The Sage Handbook of Youth Work Practice: ‘a casket of thoughts for the 21st century’

I’ve a lovely book of Parlour songs, ‘A Casquet of Vocal Gems’, which I know reveals my age. However, looking forward not backward, it is my feeling that this SAGE handbook has more than its fair share of analytic gems from practice. At this moment I’ve simply listed the contents of the handbook to give you a sense of its range and diversity. It has already been pointed out in a Facebook thread that a notable number of contributors to the book are supporters and critical friends of IDYW. We will take that very much as a compliment. In the near future, we hope to review at least some of the book’s delights and indeed would welcome your responses to both individual chapters and the whole.

The SAGE Handbook of Youth Work Practice
Edited by
Pam Alldred Brunel University London
Fin Cullen St Mary’s University Twickenham London
Kathy Edwards RMIT University
Dana Fusco York College, City University of New York
The SAGE Handbook of Youth Work Practice showcases the value of professional work with young people as it is practiced in diverse forms in locations around the world. The editors have brought together an international team of contributors who reflect the wide range of approaches that identify as youth work, and the even wider range of approaches that identify variously as community work or community development work with young people, youth programmes, and work with young people within care, development and (informal) education frameworks. The Handbook is structured to explore histories, current practice and future directions:

Part One: Approaches to Youth Work Across Time and Place
Part Two: Professional Work With Young People: Projects and Practices to Inspire
Part Three: Values and Ethics in Work with Young People
Part Four: Current Challenges and Hopes for the Future


Introduction by Pam Alldred, Fin Cullen, Kathy Edwards, and Dana Fusco
PART 01: Approaches to Youth Work Across Time and Place
Chapter 1: Defining Youth Work: exploring the boundaries, continuity and diversity of youth work practice by Trudi Cooper

Chapter 2: How to Support Young People in a Changing World: The sociology of generations and youth work by Dan Woodman and Johanna Wyn

Chapter 3: Looking over our shoulders: Youth work and its history by Anthony Jeffs

Chapter 4: Some conceptions of youth and youth work in the United States by Dana Fusco

Chapter 5: Youth Work as a Colonial Export: Explorations From the Global South by Kathy Edwards and Ismail Shaafee

Chapter 6: Let Principles Drive Practice: Reclaiming Youth Work in India by Roshni K. Nuggehalli

Chapter 7: The Impact of Neoliberalism Upon the Character and Purpose of English Youth Work and Beyond by Tony Taylor, Paula Connaughton, Tania de St Croix, Bernard Davies, and Pauline Grace

Chapter 8: Youth Work in England: A Profession with a Future? by Helen M.F. Jones

Chapter 9: Precarious Practices with Risky Subjects? Policy and Practice Explorations in the UK and Europe by Fin Cullen and Simon Bradford

Chapter 10: Undoing Sexism and Youth Work Practice: Seeking Equality, Unsettling Ideology, Affirming Difference – A UK Perspective by Janet Batsleer

Chapter 11: Intersectionality and Resistance in Youth Work: Young People, Peace and Global ‘Development’ in a Racialized World by Momodou Sallah, Mike Ogunnusi and Richard Kennedy

Chapter 12: Youth Work and Social Pedagogy: Reflections from the UK and Europe by Kieron Hatton

Chapter 13: 21st Century Youth Work: Life Under Global Capitalism by Hans Skott-Myhre and Kathleen Skott-Myhre


PART 02: Professional Work With Young People: Projects/Practices to Inspire

Chapter 14: Participation, Empowerment and Democracy: Engaging with Young People’s Views by Philippa Collin, Girish Lala, and Leo Fieldgrass

Chapter 15: Faith-based Youth Work: Education, Engagement and Ethics by Graham Bright, Naomi Thompson, Peter Hart, and Bethany Hayden

Chapter 16: Together we Walk: The Importance of Relationship in Youth Work with Refugee Young People by Jen Couch

Chapter 17: Screaming Aloud from the da old plantation down-under: Youth Work on the margins in Aotearoa New Zealand by Fiona Beals, Peter- Clinton Foaese, Martini Miller, Helen Perkins and Natalie Sargent

Chapter 18: Promoting Children First Youth Work in the Youth Justice System and Beyond by Stephen Case and Rachel Morris

Chapter 19: Critical Street Work: the politics of working (in) outside institutions by Michael Whelan and Helmut Steinkellner

