Transformative Youth Work International Conference: Developing and Communicating Impact – Last chance for places!


Transformative Youth Work International Conference: Developing and Communicating Impact
4-6 September 2018, University of St Mark and St John, Plymouth

Book before 22nd June 2018 to join the conference. Registration available via this link

This conference will specifically address the issue of outcomes and the impact of youth work. The conference, supported by Erasmus +, will bring together a range of experts from across Europe and the wider world, to showcase the latest research on the Impact of Youth Work, including publication of the Erasmus + funded 2 year comparative study of the Impact of Youth Work in UK, Finland, Estonia, Italy and France. Keynote confirmed as Professor Rob White from Tasmania University addressing: ‘Innovative Approaches to Transformative Youth Work Practice’. Over 70 non-UK participants have already booked incl. from Japan, Nepal, USA and New Zealand, so be sure to reserve your place before the final deadline of 22nd June 2018.

PS Tony Taylor of IDYW is a contributor on the panel at the end of the conference. Given his hostility to the neoliberal discourse of outcomes and impact, it will be interesting to see how his argument is received.

Transformative Youth Work International Conference – registration open

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN at  Transformative Youth Work


Transformative Youth Work International Conference
Developing and Communicating Impact

4-6 September 2018 at Plymouth Marjon University
This will be the 1st major International conference focusing on the ‘Impact of Youth Work’.


  • To disseminate the latest research on the Impact of Youth Work
  • To promote the Impact of Youth Work
  • To stimulate debate about the processes which bring this impact about.



Includes inputs from across Europe, USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as the publication of the Erasmus+ funded 2-year comparative study of the Impact of Youth Work in Europe.

Joachim Schild: (Former Head of European Youth Partnership) – ‘History of Youth Work Impact in Europe’
Dr Dimitris Ballas: ‘A Human Atlas of Europe – United in Diversity’

The conference is open to youth workers, youth work academics & trainers as well as policy makers.
Bursaries are available for non-UK delegates

Transformative Youth Work 2018 [pdf poster] – please circulate

Transformative Youth Work International Conference: Developing and Communicating Impact, 4-6 September 2018

Advance notice of this conference from Jon Ord – hope you will think, if appropriate, of submitting a proposed paper.

The University of St Mark & St John is pleased to announce the hosting of an International Conference on the Impact of Youth Work, from 4-6 September 2018, in association with our partner universities in Estonia, Finland, France and Italy. The conference, supported by Erasmus +, will bring together a range of experts from across Europe and the wider world, to showcase the latest research on the Impact of Youth Work, including publication of the Erasmus + funded 2 year comparative study of the Impact of Youth Work in UK, Finland, Estonia, Italy and France.

The conference is being held at our campus in Plymouth, in Devon, which is located in beautiful South West England. It is situated close to Cornwall, adjacent to the Dartmoor National Park and the historic naval port of Plymouth. The university has pioneered research in youth work and the training of youth workers for nearly 30 years and is proud to host this event.


This will be the 1st major International conference to specifically address the issue of outcomes and the impact of youth work. The purpose of the conference will be to both promote the Impact of Youth Work and to stimulate debate and discussion about the processes which bring this impact about. The conference is open to youth workers, youth work academics & trainers as well as policy makers.

Call for Papers

The first call for papers will be sent out in May this year.

Confirmed speakers to date are:

Hans Joachim Schild (Ex-Head of European Youth Partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe) – The History of Youth Work Impact in Europe

Dr Dimitris Ballas, University of Sheffield – “A Human Atlas of Europe – A Continent United in Diversity”

To register your interest

What do we mean by voluntary? Jon Ord propels the debate

If you’ve followed any of the 2016 post-conference posts on this site you will know that we scratched the surface of the continuing debate about the significance or otherwise of the voluntary relationship in defining what we mean by youth work. As things stand the very first of IDYW’s cornerstones of practice reads:

  • the primacy of the voluntary relationship, from which the young person can withdraw without compulsion or sanction.

