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New partnership set to mobilise a socially robust young generation

Young Danes are more competent and responsible than ever before, but their social well-being is in pretty bad shape. The Mary Foundation, Just Human, the Danish Efterskole Association and the Tuborg Foundation are joining forces to change that through a new project that will incorporate young people’s ideas about what elicits a socially robust young generation.

They are constantly told that anything is possible – that the world is their oyster if they just make the right choices. And most young people thrive and successfully navigate those endless opportunities. But a growing number of them are battling stress, pressure and loneliness, and the lives of far too many young people are stalling from social stagnation.

Through a collaborative project aimed at Danish ‘efterskoler’ (independent residential schools for 14 to 18-year-old students), The Mary Foundation, Just Human, the Danish Efterskole Association and the Tuborg Foundation want to combine existing knowledge about young people’s social well-being with their own suggestions on what is needed to create a generation of young people who find support and strength among one another.

The project includes a series of activities and exercises designed to, among other things, get young people to think about how they create and keep the social relationships they need.

“We know from various studies that young people are struggling to withstand the pressures they are experiencing. And yet we know very little about what is needed to reverse this negative trend. We believe that young people’s social lives and relationships can be a significant protective factor, which is why we would like to work with young people to find ways to strengthen their relationships and social communities,” said Helle Østergaard, Director of The Mary Foundation.

Another important issue concerns the multitude of misunderstandings that lead many adolescents to believe that all their peers have a lot more fun and feel a lot better about themselves than they do. A reality check of what it’s like to be young combined with an exploration of what is needed to have the courage to be yourself and feel good enough as you are also forms a central theme in the project.

Other themes may also be explored as the project develops:
“During the last school year, we tested the first version of the material by inviting both students and teachers to evaluate it through quantitative and qualitative surveys. This gave us a huge amount of useful input, which we have now incorporated. This year, we are taking the next step of delivering actual workshops, during which we will get the students’ opinions about what is needed to help further a socially robust young generation. This will be an exciting process,” said Ida Enghave, Director of Just Human.

Danish efterskoler educate a broad and representative section of the country’s youth, and over 30,000 young people started at one of these schools this year. The fact that these schools have been chosen as the framework for this development work is therefore no coincidence.

“We meet all types of young people at our efterskoler and we also see the increasing social uncertainly and vulnerability. The schools are already keenly aware of how important the students’ social relationships are for their well-being, and we are hoping that the new project will enable us to meet the requirement for a thoroughly tested tool that focuses our efforts on strengthening the social fabric in the schools,” said Torben Vind Rasmussen, Chair of the Danish Efterskole Association.

The goal of the project is to arrive at a series of materials that are in sync with school life, are meaningful to the students and teachers, and strengthen their social well-being and prospects for contributing to a socially robust young generation – individually and together. If it lives up to expectations, the project will be offered to all Danish efterskoler in the 2021/2022 academic year.

Knowledge sharing is a high priority for the project and both lessons learned and interventions will be shared with other interested parties. We have therefore also already anticipated that the project, or certain aspects of the project, could potentially be offered to the senior years in secondary school or tertiary institutions, for example.


  • Academic year 2019/2020: The project is developed, co-created and tested with students and teachers at three selected Danish efterskoler.
  • Academic year 2020/2021: The project is piloted and evaluated at 20–30 efterskoler throughout Denmark.
  • Academic year 2021/2022: The project is expanded to include as many efterskoler as possible. Results and knowledge are communicated and, if possible, the materials are made available to new target groups, such as the senior years in secondary school and tertiary institutions.


  • 40.5% of 16 to 24-year-old Danish women experience high levels of stress.
  • 20.9% of 16 to 24-year-old Danish men experience high levels of stress.
  • 25.1% of the total Danish population experience high levels of stress.

These figures have been on the rise across all segments of the population in recent years.
Source: The National Well-being Survey (2017)

  • 12% of 16 to 24-year-old Danes are very lonely and make up the loneliest age group.
  • More women than men experience severe loneliness in their youth. 15% of 16 to 24-year-old Danish women compared to 10% of men in the same age group.
  • 77% of young people who feel very lonely see friends daily or several times a week. In other words, even those young people who feel very lonely often maintain contact with friends.

Source: “Ensomhed blandt unge” (Loneliness among young people), compiled by DEFACTUM on behalf of The Mary Foundation, which builds on data from the Central Denmark Region’s edition of the health profile survey “Hvordan har du det?” (How are you feeling?) from 2017.

  • 19.5% of young people find it difficult or very difficult to confide in their friends if something is really bothering them.

Source: “Ungdomsprofilen 2014” (The Youth Profile 2014), National Institute of Public Health (NIPH)

Efterskoler in Denmark
There are 240 efterskoler in Denmark.
This year, 30,069 young people started at one of these schools. This is the highest number to date. 70% of the students attend Year 10 and 30% attend Year 8 or 9.