Chapter 20: Youth Work, Arts Practice and Transdisciplinary Space by Frances Howard, Steph Brocken, and Nicola Sim

Chapter 21: Fringe Work – Street-level Divergence in Swedish Youth Work by Björn Andersson

Chapter 22: The Alchemy of work with Young Women by Susan Morgan and Eliz McArdle

Chapter 23: Supporting Trans, Non-Binary and Gender Diverse Young People: UK Methods and Approaches by Catherine McNamara

PART 03: Values and Ethics in Work with Young People

Chapter 24: An Ethics of Caring in Youth Work Practice by Joshua Spiers and David Giles

Chapter 25: Relationship Centrality in Work with Young People with Experience of Violence by Daniel Jupp Kina

Chapter 26: Reflective Practice: Gaze, Glance and Being a Youth Worker by Jo Trelfa

Chapter 27: The Challenges for British Youth Workers of Government Strategies to ‘Prevent Terrorism’ by Paul Thomas

Chapter 28: The Politics of Gang Intervention in New England, USA: Knowledge, Partnership, and Youth Transformation by Ellen Foley, Angel Guzman, Miguel Lopez, Laurie Ross, Jennifer Safford-Farquharson, with Katie Byrne, Egbert Pinero, and Ron Waddell

Chapter 29: Coercion in Sexual Relationships: Challenging Values in school-based work by Jo Heslop

Chapter 30: Youth & Community Approaches To Preventing Child Sexual Exploitation: South African and UK Project Experiences by Kate D’Arcy, Roma Thomas, and Candice Wallas

Chapter 31: Allies, Not Accomplices: What Youth Work can Learn from Trans and Disability Movements by Wolfgang Vachon and Tim McConnell

Chapter 32: The Challenges of Using a Youth Development Approach in a Mental Health and Addictions Service for Young People by Mark Wood

Chapter 33: Gaze Interrupted: Speaking back to Stigma with Visual Research by Victoria Restler and Wendy Luttrell

Chapter 34: The Ethical Foundations of Youth Work as an International Profession by Howard Sercombe

Chapter 35: Youth Work at the End of Life? by Rajesh Patel

PART 04: Current Challenges, Future Possibilities

Chapter 36: Youth Work Practices in Conflict Societies: Lessons, Challenges and Opportunities by Ken Harland and Alastair Scott-McKinley

Chapter 37: Popular Education and Youth Work: Learnings from Ghana by Marion Thomson and Kodzo Chapman

Chapter 38: Roma Youth and Global Youth Work by Brian Belton

Chapter 39: Community Development with Young People – Exploring a New Model by Helen Bartlett and Adam Muirhead

Chapter 40: Returning to Responsive Youth Work in New York City by Susan Matloff-Nieves, Tanya Wiggins, Jennifer Fuqua, Marisa Ragonese, Steve Pullano, and Gregory Brender

Chapter 41: Uncomfortable Knowledge and the Ethics of Good Practice in Australia’s Offshore Refugee Detention Centers by Judith Bessant and Rob Watts

Chapter 42: The Evolution of Youth Empowerment: From Programming to Partnering by Heather Ramey and Heather Lawford

Chapter 43: Towards a Shared Vision of Youth Work: Developing a Worker-Based Youth Work Curriculum by Tomi Kiilakoski, Viljami Kinnunen, and Ronnie Djupsund

Chapter 44: Evaluating Youth Work in its Contexts by Sue Cooper and Anu Gretschel

Conclusion by Dana Fusco, Pam Alldred, Kathy Edwards, and Fin Cullen

July 2018 • 617 pages • Cloth (9781473939523) • £120.00

Obviously, the book is expensive, although Adam Muirhead argues [tongue in cheek?] that it works out at a reasonable £2.72 per chapter! Certainly, we should make every effort to get the handbook into academic and workplace libraries. Rumour is that already some teams of workers are clubbing together to meet the cost. Collective spirit rises from the ashes.


