Thanks to Adam Muirhead for this  immediate and enlightening report on the recent celebratory event held at YMCA George Williams College. You must read it in full on his blog. My snippets will surely whet your appetite.

Mark Smith


He begins:

I recently attended the ‘100 Years of Youth and Community Work Education’ event hosted by the YMCA George Williams College and supported by Youth & Policy, UKYouth and TAG/PALYCW. The event came about off the back of Tony Jeffs recognising that on the 8th October 100 years ago, what he (and others) recognise as the first proper youth & community training programme came into being. For someone like me who enjoys a bit of Youth Work celebrity spotting this was a star-studded event! The great and the good of our profession and people I’ve been reading and quoting for years were present and ready to divulge their experience.

As well as Tony amongst the great and good contributing were such notables as Alan Gibson Tom Wylie, Marg Mayo and Mark Smith, the latter proclaiming evidently the death of youth work.

According to Adam, Mark went as far as to say that the key texts he developed for the profession under the umbrella of ‘Youth Work’ had been the equivalent of flogging a dead horse. So you can see why some people felt peeved.

Unbowed Adam ends by drinking a toast to the next 100 years of Youth and Community Work Education!

Welcome to the first yresearch – journal of social research and evaluation


Late last year we publicised news of a forthcoming event, YRESEARCH? : THE CONFERENCE AT THE YMCA COLLEGE, FEBRUARY 2015. The organisers informed us that “a new e-journal publication will be launched next year. Those presenting papers at the conference will be invited  to submit an article based on the presentation (3,000-5,000 words in length) for the first edition due to be launched in the autumn of 2015.”

We are very pleased to say that the proposal has come to fruition and below you will find the pdf of the first volume. The contents are as follows:

Editorial -Tina Salter

“These papers are a snapshot of some research being carried out in the field of youth and community work, at a particularly difficult time when many youth services have significantly diminished or simply do not exist. Whilst the landscape has shrunk, those left are showing a determination to capture and evidence the work which represents a long history of creative and meaningful engagements with young people. yresearch hopes to continue providing evidence of youth and community work.”

A Critical Case for Participant Action Research in Youth Work – William Mason

Youth Work Methodology as Social Research – Ken Harland and Sam McCready

Challenging Myths about Young People and Organised Crime through Collaborative Research – Naomi Stanton

Apprenticeships. New Opportunities for Young People or Another Great Training Robbery – Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley

Rethinking Personal and Professional Boundaries between Young People and Youth Work Practitioners as Manifested through Connections on Online Social Networking Sites – Liesl Conradie

yresearch- journal of social research and evaluation, Volume 1, September 2015 [full pdf version]

One Hundred Years of Youth and Community Work Education: A Celebration!


One Hundred Years of Youth and Community Work Education: A Celebration!

Thursday 8th October, YMCA George Williams College, London

A day conference followed by celebratory drinks reception

Thursday 8th October witnesses the centenary of the opening session of the United Kingdom’s first full-time professional youth work training course. Organised by the National Organisation of Girls’ Club (now UKYouth) it met at Bedford College, London. To celebrate this historic occasion Youth and Policy is organising a day conference focussing not only on the origins and development of professional training but the current state of provision and future prospects. Amongst those contributing will be some who played a crucial role in the development of current provision.

10.00 – 10.30 Registration and coffee
10.30 – 10.40 Welcome – Lesley Buckland (Conference Chair)
10.40 – 11.10 Origins of youth work training in UK andelsewhere – Tony Jeffs
11.10 – 12.00 Albemarle and the emergence of modern youth and community education – Alan Gibson and Tom Wylie
12.00 – 12.45 The chequered history of community workeducation – Marg Mayo
12.45 – 13.30 Lunch
13.30 – 14.00 Does youth and community work education have a future? – Mark Smith
14.00 – 15.00 Workshops followed by 15.00 – 16.00 The future of youth and community education.
Discussion led by a panel including: Lesley Buckland, Shelley Marsh, Jon Ord, Keith Popple, Sue Robertson, Jane Melvin.
16.15 – 18.00 Drinks reception (sponsored by TAG/PALCYW)

The event is supported by UKYouth, YMCA George Williams College and TAG/PALCYW.

Book here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/100-years-of-youth-and-commu…

100 YEARS OF YOUTH & COMMUNITY WORK – Flyer, please circulate

Innovation in Youth Work – new book stimulating dialogue and practice



big lottery

Over the coming weeks we will be posting links to particular chapters from this new and challenging book, edited by Naomi Stanton. We are doing this as part of the YMCA College’s commitment to spreading the word as widely as possible. Amidst the hurly-burly we hope you will find time to peruse and reflect upon its contents. Tomorrow will see the appearance of a controversial opening chapter, ‘What sort of future?’ by Tony Jeffs.

