Telling stories of practice


Student Group
Participation workers from Youth Focus NW at an IDYW storytelling workshop at the University of Bolton

As regular readers will know, one of the main activities of IDYW is our storytelling workshops, which aim to bring youth workers (and/or others – e.g. young people, volunteers, students and tutors, or multi-agency groups) together to look collectively at particular stories from practice, as a way of exploring the ‘taken for granted’ aspects of what we do, without over-simplifying or producing too neat a picture:

The Storytelling method (developed by the In Defence of Youth Work campaign) cannot be confused with day to day conversation. Everyday we as youth workers tell each other our stories, and in many ways we are experts in ‘anecdotes’. However the storytelling method builds on our conversational strengths, allowing us to capture our practice through a thought-out methodical approach. This involves a combination of strong facilitation, informed probing / questioning, peer interrogation and a thorough documentation of the stories… Being involved in the story telling workshop … has been a unique experience. 
(Youth work co-ordinator, voluntary youth organisation)

Working as a team on ‘youth work stories’ was such a useful and valuable thing to do. I think we are so busy ‘doing’ that we don’t stop to think about our role as youth workers and what the hell we are doing! We should have done this a long time ago – we might have saved more of our service. If we are not clear about what makes youth work unique then how is anyone else going to know? 
(Team Leader, local authority Targeted Support for Young People Services)

The most recent workshops have included:

  • Youth participation workers from Youth Focus NE (see image above)
  • The Trans Youth Workers’ network
  • Youth and community work students from Prifysgol Cymru Y Drindod Dewi Sant / University of Wales Trinity St David
  • Chylipep (Sheffield Children and Young People’s Empowerment Project)
  • An adapted form of storytelling workshop as part of the event ‘Thinking critically about impact, evaluation and accountability in youth work’ at King’s College London

More plans are afoot… watch this space! If you are interested in hosting a workshop we facilitate them on a voluntary not-for-profit basis – we just ask for facilitator travel expenses and (if possible) a modest donation to IDYW (but both of these can be negotiated, we wouldn’t want anyone to miss out for cost reasons). See more details here: Storytelling workshop flyer

Alternatively, do feel free to make use of our ‘story-telling in youth work’ resource website to get free materials to organise and facilitate your own workshop – we are very happy to talk anyone through the process, and you are encouraged to adapt it to your needs (there are examples on the website of how story-telling workshops have been used in different contexts and with different groups).

Contact Bernard Davies ( for more information or to ask any questions.

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