The Pitfalls of Professionalisation : Thoughts from Abroad

By twist of circumstance a number of revealing and challenging posts on the issue of professionalisation have appeared on our Facebook page. All of them are worthy of close attention, even if many within British youth work might find them troubling. Emanating from Australia, Canada and the USA the authors raise questions about the appropriateness of the concept of professionalisation when considering the intent and content of youth work. Of course the historical and even the contemporary contexts are not exactly the same. It can be argued that the journey towards being recognised as a profession is most advanced in the United Kingdom. Although Doug Nicholls, a committed advocate of  ‘youth workers as professionals’ – see his chapter of the same name in ‘For Youth Workers and Youth Work’ – points out that youth workers are still categorised as a sub-profession or para-professional occupation. The present situation is riddled with contradiction. Indeed most strikingly the ‘para-profession’ itself is under severe assault as its natural home, the Youth Service, is decimated. With this in mind some might argue it is the wrong time to discuss what we mean by ‘professional’, ‘professionalism’ and professionalisation’. However the creation of an Institute of Youth Work, membership of which requires signing up to a Code of Ethics has already placed these issues squarely on a round  table. Whatever our opinions we should not be afraid of a critical dialogue. After all it is what we claim youth work is all about.


Three pieces from Aaron Garth from Australia:

One of the reasons we have found professionalism so hard to  implement is the difficulty of centrality. We don’t have a central definition and code of ethics in Australia and we have a number of different approaches and frameworks which guide our field. It is this vitality which we should be looking to develop in our quest for professionalism not just aiming to become another cookie cutter “profession.”


Is youth work languishing? In the shadow of inferior frameworks of professionalism

Is youth work suffering the death of a thousand cuts?

The stupidity of calling youth work science will limit our effectiveness


Hans Skott-Myhre writing passionately from Canada,

Finally, I would argue that our field of practice has a long history of resisting and opposing the ways s in which our society has dealt with young people. We have posited our selves as offering young people  a different set of relations where they might be met as fellow travelers rather than social pariahs. I might refer to this aspect of our field as the tradition of revolutionary love. Love, I would define as an encounter that maximizes the capacities of all parties involved. Such love is revolutionary, because the social norm of the current regime of capitalist domination does anything but maximize our capacities. To jointly work together to see how we might creatively maximize what each of our bodies and minds has the capacity to do is to resist and revolt against the constraints of global capitalism. This is not the work of a professional trained to think and practice within the confines of standards, common beliefs and restricted practice. It is an open field of experimentation unconstrained by common adherence to an abstract common definition of who we are. Instead, who we are is defined by our day-to-day encounters and our rewards are sought in the work itself.

Tilting at Windmills : The Professionalization of Youth and Child Care


Dana Fusco writing from the States draws our attention to a specific edition of the journal Child and Youth Services, Professionalization Deconstructed: Implications for the Field of Youth Work, which she has edited together with Michael Baizerman.

Here, we hope to deconstruct the underlying beliefs and narratives on professiona­lization in youth work and in related human service fields by examining the arguments for and against professionalization, by looking at the historically situated evidence within and outside of the field of youth work, and by exploring alternate conceptions of professionalization. It is always our goal to have young people and youth workers in the forefront of our mind; thus, our framing of the issues always rests on the questions: Is this good for young people and youth workers? Who decides and why?

Dana’s own eloquent final chapter,Is Youth Work Being Courted by the Appropriate Suitor, examines a range of understandings of the professional.

Specifically, the privileging of science and epistemic culture as the foundation for profession is questioned as the best suitor for a practice of working with young people that values meaning over truth, dialogue over evidence, and reflexivity over certainty

Engaging Critically – The Transatlantic Conversation must continue far and wide



Twenty people attended this event, one of the IDYW’ ‘Engaging Critically’ series of seminars, at a venue generously made available by Unison.

The opening small group discussions gave participants a chance to share where they were starting from for the afternoon. Perhaps inevitable in the present circumstances, these produced some doom and gloom stories – about for example threats to long established youth and community work courses, disregard for qualifications, ‘a lack of value being placed on the work’ and pressures from funders to conform to safe agendas and ways of working. However encouraging examples were also given at more than one table of the survival and indeed vigour of some innovative and relevant youth work, albeit, as one person put it, ‘at the fringes’.

Dana Fusco – a professor at New York City University who for the past twenty years has researched youth development and after-school intervention – built from these starting points. While recognising significant differences in the US and UK situations, her wider context included scepticism about youth work as a profession and her preference for seeing it as ‘a field’ capable of asserting a cohesive view of itself and a unified voice. In the space such youth work could create, young people would be welcome ‘just because they are young people’, would therefore be seen and treated in holistic ways and so would have opportunities to be ‘active curators in their own lives’. For Dana, it was therefore vital that youth workers found ways of demonstrating more complex and nuanced forms of accountability, going well beyond the ‘simple maths’ so often imposed by funders and giving priority to describing rather than measuring.