Introduction – Naomi Stanton, YMCA George Williams College


This book aims to offer reflections for youth workers to stimulate their thinking, dialogue and practice. Some of the sections include suggested activities that can be used with young people directly; others are for use with staff and volunteers to prompt discussion about youth work in the current context that practitioners find themselves in. Our aim for the resource is that it will encourage innovative thinking and practice through ideas and activities that youth workers find useful and that will help them to consider their work together with other youth workers and young people. A range of issues and topics are covered within the book including, among others; volunteering, evaluation, conflict, mentoring and social action.

It is not a resource compiled for practitioners by academics. A large number of its contributors are practising youth workers. It is a practical toolkit drawn from practice itself. Therefore the topics covered are current issues for current practitioners. In particular, it considers how we might explore the values and practices of youth work at a time when youth work feels under threat. We hope that it encourages optimism and innovation despite current challenges to the field.

The book has been created through a wider project taking place at YMCA George Williams College that has been concerned with encouraging ‘Innovation and Skills for Youth Work’. This project has been supported by funding from The Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Awards for All: England’ programme and has involved two national youth work conferences and ten regional training days as well as the development of this resource for practitioners. The project aimed to provide space and opportunities for youth workers (particularly volunteers and new practitioners) to reflect on, develop and upskill their practice. We hope that this resource plays a small part in continuing to sustain and encourage youth workers because we firmly believe that youth work is valuable and the role that youth workers play is highly significant to the young people they engage with.


yresearch: the conference

YMCA George Williams College, 6th February 2015

P1020822 compressed

YMCA George Williams College would like to invite you to our upcoming conference on the role of research in supporting youth and community work, taking place on Friday 6thFebruary 2015.

There is a need for more research to underpin practice which takes place within the field of youth and community work. yresearch: the conference provides an opportunity for practitioners and researchers to come together and debate and discuss recent research associated with youth and community work.

This conference is open to anyone interested in youth and community work which is supported by research and we hope to have a range of practitioners, academics and those interested in policy, research and/or practice attending.

The cost of attending is £35 (£10 for students) and the event will take place from 10am – 4pm on Friday 6th February at YMCA George Williams College in London. To book your place, please use Eventbrite by clicking here.

Call for papers at the yresearch Conference taking place on Friday 6th February 2015

We are hoping that the conference will involve a range of presentations based on recent research relevant to youth and community work. We would particularly like to extend an invitation to recent Youth and Community Work graduates to present, based on the research you carried out for your BA or MA dissertations. Presentations will last around 40 minutes – 20 minutes to present your study and findings and a further 20 minutes for questions and discussion. If you would like to present a paper at this conference, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to Tina Salter (t.salter@ymca.ac.uk) byFriday 31st October 2014. Those accepted to present will also be entitled to a free place at the conference.

yresearch: Journal of Social Research and Evaluation

In addition, a new e-journal publication will be launched next year. For those of you who present papers at the conference, we will then invite you to submit an article based on your presentation (3,000-5,000 words in length) for the first edition due to be launched in the autumn of 2015.

If you have any queries regarding the conference or the journal, please contact Tina Salter on 020 7540 4908 or t.salter@ymca.ac.uk.


George Williams and the YMCA in Brisbane

GW hotel

I’m not sure whether it was by accident or design, but I spent my stay in Brisbane at the George Williams Hotel, hardly an Aussie Rules kick from the city’s magnificent river. To my shame it took a day for the dollar to drop! I was sleeping in a YMCA hotel named after the organisation’s founder, George Williams. To say the least, given my attendance at the State Youth Affairs conference, this was most appropriate and led to reminding myself of some of the YMCA’s history.


According to a number of sources George, a farmer’s son, described himself as a ” careless, thoughtless, Godless and swearing young fellow”. I think we might have got on. However at the age of 16 George became a Christian and evangelist. At this point I suspect our paths would have diverted, but it’s good to think we might have carried on the discussion.

Whatever, as Mark Smith explains,

During June and early July 1844 a series of discussions took place in rooms above Hitchcock and Roger’s drapers shop in St Paul’s Churchyard. George Williams, Christopher Smith, Edward Valentine, John Symons, and the eight, nine or ten other young men involved, discussed setting up what quickly became known as The Young Men’s Christian Association. They set out with ‘the view of uniting and directing the efforts of Christian young men for the spiritual welfare of their fellows in the various departments of commercial life’ (YMCA 1857: frontpiece). In other words, they began by looking to the needs of people like themselves – a form of mutual aid. As the Movement grew, those involved were quick to amend rules and activities in response to the needs they identified. For example, by 1848 the object of the Association was not just ‘spiritual’ but also ‘mental’ improvement; and the concern was with young men in general.

