, the network looks very different from those first days in 1990, but the mission is still the same: to raise awareness among young people on mobility opportunities and to encourage them to become active citizens.
“The team here at Eurodesk UK is joining in the celebrations. Last year we reached 15,500 young people, youth workers and stakeholders via 109 events all over the UK, and answered more than 600 online queries. We are ambitious, and in 2020 we want even more young people to learn about the opportunities available to them!”
- Eva de Luis, Eurodesk Officer, Eurodesk UK