Latest CONCEPT traverses youth work, adult education, governance and mental distress


Another stimulating group of articles from our good friends at CONCEPT.

Vol 8, No 2 (2017)


Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners



Ta to sustaining community


As ever we are more than pleased to draw your attention to this excellent resource, courtesy of CONCEPT, produced by those stalwarts of critical practice, Mae Shaw and Jim Crowther. Speaking personally it highlights the common ground occupied by youth workers, community workers and community educators; underlines our shared values, skills and knowledge base; and crucially faces up to the contradictions of our interventions into the lives of young people and the community. To whet your appetite, find below the introduction.

Community Engagement: A Critical Guide for Practitioners


The motivation for this critical guide to community engagement
comes primarily from our experience over many years as teachers on
undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of community education.
These programmes have historically been validated both by the
university and the appropriate professional body, so they are firmly
located at the interface between academic and vocational standards;
between theory and practice. We have found that these di!erent,
sometimes contradictory, demands create a productive dynamic which
has been at the core of our teaching, our writing and our relationships
with the broader field of practice. We consider that an engagement with
significant theoretical frameworks, an awareness of important historical
traditions and an empathetic identification with the social reality of
marginalized groups are all necessary in order to practise critical
community engagement.

One way in which we sometimes characterise this dynamic relationship
is through the notion of ‘theorising practice’. Except in the most
instrumental of cases, practitioners don’t put theory into practice in
any straightforward way. They put themselves into practice! This
suggests a need to think critically and carefully about what role
community engagement fulfils in particular times and places.

It also means that practitioners need to develop the confidence,
skills and knowledge to apply that understanding in practice.
The role of practitioners in seeking to make creative and critical
connections – between personal experience and political structures;
macro-level decisions and micro-level consequences; the potential
for personal agency within constraints of power – should be a core
feature of professional practice as well as of academic study.
The following chapters have been designed to work as one-o!,
freestanding sessions, or as a relatively coherent educational
programme. It goes without saying that they should be modified to
suit particular situations as required. They are intended to open up
discussion rather than to stifle or close it down. In some cases further
efforts will be required by practitioners to make them accessible and
relevant to specific circumstances or groups. Above all, they are
intended to develop clarity about, and consistency between,
educational values, purposes and roles.

Finally, at the heart of this project is the idea of the practitioner as
an active educational agent, rather than simply as an agent of policy.
This position necessarily creates tensions and dilemmas that need to
be confronted, and some of these are presented here. In particular, it
requires practitioners to engage strategically and creatively with the
politics of policy, whilst also attempting to enlarge the democratic
spaces available to communities. We hope this critical guide will
enable people to do this more systematically and more collectively.

Mae Shaw, University of Edinburgh
Jim Crowther, University of Edinburgh
May 2017

Spring is in the air with a new edition of CONCEPT

Our friends at CONCEPT inform us that the Spring edition is now online at Always worth exploring.

Vol 8, No 1 (2017): Spring
Table of Contents
Feminism: A Fourth to be Reckoned With? Reviving Community Education Feminist Pedagogies in a Digital Age by Mel Aitken

Vulnerable Practice: Why We Need Honest Conversations To Make Change  by Nicky Bolland

The Challenges of Community Planning for the Community and Voluntary Sector in the Current Climate: A Road Well Travelled? by Mae Shaw

Youth And Community Based Approaches to Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls: Reflections from India by Marjorie Mayo, Deboshree Mohanta

On The Block: The Fairer Scotland Action Plan and Democracy  by Jim Crowther


Poem: United Colours of Cumnock by Jim Monaghan


Review: Peter McLaren, (2015) Pedagogy of Insurrection by Juha Suoranta

Review: William Davies, (2016) The Happiness Industry by Christina McMellon

Another Great CONCEPT, Winter 2016


Our usual cordial welcome to the latest winter issue of CONCEPT, the Journal of Contemporary Community Education Practice Theory, packed as usual with interesting stuff. At this point I’ve only read Allan Clyne’s fascinating piece on the foundational relationship of Christianity to youth work. I can feel a reply coming on!

