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The Culture House model and self-determination theory

The self-determination theory, developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, states that human beings have three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. They argue that these basic needs are the foundation of human well-being and that without them, people cannot thrive. Autonomy is the experience of being free to decide for oneself what to do, having freedom of choice and action, and not being forced or strictly controlled. Voluntary activity does not feel externally controlled, but motivated from within, with a sense of interest and ownership. Competence is the individual’s experience of knowing what he or she is doing and getting things done. They believe they can do a particular task successfully and they are willing to improve. Relatedness from the basic human need to be connected to other people. Our well-being is strongly linked to the people around us: when we feel cared for and can connect deeply with others, we feel well.

All three of these psychological needs are perfectly present in Culture Houses. All activities are voluntary, no one is forced to do anything. Of course, young people are often encouraged to try new things and sometimes go beyond their comfort zone, but there is no obligation. This is all the more important in today’s society, where young people in particular feel the pressure to produce, to perform and to succeed – unforced is a nourishing perspective. This ability is reflected in the Culture House, where you can try out a wide range of activities with a very low threshold. If you have never tried miniature painting, you can join a group and not only gain a new experience, but perhaps also important insight into whether or not meticulous and careful work is for you.

The aim is also to bring a genuine opportunity for development: it starts with the courage to try something new, but through guidance and practice you can even reach professionalism. That’s why we organise different ways to showcase your skills outside the Culture House, such as working on an art exhibition or performing with a band at a concert. Inspired by their experience of group guidance, several of the peer mentors at the Culture House have gone on to study to become youth workers.

Relatedness is very important in a Culture House; a Culture House is a community made up of its participants. Participants become part of a safe, warm community where they can be themselves and where people are interested in their lives and their concerns. They receive support and encouragement from the community that they might otherwise miss out on altogether.

The ”What” and ”Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of BehaviorDeci E, Ryan R(2000)