The European workcamp programme ewoca³ was created by the International Association for Education and Exchange (IBB e.V.) in 2008. During the first project phase (2009 to 2011), funding from Stiftung Mercator enabled 13 project partnerships to work together and realise international youth workcamps during the summer holidays.
Back then, the completely novel concept of ewoca³ set a new course for international youth work: It supported not just one-time contacts, but a long-term and sustainable collaboration between youths from three European countries. Studies have shown, that until then primarily youths from families with a high level of education were reached by international youth work programmes. ewoca³, however, also specifically targets apprentices, those looking for a job, and youths not enrolled in grammar schools. The programme also shows: International work with youths can not just be understood as the hobby of some especially committed youth workers. As a contribution to the further development, strengthening and professionalisation of the field, an international network of professionals emerged with ewoca³.
The foundation of the ewoca³ network was also a countersignal to an alarming trend: In the years between 2000 and 2009 many municipalities from North Rhine-Westphalia completely withdrew from the field of international youth work for financial reasons. Independent organisations as well increasingly abstained from international programmes due to a lack of funds. In creating the ewoca³ funding programme, IBB and Stiftung Mercator wanted to work against this development and establish conditions, where international youth work for municipalities and independent organisations is possible once more. Thus, from the beginning, the ewoca³ network understood itself also as a movement of youth work organisations, campaigning for support for international youth work, and advocating increased financial funding of this important field.
Due to the great success of the first project phase, with a total of 38 international youth encounters, all participants understood a continuation of the programme beyond 2011 was necessary. For a second project phase from 2012 to 2014, IBB could win over the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia to join Stiftung Mercator to fund the project, and Minister-President Hannelore Kraft became the official patron. In these three years, a total of 36 international youth encounters took place within the framework of ewoca³.
In 2015, the funding programme ewoca³ started into its third three-year project phase. And the network develops: Thanks to the new programmes ewoca³ (+) – for everyone! and ewoca – young perspectives youth work organisations from Brandenburg, Thuringia and Schleswig-Holstein could, for the first time, together with their European partners develop innovative workcamp projects on their own. In the other Federal States as well, the municipalities and independent organisations face the same challenges, and, here as well, international youth work is both important and right.