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How can we support ‘NEET’ youth through neat interventions? A realist evaluation and implementation study of (re)engagement initiatives for young people not in employment, education or training

Research project The challenging life situation of youth who are not in employment, education or training (usually referred to as “NEETs”) has become an issue of policy and societal concern. Interventions that offer these individuals holistic and flexible services through outreach strategies, skill-building and health promoting activities as well as personalised and coordinated support has the potential to promote their health, improve their wellbeing and facilitate their integration into society.

This project will offer a basis for improving the lives of young people aged 16-29 years who are in a situation that prevents them from entering into education or employment by analysing how so-called “(re)engagement” interventions can promote their health, improve their wellbeing and facilitate their integration into society.

Head of project

Frida Jonsson
Research fellow

Project overview

Project period:

2021-01-01 2023-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Epidemiology and Global Health, Department of Social Work

Research area

Public health and health care science

External funding


Project description

This project builds on and emerges from national and international concerns about a particularly vulnerability group of young people that, for various reasons, faces increased risks of social exclusion. More specifically, while ‘NEET’ youth often have experiences of studies or work, their challenging life situation whereby personal (such as low self-esteem, functional disabilities and/or mental ill health) and structural (like the rigidity of and poor coordination between welfare actors) problems interact, usually prevents them from remaining in or continuing with these undertakings.

Considering the concurrent and long-term benefits of not only having an education and/or a job, but of feeling healthy and well, it is of outmost importance that we learn more about the ways through which neat ‘(re)engagement’ interventions – that combine skill-building and health promoting activities with forms of personalised and coordinated support – can improve the lives of ‘NEET’ youth. However, due partly to their novelty, these efforts have so far been scarcely documented and, in many instances, implemented in Sweden in a trial-and-error fashion with little theoretical basis to support them. This means that our knowledge about how, for whom, in what conditions and why the initiatives work or not remains largely limited.

To contribute such insights, the project will combine two methodologies in three phases. We will in a first phase review international research on the topic of ‘(re)engagement interventions and NEET youth’ and also map existing initiatives in Sweden to identify assumptions about how and in what conditions these efforts are expected to work. In a second phase, we will then test whether these assumptions hold in practice by analysing different types of qualitative information collected in 6-8 initiatives identified through the mapping. In a third and final phase, we will then combine findings from the previous phases and use the knowledge as a basis to engage with ‘NEET’ youth, professionals and policy-makers in dialogs about how to strengthen the intervention and its nationwide implementation.

By evaluating the role of (re)engagement initiatives in the lives of ‘NEET’ youth with a focus on mapping the situation, identifying good practices and proposing directions for action, the current project represents a timely and relevant response to a societal and governmental felt need of improving the situation of a particularly vulnerable group of young people.


External funding

Latest update: 2024-04-07