Youth work in Japan: Why does storytelling matter? IDYW Seminar, September 1


Ta to Jethro Brice

Colin Brent sends news re the fascinating prospect of hearing about youth work in Japan and the influence of IDYW’s Story-Telling approach upon the Japanese scrutiny of practice.

In Defence of Youth Work’s Engaging Critically Seminars

Youth work in Japan: Why does storytelling matter?

story telling 2

Friday, September 1 from 11:00 –14:00

Bollo Brook Youth Centre, 272 Osborne Road, W3 8SR, London


· Creating spaces to write and read about practice – creating the Japanese version of ‘This is Youth Work’ (Maki Hiratsuka)

· Two stories from youth work practice in Japan

· Discussion


Maki Hiratsuka is working with researchers and youth work practitioners from Japan to undertake international research in youth work that focuses on the creation of ‘the space’ for ‘writing down the practice and reading it together’. Inspired by the In Defence of Youth Work publication ‘This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice’ , they are aiming to publish the Japanese version online by the end of 2017. It is also hoped to make it into a series. As in England, ‘numerical’ evaluation has prevailed in Japan. As a counter-measure, the research group propose story-telling.

In Defence of Youth Work is a forum for critical discussion on youth work. We are committed to encouraging an open and pluralist debate at a time of limited opportunities for collective discussion. We are looking forward to welcoming researchers and youth workers from Japan to share and discuss the similarities and differences in the practice and governance of youth work in our two countries.

See also Facebook events page to indicate interest/to say you’re going.

Youth Work in Japan


Regional Seminar,’Space in Youth Work’, February 24

Flyer for the above event. More details soon re Oldham and Brighton.


IDYW regional seminar is confirmed for Oldham on Friday 24th Feb – 11-2pm
Egerton Street, Oldham OL13SE

Tracy Ramsey Lhu advises: Please just email me to confirm and we will make sure there is a brew for you
Everyone welcome – please share far and wide.


IDYW Local and Regional Seminars, February 24 – Join in and organise



Colin Brent is coordinating our effort to encourage you to meet locally and regionally to further reflection and debate

Hi everyone, it’s time to start thinking again about the next round of local seminars/discussions. These provide an opportunity for youth workers, students and friends of youth work to come together and discuss issues that they face. I’m suggesting “space” as the theme for the next one: can we share the ‘safe space’ we create with young people with other agencies and how do we negotiate this; does youth work need its own distinct spaces (youth centres) or can it take place in schools, council offices etc.? The last seminars were  in London and Liverpool, it would be great if other areas could join in the debate.

As things stand Colin is looking to coordinate meetings on Friday, February 24th and promising noises are being made by people in London, Liverpool/Oldham and Brighton. Obviously the onus is on local folk to find a venue and publicise, but it can be very low-key. Simply bringing together a handful of people would be a positive start.

Contact Colin to find out more at

IDYW Regional Seminars : Spreading the Word and Broadening the Debate

Colin Brent reports on the recent initiative, he is leading, to revive and extend the place of regional seminars in the argumentative, challenging life of IDYW.


Ta to jobcluboforegon

On Friday 18th November, the first of what we hope be a series of seminars on issues that affect youth work practice took place in London and Liverpool. The London seminar took place in the UNISON headquarters in Euston, and brought together youth workers from London, Bedfordshire and Northampton to discuss the ethics of banning young people from youth work provision.

In a context of dwindling resources, and evermore pressure to become more targeted, the seminar grappled with some of the issues at the heart of youth work. Why youth work? And with whom? Given that any provision is riven with power dynamics and acknowledging how peer networks can exclude as well as include, how do we decide who can access our provision and how? And how do we, as youth workers, work to try to assuage oppressive power dynamics, such as in gang related activities, whilst still remaining relevant to the realities of young people’s lives? If a young person or a group of young people are preventing, by their mere presence, other young people accessing provision, then should they be asked to leave?

There are no easy answers to these questions, but some of the ideas that came out were about how we create inclusive spaces, where young people learn to tolerate and be tolerated. We discussed how to include young people into projects, such as participation projects, where they might not have felt able to access. The decision to not ban young people who expect, from all of their other contacts with schools, youth justice, the police, to always be pushed away, was seen as a powerful sign that we are different, and that the spaces we work within create a different dynamic. The need sometimes to ban young people who are threatening completely to undermine the fabric of this space was also acknowledged.

As always when you get a group of youth workers in a room, the discussions will weave in an array of dilemmas, reflections and frustrations, and linking up with the group in Liverpool at the end seemed to confirm this. We hope to continue with these seminars, with another one in three months’ time.


It would be great if we could add other regions to the debate, so please contact me at if you would like to get involved. Any ideas for the topic of the next seminar are similarly welcome.

The Ethics of Banning : IDYW Regional Seminars, London and Liverpool, November 18

Since our emergence we have sought to encourage the development of IDYW meetings at a local and regional level. By and large this has not come to pass. Thus we are more than pleased to publicise this joint initiative taken by Colin Brent and Tracy Ramsey Lhu. Please support if at all possible. And why not think about taking a similar step in your locality or region?


Ta to

The Ethics of Banning
How do we decide who can and can’t access youth work

Dual open seminars to discuss issues at the core of youth work
on the ground

Friday 18th November 2016, 11am-2pm

UNISON Centre,
130 Euston Road,
Contact Colin – 07988085112
Liverpool Hope University
Hope Park Campus,
Taggart Avenue,
L16 9JD
Contact Tracy – 0151 2913461

Thanks to UNISON and Liverpool Hope University for their support.

banning-flyer Please print out and circulate.

European Conference – Enter!: from Policy to Practice. Colin Brent reports

The media headlines continue to be dominated by the issue of Brexit. As IDYW we’ve yet to get our heads around its possible consequences. In a piece some of us have been scribbling we made a brief and provisional last minute addition to the text.

