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


Story-Telling Workshops 2015 – A Review plus International News

Bernard Davies has sent us the following review of our Story-Telling workshops initiative. It’s important to underline that our offer of a Story-Telling workshop is still very much on the table.

And to add on 19/01  news filtering through that we have been invited via Jon Ord to run a story-telling workshop at a forthcoming conference in Helsinki, Finland and that we are in exploratory conversation with academics in northern Argentina about story-telling and community work. In addition it looks as if our book, ‘This is Youth Work’ is to be translated into Japanese.


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Youth work story-telling workshops: a brief review of 2015

The response

IDYW ran a total of 12 story-telling workshops in 2015 for around 230 participants. Six were hosted by higher education institutions for students and local workers and managers, including one at Ulster University. One was offered to their field workers by two local authorities working together; one was arranged specially for twelve visiting Japanese workers’, managers and academics; two, held in Athlone in the Irish Republic for volunteers and paid workers from different parts of the country, came out of a ‘taster’ day in Dublin for youth officers and development officers.

The process

As in the past, at the heart of the workshops were small group sessions of six – twelve participants. Prompted by one of IDYW’s seven experienced facilitators, each small group focused on the narration and analysis (‘unpicking’) of an example of practice offered by a group member and chosen by the group for its potential to illuminate the ‘cornerstones’ of youth work (see p1). A final exercise focused on how participants were trying to defend this practice in their workplace and beyond – something which has become both more challenging and more necessary as the workshops have increasingly attracted participants not working in open access settings.

The story-telling web resource

At the start of 2015 IDYW published a web-based resource ‘Story-telling in Youth Work’ (, drawing on its collective experience of developing the story-telling approach. This includes case studies of stories being ‘unpicked’ in a small group and the materials IDYW has produced over the last five years to support the workshops. By mid-Oct the site had had over 1000 visitors from over 50 countries.

Feedback …

the session … demonstrated the value of time spent with peers to critically reflect on our practice – not only did we benefit from hearing a variety of perspectives as we contemplated one particular scenario but it allowed space for fresh insights, encouragement and affirmation.

(It was) good to get ‘back to basics’.

I think what was really memorable was when other participants in the group began to ask questions of the person sharing their story and ‘unpick’ it… and also to empathise with the story being told.

and a work in progress: into 2016 – and beyond

In addition to seeking out and responding to invitations to run workshops, IDYW has three other priorities for 2016:

  • To pilot facilitator training in the use of story-telling.
  • To test out further if and how it can be used to provide evidence of the value of youth work to the young people who engage with it.
  • To submit a bid for funds for a research project with the provisional title ‘Articulating youth work’s purpose, process and impact through story-telling’.

If you are interested in hosting a workshop or being involved in any of these activities, contact Bernard Davies at

From Leamington to Tokyo : Sharing the Story-Telling Experience


We are still a bit blown away by the development of this relationship with Japanese academics and youth workers, prompted by their enthusiasm about our Story-Telling model. And as you will see from Bernard’s notes the ensuing conversations have led us to reflect critically on our efforts thus far. Whisper it quietly, but interest has also been shown in Kazakhstan!

These notes have been prompted by a youth work story-telling workshop and follow-up discussion which IDYW was invited to arrange for a visiting group of Japanese youth work practitioners and researchers. Because unfortunately other IDYW colleagues were unavailable on the dates, I ended up facilitating on my own what turned out to be a searching and thought-provoking event with participants deeply committed to the kinds of youth work which IDYW is trying to defend. After engaging actively throughout in – with breaks and time for translation – a five hour workshop, the group met again in the evening for its own ‘debriefing’ session. This generated two pages of typed-up questions which were emailed to me overnight as prompts for a further two hour discussion the following morning.

Though language and cultural differences inevitably sometimes presented barriers to be overcome, these also helped to prompt exchanges which seemed to me less likely to occur in an all-UK group, forcing me to struggle for explanations and clarifications which I’ve not been asked for before. These not only seemed important in their own right for these participants. They also raised issues and questions which I believe deserve further collective consideration within IDYW. Hence these notes – which have been shared first with, and some comments added by, the workshop participants.

Background and contexts

The workshop came out of personal contacts which a number of us who are active in IDYW have had over the years with Professor Maki Hiratsuka of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Hosei University and who on a previous visit set up a meeting with me specifically to discuss the IDYW story-telling process. As for personal reasons she wasn’t able to come this time – though she did participate by Skype in most of the sessions – the group was led by the colleague who had also been involved in that earlier discussion, Professor Akio Inui of Tokyo Metropolitan University. Members of the group included four other academics, two of whom are doing part-time youth work, six full-time youth workers and youth work managers and a full-time student on an MA course at DMU who attended the workshop I facilitated there in April.

Both in informal conversations and during the working sessions, it became clear that, despite the obvious historical and cultural differences, some clear parallels existed between youth workers’ perspectives and challenges in Japan and in the UK. This came out particularly as participants explained the difficult balances they were having to strike between funders’ demands for work that was targeted on special groups of young people and the workers’ preference for and commitment to open access facilities. These included not only youth centres and drop-ins but also homework clubs which young people chose to attend for social reasons as well as to do their homework. In one informal conversation, too, the wider neo-liberal context for these struggles was also explicitly acknowledged.

Continue reading

What’s Your Story? Belfast Workshop, September 14

Telling stories of practice – a workshop for youth workers and researchers

Date: 14th September 2015, 14.00-17.00pm

Venue: Queen’s University Belfast, University Road, Belfast, BT7 1NN


This workshop will bring youth workers and youth work researchers together, using collective approaches to story-telling to explore what youth work practice means for practitioners in their current settings.

