Given the present level of upheaval it’s difficult to have a sense of what’s happening to youth work across the country. Thus it’s all the more helpful to come across a piece of thoughtful research into what’s going on in a specific part of the country, namely the West Midlands. Entitled ‘The Shape of Youth Work : A Profession at Risk or an Opportunity for Innovation?’ the piece of work undertaken by Nic Gratton of the Creative Communities Unit at Staffordshire University is skewed inevitably by its reliance on the opinions of nine service ‘leads’, six from the statutory and three from the voluntary sectors. However this is balanced by Nic’s informed grasp of the contradictions facing youth work and youth services. In the end her conclusions too are influenced understandably by a need to define a positive role for the revamped regional youth work unit, Youth Focus West Midlands, which supported what is termed a ‘knowledge transfer’ project. In order to do this Nic slides to defining youth work as a separate and special set of values and skills, which can be transferred here, there and everywhere, rather than as a distinctive site of practice founded on voluntary association. This difference of definition and opinion is at the heart of the tensions presently besetting youth work and services for young people. And the critical dialogue we need is aided by this welcome and insightful effort to shed light on the situation in the field.