Vol 7, No 3 (2016): Winter 2016
Table of Contents


A Genealogy of Youth Work’s Languages: Founders
Allan Clyne

Austere Lives: Marginalised Women Gaining a ‘Voice’ in the Former Durham Coalfields
Jo Forester

Possibilities of a Community Centred Pedagogy: A Snapshot of a Reading Project in Cape Town
Salma Ismail

Easter Rising Dublin 1916: Learning the Legacy of a Revolutionary Moment as a Subjugated Discourse in Scotland
John Player

Political Education in Scotland: A Practitioner’s Perspective
Neil Saddington


Review: The Stigma of Poverty: Challenges, Interventions and Possibilities 29 September 2016
Luke Campbell

Book Review: Leona M. English and Catherine J. Irving (2015), Feminism in Community: Adult Education for Transformation
Bríd Connolly

Book Review: Akwugo Emejulu, (2015) Community Development As Micropolitics: Comparing Theories, Policies and Politics
Gary Craig

Book Review: Carol Roy (2016) Documentary Film Festivals: Transformative Learning, Community Building and Solidarity PDF
Kirsten MacLean



Parties, Social Movements and Communities in CONCEPT, the Community Education journal

This summer’s issue of CONCEPT leads off with an optimistic and prescient piece by the late and much missed Doreen Massey. Written a year ago she explores the traumatic tumult within the Labour Party, the unexpected election of Jeremy Corbyn and whether these herald the emergence of a radical politics from below, which challenges the creed of TINA. Interestingly we have not said much about these developments on our blog, even though a number of our readers are very involved in the internal struggle to shift the Labour Party to the Left, to some renewed version of social-democracy. However at our recent national conference it was agreed that we should approach  Corbyn with a view to discussing his understanding of youth work and its place in an educational ‘cradle to grave’, holistic commitment.


At conference too we touched briefly once more on the relationship between youth and community, stimulated by the critical perspective from Annette Coburn and Sinead Gormally, both now working in Scotland, and concerns arising from the ‘Shaping the Future’ exercise undertaken by the UK-wide Professional Association of Youth and Community Lecturers. In this context the article on the Community Development Projects [CDP] of the 1970’s offers much food for thought, hopefully not just for those of us, for whom CDP was and remains an inspiration.

Neil Saddington writes:

The latest issue of Concept is now available free on line. Please see below for the contents of this issue and a link to the journal.

Please also feel free to comment on the latest issue and any of the articles or book reviews within it. It would be good to have some debate and dialogue on the page. Thanks

The journal can be found here:

Vol 7, No 2 (2016): Summer
Table of Contents


Exhilarating Times
Doreen Massey

A General Theory of Everything
Mike Newman

Solidarity Activism, Campaigning and Knowledge Production: Challenging Refugee Inc. The Case of G4S and Corporate Asylum Markets.
John Grayson

Re-visiting the Community Development Projects of the 1970s in the UK
Mae Shaw, Andrea Armstrong, Gary Craig

Book Review: Paterson, L. (2015) Social Radicalism and Liberal Education
Jim Crowther

Book Review: Meade, R. & Dukelow, F. (2015). Defining Events: Power, Resistance and Identity in Twenty-First-Century Ireland,
Liam Kane

Book Review: Ismail, S. (2015) The Victoria Mxenge Housing Project: Women Building Communities Through Social Activism and Informal Learning
Jane Jones

Holiday Reading : Youth&Policy and CONCEPT provide sumptuous fare

In the quieter moments of the festive period both Youth & Policy 115 and Concept will provide a sumptuous fare of intellectual delight and refreshment.

holiday reading

Ta to

Naomi Thompson informs us.

Youth and Policy 115 is now ready and due to be on the website soon. Attaching here is the pdf in the meantime. Some great contributions – big thanks to our fabulous authors!

‘Youth club is made to get children off the streets’: Some young people’s thoughts about opportunities to be political in youth clubs – Humaira Garasia, Shazia Begum-Ali and Rys Farthing

Uncovering Youth Ministry’s Professional Narrative – Allan Clyne

Attitudes towards working ‘Out-of-hours’ with Young People: Christian
and Secular Perspectives – Peter Hart

Youth Work and the Power of ‘Giving Voice’: a reframing of mental
health services for young people – Ellie Wright and Jon Ord

Informal Education, Youth Work and Youth Development:
Responding to the Brathay Trust Case Study – Bernard Davies, Tony Taylor and Naomi Thompson

Reflections on the Scottish referendum and young people’s participation –Alan Mackie

Engaging youth through restorative approaches – Laura Oxley

PDF of Y&P 115 download here – y and p 115 9.12.15

Meanwhile the latest CONCEPT {The Journal of Contemporary Community Education Practice Theory} is stuffed full of challenging analysis..