Her input prompted a wide-ranging, penetrating and very energetic dialogue, particularly on ‘outcomes’ – on whether for example it is necessary for youth workers to demonstrate what they have achieved, if so how and whether this can be done in ways which support and certainly don’t undermine the integrity of the youth work process and how funders can be persuaded to take on these alternative perspectives on evaluation.

Two practical suggestions for IDYW came out of the session:

  1. For the people who came to look for ways of drawing more of their colleagues into IDYW-type events in their own areas.

  2. For IDYW to set up an event for funders and practitioners for sharing experiences and ideas on how youth work can best be evaluated.

Thanks to Bernard Davies and Sue Atkins for the report and photos


Sadly Dana Fusco had to leave the seminar early because of a family bereavement. Our thoughts go with her, her family and friends.

Last Call for Dana Fusco event, Wednesday, June 19 in the UNISON centre

There are still a few places left for this intriguing transatlantic conversation with Dana Fusco, Professor of Teacher Education at York College of the City University of New York on Wednesday, June 19 from 1.30 to 4.30 p.m. at the UNISON Centre, Euston Road, London.

Dana Fusco flyer and details

Contact Tony at to book a place.

Engaging Critically : Dates for your diaries




The desire to redefine what we mean by youth work continues unabated. Of course it is crass to claim that definitions of an idea or a body of practice should be fixed and eternal. Circumstances and perspectives change. This has clearly been the case across the last three decades of neo-liberalism – see Henry Giroux’s explanation. However any process of change in a supposed democratic society ought to be transparent and contested. Within youth work such an open and pluralist exchange of opinion has been largely absent. In the main the senior management of the sector has sought compliance rather than criticism.

Take the National Youth Agency, it heads up the drive to an Institute of Youth Work, but fudges within the consultation the direct dilemma of what constitutes youth work in 2013. Meanwhile it sets up a Commission into the relationship between youth work and formal education, which determines beforehand that all manner of in-school interventions are to be deemed youth work. Its ‘independent’ Chair, Tim Loughton, is on record as being utterly comfortable with the rebranding of what youth workers do – so long as it suits the agenda of privatisation and commissioning. Furthermore the NYA hails the unremarkable addition of fund-raising skills and working with families modules to a revamped Derby University course as illustrating that the institution is ‘ahead of the field’. The Leader of the course warns, “we’re not saying we have to wave goodbye to traditional youth work, but we’re saying good youth work has to happen where young people are.” At the very least the seductive notion of ‘where young people are’ needs some serious exploration.

Against this background our Campaign reaffirms its commitment to encouraging the widest possible argument about what’s happening to youth work today. Thus, alongside the continuing relevance of our Stories Workshops, we are embarking on a series of seminars, ‘Engaging Critically’, whilst at the same time giving our wholehearted support to other initiatives bent on questioning the status quo. We do so in the spirit of youth work’s claim to be reflective and self-critical in theory and practice.


Introducing – The Spark: Learn. Connect. Create. June 10-15th at the 3space Hub, Blackfriars

Susanna Hunter-Darch, Fionn Greig and Derek Oakley are running two workshops – on Wednesday afternoon, June 12, Creating space for young people in economic crisis and on Friday morning, June 14, Youth Worker Activists! Learn, Share, Collaborate!

Community Sector Coalition Starfish Event in Manchester’s Bridge 5 Mill, Tuesday, June 11 from 12.00 – 2.00 p.m.

Led by Matt Scott speaking to the new NCIA pamphlet, ‘Here We Stand’.

IDYW Engaging Critically – Threatening Youth Work : The Illusion of Outcomes at Bolton University on Friday, June 14 from 1.30 – 3.30 p.m.

To book a place, contact

IDYW Engaging Critically – Advancing Youth Work in Times of Austerity : A Transatlantic conversation with Dana Fusco at the UNISON Centre, London on Wednesday, June 19 from 1.30 – 4.30 p.m.

To book a place contact Tony Taylor at

Cooperative Education against the Crises at the Manchester Metropolitan University Didsbury Campus on Thursday, July 4 from 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.