The one Association within a year had branches in the West End (the Scots Church, Swallow Street, Piccadilly), Islington, Pimlico, Southwark – and then in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Exeter, Bristol, Plymouth and Hull.  These then became independent associations. Furthermore, following the activities of the London Association during the Great Exhibition of 1851 associations spread to Australia, France, India and to North America. So was formed the distinctive shape of the Movement. It was to be a movement of, by and for young men; built around faith in Jesus Christ. It was to be evangelising; ecumenical in spirit and membership; and to be concerned with improving social conditions and promoting learning. Central to this was ‘the duty of Christian young men to witness in practical ways to their faith in the sphere of their daily life’ ( see Shedd 1955: 39). Crucially, YMCAs were organized around collective effort via the formation of local associations. While George Williams may be honoured as the founder – the growth of the Movement was very much an associational effort.

Find Mark’s referenced version here.

Also see this brief YMCA History.

I was taken aback by the fact that the YMCA boasts 58 million members across 119 countries world-wide, never mind that basketball was invented in its corridors.

Over a hundred and fifty years later the YMCA George Williams College in London maintains a critical continuity with the YMCA’s rich tradition, openly advocating a pluralist and radical youth work perspective, together with housing the invaluable on-line Infed resource

Innovation and Reflection at YMCA George Williams

Tony Jeffs sitting comfortably

Tony Jeffs sitting comfortably



Innovation in Youth Work: Creative Practice in Challenging Times was a conference held on 13th May 2014 at YMCA George Williams conference. The event was part supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Awards for All: England’ programme through a bid held by the college.

The conference was attended by youth work practitioners and academics from across the UK and discussion focused on the positive and innovative practice that is taking place during the current Government austerity.

The main speaker sessions included:

– Tony Jeffs (Youth and Policy) on the current state of youth work and the challenges and opportunities the field faces in moving forward;

– Aniela Wenham (University of York) and Ian McGimpsey (University of Birmingham) on measuring the impact of youth work including both current problems in the way it is measured and ways to think creatively in moving forward

– Elaine Johannes (Kansas State University) on how youth work is developed and sustained in the USA where there is no state or federal requirement for investment in youth services.

Workshops were facilitated by practitioners from a range of organisations including, among others; In Defence of Youth Work, NUS, The Foyer Federation and The Boys Brigade.


Reflecting on the event

At a time of steady decline, rallying cries levied against those responsible for cuts to youth services seems to be falling on deaf ears. Why is this? Is youth work living though its final hours or is now the time for youth work to be reborn so that it can fulfil its telos? In his key note speech, Tony Jeffs argued that the withdrawal of the state, in funding youth work, is not a feature of austerity, rather the state has little interest in youth work now. Recent attempts to revive youth work have proved both costly and unsuccessful in the bigger scheme of things as seen with the Youth Service Development Fund, Transforming Youth Work, Connexions and, most recently, Myplace.

But is the writing on the wall for youth work? Outside state funded provisions it would seem all is well and good. Youth work in the faith sector and the uniformed organisations is thriving. Rather than responding to what funders want to hear, fighting for the scraps of targeted youth work being tendered out, we see youth work which has thought about what it wants to be rather than responding to what funders want to hear. Katherine O’Brien, a church based youth worker, talked extensively in her workshop about how she sees youth work as a way to empower young people through social action and a commitment to social justice. For those youth workers who were perhaps a little longer in the tooth, this was a rejuvenating experience allowing time to consider the importance of youth work that is political; working with issues that young people are really concerned with.

Similarly, the need to encourage a more politicised approach through collective action seemed to be one of the main messages coming from Ben Kinross and Sarah Kerton of the NUS as they sought to build links between the work of student unions and youth work.

In seeking to reclaim youth work’s raison d’etre, a call for rigorous research and strong philosophical grounding were both considered to be important principles for supporting and developing practice rich in intrinsic value, furrowing its own path rather than following the ploughed lines of political rhetoric and targets – now is the time to innovate.

Simon Frost, YMCA George Williams College.


We should also report that the YMCA is launching a Centre for Reflective Leadership – full details on their web site, including info on a new Masters degree and a range of short courses. Also see the pdf to be found below.

Centre for Reflective Leadership 2014 pdf.

Thanks to Naomi Stanton for the for the link and photo.