It aims: • to describe, analyse and ‘unpick’ examples of youth work practice; • to reflect on the relationship of these examples to the ‘cornerstones’ of youth work; • to consider how practitioners and researchers can help to sustain this practice, within        Logo IDYWand beyond their organisations.

Who can take part? Youth workers (including full-timers, part-timers and volunteers), youth work students, youth work lecturers, youth work researchers).

Background: In 2011, In Defence of Youth Work published This is Youth Work – twelve ‘stories from practice’ written by young people and youth workers. With a thousand copies distributed free, the illustrated book and its accompanying DVD were warmly received and widely used, throughout and beyond the UK. As the first In Defence of Youth Work story-telling workshop in Belfast, this is one of a series of workshops that aim to develop this work further.

“The Storytelling method 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)

Organised by BERA Youth Special Interest Group, In Defence of Youth Work, and Ulster University Community Youth Work team Price: Free (however pre-registration is essential)

Book your place at the event online below:

Don’t be put off if it says registration closed, e-mail as directed.


on the road


Our Campaign is out and about this week so posts are likely to be at a minimum. Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 10 we are in London at the Centre for Youth Impact event on ‘Outcomes-led Youth Work’, where Tony Taylor will be on the panel. On Thursday we are running one of our Story-telling Workshops at the Huddersfield University led by Bernard Davies and Paul Hogan. Friday sees us in Leeds at our sixth national conference and thence to the Youth & Policy history conference just up the road. Hopefully reports and photos to follow. Looking forward to seeing you at any or all of these happenings.

IDYW Story-Telling Workshop at YMCA George Williams, February 9


We’re pleased to say that there has been a positive response to our Story-Telling workshop offer. Indeed leading the field is the YMCA George Williams College, who are hosting a workshop on the morning of Monday, February 9.

For further info/to book, contact

And don’t forget to visit our new site and web resource at

Take Up the Offer of a Story-Telling Workshop in 2015

Our story-telling workshops have been hailed as the ‘human face’ of our campaign. What about engaging with us in 2015?



Telling and sharing stories of practice

The Storytelling method 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)

An invitation to host a workshop

In Defence of Youth Work

The In Defence of Youth Work campaign was formed in 2009 with the aim of defending youth work as a democratic, emancipatory and critical practice with young people. It defined this as:

  • taking place in open-access facilities and settings which young people choose to attend;
  • offering informal educational opportunities starting from their concerns and interests;
  • working with and through their peer networks and wider shared identities;
  • giving value and attention to their here-and-now as well as to their ‘transitions’; and
  • rooted in mutually respectful and trusting personal relationships – amongst young people and between young person and adult.

2012-2014: three years of story-telling workshops – and beyond

In 2011, IDYW published This is Youth Work – twelve ‘stories from practice’ written by young people and youth workers. With a thousand copies distributed free, the illustrated book and its accompanying DVD were warmly received and widely used – including beyond the UK.

Between 2012 and 2014 IDYW used the book as a prompt for 27 story-telling workshops which in total attracted some 650 practitioners (paid and volunteer), managers, students and trainers. With a key aim of clarifying and raising awareness of what is distinctive about youth work, the workshops’ main focus was the analysis of examples of practice provided by workshop participants. During 2013 the workshops were refocused to take account of the changed situations in which many practitioners were by then working.

Drawing on these three years’ experience, a web resource will be published early in 2015 on the use of youth work story-telling in different settings. IDYW is also considering using this material as the basis for workshops on the facilitation of story-telling workshops. It is also planning an event in the autumn of 2015 at which story-telling will be used to clarify how youth work is understood and practised a number of other European countries

Workshops aims

Tailored to meet the needs of different organisations and situations and starting from the settings in which practitioners are now working, the workshops aim to allow participants to:

  • explore what youth work practice means for them in their current settings;
  • through story-telling, describe, analyse and ‘unpick’ examples of that practice;
  • reflect on the relationship of these examples to the ‘cornerstones’ of youth work as advocated by IDYW in order to identify if and how it is distinctively youth work;
  • consider how they can help sustain that practice within and beyond their organisations.

Workshop process

The workshops, normally lasting two-and-a-half to three hours, have adapted a ‘dialogical’ process of debate developed by Professor Sarah Banks of Durham University. In small groups, participants:

  • choose a story offered by a group member which illustrates their practice as a youth worker;
  • analyse this story in depth to clarify if, how – and how not – the practice described is distinctively youth work;
  • consider possibilities for and barriers to this practice in their own work situations and how it can be sustained.

Who are the workshops for?

Workshops have been run for:

  • paid and voluntary workers and managers (statutory and voluntary sector) – including:
    • those working in open access settings where voluntary attendance is assumed;
    • those who identify themselves as youth workers but who now have other job titles and are working in targeted projects which young people may be required to attend.
  • youth work students and course tutors.
  • young people – particularly those in or who are moving into young volunteer roles.

Arranging and running workshops

IDYW will:

  • publicise workshops on its website and via its mailing and contact lists;
  • provide facilitators for each workshop – one for each 10 participants;
  • support participants who wish to write up their stories with a view to giving them wider availability;
  • where feasible, provide opportunities for participants who want to run their own story-telling workshops to get facilitation experience and possibly training.

Workshop hosts will be expected to:

  • provide the venue and some photocopying facilities;
  • publicise the event and recruit to it via their own websites and contact lists;
  • offer the workshops as a by-choice opportunity to practitioners and students in their organisations, institutions or wider area;
  • as a minimum pay travel expenses for facilitators, all of whom are volunteers;
  • pay any fees that might be available to the IDYW campaign and/or if appropriate ask for a contribution from participants on the day .

If you are interested in hosting a youth work story-telling workshop, contact Bernard Davies (


Story-Telling workshops offer 2015  – please print this and circulate as widely as possible.