Yet this interpretation is increasingly contested, so much so that we intend to organise a series of seminars this winter to explore further, given the present climate, the vexed question of ‘what we mean by voluntary’? In the run up to these gatherings we will post differing responses to the question. Hence we are pleased to hear from Jon Ord, who writes:


At the recent IDYW conference, in the debate on Voluntary Participation, Bernard Davies made reference to a chapter in my latest book, which looks in some detail at the concept. Afterwards someone did ask me: ‘what book’? So I thought it might be a good idea to share a little bit from it, which may go some way to publicise it…

The following is adapted from chapter 10, ‘On Voluntary Participation and Choice’:

‘Voluntary participation is perhaps one of the most controversial issues in contemporary youth work. Workers are increasingly finding themselves being asked to work in situations where the young people have not accessed the provision voluntarily. However despite the ease with which some youth workers are embracing these new environments we need to have a critical understanding of the concept of voluntary participation. For example: there is actually no opposite to voluntary participation. One cannot participate ‘involuntarily’. Neither is this mere semantics. Participation is an intentional act. One can be physically present but not actually participate. What this shows is that there are two important and distinctly different aspects to voluntary participation – attendance and participation…Ultimately it is the quality of the relationship which forms out of the engagement, the degree of choice at the disposal of the participants, and the participative practices of the workers, not simply whether the project was based on the participants being able to choose to attend, that defines the potential of youth work practice. Ultimately it is the ability to ‘enable young people to engage’ which is important. Choosing to attend is one of the factors which would assist this engagement but it is not the only one and in itself it is no guarantee. I would argue therefore it is possible to do youth work in settings where young people have not chosen to attend but of course success is not guaranteed. Youth work practice should be underpinned by a critical awareness of ‘power and authority’ whatever the context and such issues are of particular importance in settings where young people cannot leave of their own volition’. In such settings of course the possibilities for genuine participation may well be severely hampered and this should not be glossed over…

The above provides a brief insight into some of the arguments in the debate about voluntary participation but more can be found in chapter 10 of the 2nd edition of Youth Work Process Product and Practice. A flyer is attached which provides you with a 20% discount on your order should you wish to explore this further.

It is good stuff, so Jon, we forgive you for this flagrant act of publicity!

ord_process, product and practice authorflyer-iii

Blurring the Boundaries conference : Immediate Reflections 1

Much to my delight, heeding my plea for thoughts on Friday’s conference, Jon Ord and Fiona Factor filed these instant reflections before their trains even reached their destinations. Much appreciated and more to come on a stimulating and sometimes disconcerting event. Just to send too a message of thanks to Martin and the staff at the Birmingham Settlement, who could not have been more helpful or welcoming and to Kev Jones, pressed at the last minute into being unofficial photographer.


Today, Jon  : Tomorrow, Fiona

Making the most of the opportunity of being able to attend this year’s annual IDYW conference – thanks for making the venue at bit more geographically central – at the Birmingham Settlement, I have to be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to expect… Leaving Plymouth at the crack of dawn I wondered whether the gathering would be much more than Tony Taylor, Bernard Davies and a couple of their mates. What I found however was a very pleasant surprise – one of the largest gatherings of youth workers and youth work educators I have been a part of for quite a while….
The event began with an excellent discussion of the principle of voluntary participation facilitated by presentations from Annette Coburn and Sinead Gormally who advocated a cogent argument for embracing  the new settings that youth workers find themselves working in, where young people may not have chosen to attend and an impassioned reply by Tania De St Croix.  She reminded everyone that we turn our backs on traditional open access settings at our peril as they provide a unique set of dynamics which can’t be easily replicated, as young people have very few places where they are not either under surveillance or being coerced into some outcome or another.
This was followed by an informative input from Paul Fenton from PALYCW / TAG who shared the findings from 6 consultation events – Shaping the Future – across England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. He concluded that whilst he was heartened by the degree of integrity at the heart of youth work in the UK – however challenges do remain around the need to be more innovative. Overall though he was optimistic about the future.
After eating our ‘butties’ as Tony euphemistically referred to our sandwich lunch, we took the opportunity to continue some of the stimulating conversations from the morning session. The afternoon began with an input from Kirsty and Amina from Aspire Arts, and Malcolm Ball from Lewisham, who shared innovative responses to the changing contexts of practice. This continued in smaller groups, where some of the accounts of the swinging and brutal cuts were difficult to hear…

Coming together at the end of the day to share our experiences of the conference and offer suggestions as to a way forward we all felt it was a resounding success – providing a unique opportunity to bring youth workers together in difficult times – sharing our experiences , providing invaluable support and going some small way to ‘defending our unique practice’.