The Mary Foundation
In 2007, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark established The Mary Foundation for the purpose of combating social isolation based on the fundamental belief that “everyone has the right to belong”. The Mary Foundation is a unique foundation in that it identifies, develops and runs its own projects in collaboration with others – in this case Just Human and the Danish Efterskole Association. Today, we know that maintaining contact with other people is crucial for our quality of life and well-being, and The Mary Foundation’s work specifically aims to strengthen communities and make them accessible so that everyone feels seen, acknowledged and valuable.

Just Human
Just Human is a non-profit organisation and popular movement established by Chris MacDonald. The movement aims to bring Danes together and inspire people to take responsibility for their own, others’ and the next generation’s health (physical, mental and social). Just Human develops projects that promote health and well-being – primarily among children and young people, such as school projects on social well-being and sleep and building activity spaces. Just Human wants to create awareness of – and spark a debate with the Danish population about – what it will take for everyone to lead a healthy and more contented life.

The Danish Efterskole Association
All efterskoler in Denmark are members of the Danish Efterskole Association. The Danish Efterskole Association carries out a wide range of tasks from consulting on school operations, legal and financial matters, to educational development work and marketing on behalf of their member schools. There are 240 efterskoler located throughout Denmark, each of which offers a different set of values and subject choices. Twenty of these schools are for students with dyslexia who have reading or spelling difficulties, and a further 20 schools are for adolescents with special needs.

The Danish Efterskole Association supports the schools’ efforts to strengthen their young students’ academic and personal development and equip them for their future educational and career choices.

The Tuborg Foundation
The Tuborg Foundation strives to motivate young people to get involved in society’s development and social fabric – through associations, local communities and the labour market. The Tuborg Foundation particularly funds projects that are driven by young, volunteer enthusiasts or that are born of a collaborative effort between civil society, the business community and the public sector and seek to mobilise young people to participate in developing the future of society. The Tuborg Foundation is part of the Carlsberg Foundation and supports projects of all sizes all over Denmark. In 2018, the Tuborg Foundation awarded approximately DKK 59 million to projects.

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mary_fonden Ensomhed er et stigende problem blandt unge. Det vigtigste, vi kan gøre, er at tale om det, række ud og bryde tabuet. Vi skal forstå ensomhed for at kunne bekæmpe den. Mary Fondens vision er, at alle mennesker skal have adgang til nære og respektfulde relationer, hvor andre er noget for dem, og hvor de kan være noget for andre. #alleharrettilathøretil
mary_fonden Hvordan styrker vi unges sociale trivsel? Vores projekt Me&We handler om at styrke efterskoleelevers sociale kompetencer og relationer. I dag lander dette materialekatalog sammen med vandflasker og kopper på de 31 efterskoler, der er del af næste fase af projektet i det kommende skoleår. Kataloget består af viden og aktiviteter, der skal støtte elevernes forståelse af sig selv og hinanden. Læs mere via link i bio. Me&We er er samarbejde mellem Mary Fonden, @justhuman.dk, @efterskolerne og @tuborgfondet.
mary_fonden Er mobning blevet til isolering af nogle børn? Det spørgsmål stiller mobbeforsker Helle Rabøl Hansen i fagbladet Folkeskolen på baggrund af stigende ensomhed blandt børn og unge. "Nogle børn og unge oplever at være luft for de andre. Derfor vælger de at være tavse i løbet af skoledagen, for det er da bedre end aktivt at blive chikaneret af de andre i klassen. Så kommer lærerne og siger: 'Du byder ikke nok ind i undervisningen' eller 'Du skal ikke være så tilbageholdende'. Men Eva på 13 år har ikke lyst til at byde ind og dermed gøre opmærksom på sig selv. Så er det bedre slet ikke at blive set." Hun opfordrer skolerne til at tænke trivsel og deres indsats mod mobning bredere - og fx medtænke ensomhed i indsatsen. Læs mere i artiklen fra fagbladet Folkeskolen. Link i bio 👆🏼 #alleharrettilathøretil #ensomhed #mobning
mary_fonden Nu begynder forskellige sports og fritidsaktiviteter for børn så småt at starte op igen. Når aktiviteterne begynder igen, er det vigtigt at huske at arbejde for den gode klubkultur. Mary Fondens projekt Antibulli er et antimobberedskab til børnehåndboldtrænere. Det består af konkrete råd og øvelser til træningen af 6-12-årige. Målet er at skabe en hold- og klubkultur med høj tolerance, hvor alle respekterer hinanden, taler ordentligt og hjælper hinanden, så klubben er et rart sted at være, uanset hvor god man er til håndbold. Grundtanken er, at et stærkt sammenhold og gode børnefællesskaber forebygger eksklusion og mobning. Link til Antibulli.dk i bio.
mary_fonden I dag optager vi til en film om noget, der rammer ned i kernen af vores arbejde. At alle har ret til at høre til og føle sig som en del af noget større end sig selv. Det budskab og det arbejde er kun blevet endnu mere aktuelt under Corona-krisen. Stay tuned, når vi offentliggør filmen om nogle uger.