Vol 6, No 3 (2015): Winter 2015

Table of Contents


Churning or Lifeline? Life Stories From De-industrialised Communities PDF
Jo Forster
Workers’ Educational Association: A Crisis of Identity? Personal Perspectives on Changing Professional Identities PDF
Sam Davies  
Forum Theatre: Fishbowl of the Oppressed? PDF
Beth Cross, Ian Brookes
Community Education in Scotland, A Tale of Two Anniversaries: The Alexander Report (1975) and the Birth of the Performance Indicator (1985) PDF
Gary Fraser
Theory and Practice: A Student’s Reflections on Their Learning on a Community Education Degree Programme PDF
Thomas Edmond


Review: Anthony B. Atkinson, Inequality: What can be done? PDF
Nigel Hewlett
Review: CONCEPT Seminar, Political Education in Scotland: Looking Back, Looking Forward PDF
Carolyn McKerracher


As we close the year it is fitting to pay tribute to the voluntary endeavours of those producing these two vital journals of analysis, research and opinion, both of which refuse to accept that there is no alternative to neo-liberal conformity.





















From `working in and against the state´ to `working for and as the state´- Spring CONCEPT journal now out

Concept logo

As ever it’s a pleasure to report that the Spring 2015 CONCEPT journal is now online. Well worth burrowing into its pages.

The opening article throws down the gauntlet to those of us still in thrall to the London-Edinburgh’s Weekend Return Group’s 1979 ‘In and Against the State’!

in and against

Rethinking the Relationship with the State – Cristina Asenjo

This article explores the relationship between community work and the state in the UK in particular. By exploring the relevance and limitations of the book `In and against the state´, the article presents the idea that practitioners of community development can play a role in re-defining the role of the state by changing the discourse from `working in and against the state´ to `working for and as the state´. In this sense, constructing an ideological position regarding what the state should be and which role it should play could be equally as important as developing new approaches to practice in response to the influence of the state.

Bullshit Jobs: A Critical Pedagogy Provocation – Joyce Canaan

I precede the ‘provocation’ —a word I first heard used by my colleagues Gordon Asher and Leigh French—below with the following caveats. First, I produced this provocation as part of a workshop on Critical Pedagogy that Gordon Asher, Leigh French and I co-organised preceding a day conference on Critical Pedagogies. Second, the provocation that follows, like those of Asher and French, sought to spark off debate; it used David Graeber’s rhetorical argument about paid work today, with its explicit use of the ‘b’ word, to encourage academics at the event to re-contextualise regimes of accountability in the university that they are experiencing and to consider how critical pedagogy could help them do so. Finally, I have been lucky enough to leave full time employment when voluntary redundancy was on offer (being already off work on stress-related sick leave, for the first and last time in my full-time, paid working life). This allowed me to stop being a wage slave and become, instead, as one of my colleagues put it, like Tony Benn who left Parliament to take up politics; I was leaving the university to take up education.

Male Violence: Links Between Peace and War – Cynthia Cockburn

This annual two weeks of activism, as a lot of you will know, was started more than twenty years ago by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University. This year the theme is ‘From peace in the home to peace in the world: let’s challenge militarism and end gender-based violence’. They’ve called on us to foster what they call ‘a strategic conversation’ on the links between militarism and male violence against women.

Radicalizing Community Practice and Education – Robert Fisher, James DeFilippis, Eric Shragge

We write this article on radicalizing community practice and education in the midst of an ongoing global economic crisis related to the neoconservative and neoliberal strategies that have dominated the world stage for more than thirty years. As the Scottish referendum recently demonstrated, participatory forms of grassroots social change have become a possibility again. The referendum revealed that making the case for democratic initiatives which recognize the failures of neoliberal policies has become easier in the contemporary context. We are not, however, naïve about the prospects of change. Crises can result, as with the origins of neoliberalism in the 1970s, in simply new forms of a reasserted class power. And crises can, and certainly do, bring about surges in reactionary and xenophobic (usually anti-immigrant) politics and social movements. The lessons we proposed five years ago in Contesting Community are timelier than ever. The opportunity exists for the development of new theories and practices in and about community efforts.

Informal Learning Experiences of Young People During the Scottish Independence Referendum – Alan Mackie, Jim Crowther

In the aftermath of the independence referendum of September 2014 we decided to conduct research on how people learned and educated themselves informally leading up to the vote. Given the range of information and issues people faced, particularly over the final six months of the process, hearing how people made sense of it all is clearly an area of interest – particularly for academics, community educators and politicians. Through an online survey conducted in December 2014, we asked people a series of questions to ascertain, amongst other things, how and where they gained information, how they interacted with that information and how they utilised social media (if they did so).