Our effort to be outgoing is now suffused with complication, the consequence of the BREXIT decision to leave the European Union. On the ground, as youth workers, we must engage afresh with both alienated young people from working class communities ‘left behind’, who voted to leave and young people, frustrated with the prospect of diminishing opportunities abroad, who wished to remain. Both groups will be disadvantaged if the ERASMUS+ programme, combining the EU’s schemes for education, training, youth and sport, disappears. Uncertainty prevails.

Meanwhile much continues to happen on the European scene and Colin Brent reports from a recent Council of Europe event.


Unfortunately, I could not make the IDYW Conference the other week, as I was sat on the Eurostar, accompanied by Tania de St Croix’s fascinating new book on grass roots youth work, trying to digest the past three days. I was on my way home from a Council of Europe seminar on “Enter! Policy to Practice, a seminar on the implementation of the Recommendation on the access of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods to social rights [CM/Rec(2015)3] through youth work and youth policy practitioners” taking place at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg. The seminar brought together around 40 youth workers, local authority representatives and NGOs to discuss the implementation of the above recommendation.

The recommendation, which was adopted by the Council of Europe last year, is as wide-ranging as the Council itself(which stretches from Greenland to Vladivostok), and is full of measures to support young people from “disadvantaged neighbourhoods” to access health, housing, sports, leisure and culture, employment, education and training, and information and counselling. The recognition of youth work and youth workers is highlighted, although the definition of both is vague. You can read more about it here. Whilst some of these measures are very welcome (the adequate remuneration of apprenticeships, special attention to the health needs of young people suffering from poor mental health, etc.), as with documents of this size and nature it is naturally rife for criticism. It starts with the assumption that change must be from within institutions, without questioning the nature of these institutions themselves – they must provide opportunities for young people to include themselves, rather than look for wider societal change. The focus on education and employment is meant to support young people’s insertion into the labour market, without question whether the current system has any role in their initial “disadvantage”. As one of the speakers made clear, young people must “accept” society. Our role, it seems, is to help them towards that.

Away from the inevitable fudge of a document agreed by 47 nations, the connections and shared frustrations of the participants of the seminar was what made it worthwhile. After the first day several people, who would usually be working face-to-face with young people, told me that they weren’t quite sure what they were doing there. This wasn’t meant for them. In the lunch-breaks and evenings, as well as in working groups, the complex realities of people’s work on the ground started to come to the fore. Several times in the seminar people’s impatience wore thin, and for me these frustrations confirmed that the importance of youth work across Europe is not found in a document, but in people’s diverse experiences on the ground.

The people attending were from a fascinating range of projects (well sought out by the organisers), with democratic educators from Portugal, street workers from France, workers on projects for young people with disabilities in Croatia,… We shared the challenges of work in our areas, from setting up youth work under the repressive regime in Chechnya to working with isolated young people in Finland. The reaction as I spoke about IYSS (our monitoring database) was incomprehension from Bosnia and verging on disgust from Germany. We looked to share ways that we work, better communicate that work and ensure its relevance to young people’s lives. In short, I’m moving to Finland. I had the opportunity to present IDYW’s story-telling resource and to underline the importance of the cornerstones.

So as I arrived back in London I had mixed feelings. Had our presence in Strasbourg done anything to shape future policy from Europe’s institutions? Probably not. Had I met some wonderful people who I hope will work together with me in the future to develop our practice? Definitely. One thing I know, I’m looking forward to seeing the young people after a week away.

The use of story-telling to look at responses to sexual abuse in Argentina


We’ve been taken aback by the global interest in our advocacy of story-telling as a  subjective, qualitative and comparable attempt to illustrate the distinctiveness of informal youth work. Indeed partial translations of our web resource, Story-Telling in Youth Work  have appeared in Russian, Kazakh and Finnish with a Japanese version in the offing.

And now Colin Brent has posted a fascinating translation of a piece by Alejandro Capriati, Researcher at CONICET/University of Buenos Aires entitled, ‘The use of story-telling to look at responses to sexual abuse in Argentina.’

Alejandro begins:

Story-telling in Youth Work is a process used by workers, tutors and students that work with young people. In England many of them are government-employed youth workers specially trained for working with young people that are not part of formal education or health services and work in open-access spaces for young people. These have few restrictions on young people’s engagement and are spaces where young people can hang out, take part in a great range of activities (radio, music, art, courses, cooking, etc.), or just do nothing. Each youth centre works in its own way, but is based on the principal of voluntary engagement, and has a focus on relationships, the building of trust between young people and workers, and personal development. From that starting point, some young people may reengage with formal education, report abuse, get support with substance misuse, etc.

There are similarities and differences in the work with young people in English youth centres and in certain projects in Argentina carried out by charities or as part of some social programmes. Looking at these comparisons has been the focus point of a collaboration with Colin Brent, a manager of a youth centre in London, with the aim of adapting our practice and sharing experiences. As part of this exchange of ideas I have taken up using the story-telling technique.

This technique can be used face-to-face in work with young people; as a resource for organisation change through staff training, supervision and monitoring; to communicate the value of youth work; and to evaluate projects. The general aim is for youth workers and their colleagues to have a clear idea of what is distinct in their practise and how this is important for the young people, using critical reflexion about methods of intervention to identify successes, challenges and inconclusive processes.

The objective is for participants to be able to critically reflect on the uniqueness of youth work through describing and analysing an example of practice, exploring the meaning of it for themselves and for the young people. Of course, the idea is to adapt the technique to each situation and context, and below I share our experience.

Continue here

The web resource also includes the Spanish original at El uso del relato de caso (story-telling) para pensar las respuestas a casos de abuso sexual en Argentina