Co- hosted by the Education and Social Research Institute and the Cooperative College this event will see Prof. Mike Apple present his ‘Interrupting the Right’ thesis – that the Right wasn’t always so powerful and the left could learn from its rise to dominance and take practical action.  Then Mervyn Wilson from the Co-op College will ask whether the Co-operative school movement provides a vehicle for interrupting the right and developing an education system that will be adequate to meet the crises we face.

The event website is available at:

IDYW Engaging Critically – Ethics and Politics in Youth Work to be held in Birmingham, Tuesday, November 5.

By the Autumn it is likely that a Code of Ethics will emerge from the move to an Institute of Youth Work. However, whilst there is much talk about what constitutes ethical practice, to speak of politics is to raise many a furrowed brow. And yet, how can ethics float free of politics? More information soon.

The Federation for Detached Youth Work Annual Conference, Skills from the Street, at the High Leigh conference centre, Hoddesden from November 15 – 17.

Further details at

We look forward to being involved with you in a lively dialogue in the coming months. And please let us know if you are organising events consistent with the critical spirit expressed here.

Advancing Youth Work : A Transatlantic Conversation with Dana Fusco, June 19









Over the coming period our campaign is committed to encouraging an open and pluralist debate about the state of youth work today. In our view there has been a conspicuous lack of collective discussion about the dramatic shifts in the landscape of work with young people. Given youth work’s claim to a reflective and self-critical tradition this is more than a touch ironic.

We are delighted to embark on this process in the company of Dana Fusco, Professor of Teacher Education at York College of the City University of New York. For the past twenty years her research has focused on youth development and after-school intervention leading to national and international recognition. Fascinatingly, given our own emphasis on story-telling, Dana recently was writing with colleagues on the ‘Squeezing of Youth Voice and Agency during Out-of-School Time’, calling for stories and testimonies. Dana’s most recent work is the acclaimed ‘Advancing Youth Work: Current Trends, Critical Questions’, of which she is editor. And as we write she is seeking contributions for a forthcoming book on Youth Work and Inequality – see our web site for details.

The afternoon will see Dana’s central contribution sandwiched between sharing experiences in small groups, a wider Question and Comment session with an emphasis on building links with each other – across towns, cities, countries and oceans!

As ever with IDYW the cost will be kept low – Unwaged/Students £2, Waged £5. In doing so we are grateful to UNISON for their support in providing the venue.

To book a place, contact Tony at

Dana Fusco June 19 flyer – please circulate around your networks



Dana Fusco ponders the future for critical youth work

Asked the question, ‘what will youth work look like in 2013?’ by Ultimate Youth Worker, Dana Fusco ponders the future in the United States and beyond. Much of what she says resonates powerfully across the oceans. She begins:

In the United States, youth work is not a unified or singular practice; rather, it has been described, and still is, a family of practices (Baizerman, 1996[1]). That family provides, in the most ideal circumstance, a plethora of diverse opportunities for young people. What we, as youthwork practitioners hope is that the set of diverse experiences known as ‘youth work’ will help young people to live rich, healthy, and fulfilling lives now and into the future. Our praxis is grounded or contextualized in the actual, not theoretical, lives of young people; is responsive to their lived experiences, their hopes, their aspirations and dreams; and proclaims a participatory and democratic approach that supports youth voice and agency as a part of community engagement.

In the places where youth work looks like this in 2012, I suspect it will continue to do so in 2013. That said, there are some trends on the horizon that potentially put the family of youth work practices in jeopardy. If we think of youth work as a stew, then each practice is an important ingredient towards a ‘tasty’ and healthful creation. In the U.S., our stew seems a bit ‘soupy’ these days, with ‘critical’ and emancipatory forms of youth work being those most often removed or replaced. This trend was precipitated by several socio-political and economic factors, with the most direct consequence being the pressure for out-of-school, non-formal environments to link up to, connect with, and supplement school. The goal for those who hope to formalize out-of-school environment is that there is a collective impact towards meeting NCLB (No Child Left Behind) targets (standardized test scores in reading and maths).

She concludes:

…… international community of youth workers and youth work educators is needed whether in the form of an association or something else in order to work towards saving/reclaiming and re-thinking the discipline of youth work. I believe today it is in our international community that we have collective power and bargaining to legitimize the work and the body of knowledge that we have co-created as a viable area of study and practice for working with young people.

In 2013, this would be something to aim for!

What will youth work look like in 2013?