Jon Ord

The experience of open access youth work :the voice of young people


We’re very pleased to post this link to an important research article by Daisy Ritchie and Jon Ord, ‘The experience of open access youth work :the voice of young people’.

Below is a new link to the article – previous one oversubscribed


This research explores young people’s experiences of open access youth work and identifies what they consider to be its value. The detailed analysis of the data, achieved through focus groups, revealed that ‘association’ was a key driver of engagement. It also highlighted the support system the youth club creates amongst the peers. The young people also valued the relationships they form with youth workers and acknowledge the support and guidance offered to them which better enables them to reflect on and navigate their complex lives. Young people also valued the acceptance they feel from the community developed in the youth space. It provided comfort and reassurance when at times they do not feel like they fit in anywhere else. This research offers a significant counter to the tide of current targeted youth work policy which is resulting in the demise of a provision which, judged by the findings from this research, appears to be highly valued by, and beneficial to, young people.

This research is a small-scale practitioner research which is an: ‘enquiry that is directed towards creating and extending knowledge, illuminating and improving practice and influencing policies in an informed way’ (Goodfellow 2005). It sets out to obtain an in-depth, qualitative exploration of young people’s experiences of open access youth work. The principal researcher had been a youth worker in the youth club for some time before undertaking this research. It was conducted in a small voluntary sector open access youth centre in a deprived city centre location, in the South West of England. The centre is open three times a week; twice for open access youth work sessions and once for a young women’s group. The research utilises focus groups to elicit the motivations behind young people’s attendance and continued engagement with open access youth work, especially when very little material resources are available.

Access to the article is limited so we would welcome responses to its contents. Indeed it would be excellent if somebody could do a summary of its argument. Contact Tony at tonymtaylor if you are so inclined.

Story-Telling in Russian, Kazakh and Finnish

story telling 2

I’m reminded of the biblical saying about prophets not being recognised in their own backyard, but I know I pompously exaggerate. Our attempt to offer an alternative qualitative way of evaluating youth work via our Story-Telling book, web resource and workshops, that focuses on the process of practice, the ‘how’, rather than its alleged impact, has been met with enthusiasm by a goodly number of workers, managers and academics. Yet we remain on the margins of the continuing debate about youth work [or should that be, the youth sector?] and its impact.

Hence it’s a boost to our spirits to find that sections of our original ‘This is Youth Work’ book have been translated into both Russian and Kazakh – see our web resource, Story-Telling in Youth Work. A Japanese translation is also in the offing. And in the latest expression of an international interest in our endeavours Jon Ord ran a bilingual Story-Telling workshop at a major youth conference in Finland last week. Here are the IDYW cornerstones of practice in Finnish.


Nuorisotyötä puolustamassa (IDYW, Iso-Britannia) nuorisotyön ’kulmakivet’


  • tapahtuu avoimesti saavutettavissa olevassa paikassa ja puitteissa, joissa mukana olemisesta nuoret ovat itse päättäneet;
  • tarjoaa mahdollisuuksia informaaliseen oppimiseen lähtien liikkeelle asioista, joille nuorten mielestä voisi tehdä jotain, ja heidän kiinnostuksensa kohteista;
  • työskentelee nuorten vertaisverkostojen ja niitäkin laajempien identiteettitason samaistumiskohteiden kanssa ja niiden kautta;
  • antaa arvoa ja huomiota nuorten olemiselle tässä ja nyt, kuten myös heidän siirtymilleen;
  • pyrkii keikauttamaan valta-asemat nuoren eduksi;
  • pyrkii edistämään luottamusta ja molemminpuolisesti arvostavien henkilökohtaisten suhteiden syntymistä sekä nuorten keskuudessa että nuorten ja aikuisten välillä;
  • huomioi nuorisotyöntekijöiden itsensä merkityksen, antaa tilaa itsenäiseen harkintaan ja valmiuteen toimia improvisoidulla mutta kuitenkin varmalla tavalla