Webinar series exploring social pedagogy concepts at turbulent times

When the COVID-19 pandemic first started to cause huge upheavals in social care practice, we felt it was time to learn more about how a social pedagogical perspective could help practitioners navigate the uncharted territory they found themselves in. We wanted to offer a forum for dialogue and ideas about how to make sense of the uncertainties and unpredictabilities at these unprecedented times and how to keep connected to a deeper sense of moral purpose. Our webinar series ‘Exploring Social Pedagogy Concepts at Turbulent Times’ is the result of this ambition. Register now for free to join future sessions!

The series exploring social pedagogy concepts during turbulent times launched on 17th June as part of the International Online Conference with a webinar on the Common Third. Run by ThemPra in partnership with both the Social Pedagogy Association (US) and the Social Pedagogy Professional Association (UK), each webinar is free to attend and we’re keen for you to share any reflections, ideas and examples you have to offer. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to actively contribute to any of the upcoming webinars.

Below is the scheduled programme for 2021:

  • 28/09/21 – 10-11am: Empowerment
    How do we create the conditions in which the people we support feel a sense of ownership, control and empowerment? Join us for this webinar to discuss how we can share the power we hold as professionals in ways that are meaningful. Register here.
  • 27/10/21 – 10-11am: Human Learning Systems
    A radical alternative to New Public Management is beginning to rehumanise public service. To celebrate the launch of the free e-book Human Learning Systems: Public Service for the Real World, we’re exploring how HLS can strengthen social pedagogical practice in organisations. Register here to join us for an exciting conversation!
  • 23/11/21 – 10-11am: Human Rights
    Social pedagogy is often described as a human rights profession, and in this webinar we want to explore how we can champion a human rights focus in everyday practice. Join the conversation by registering here.
  • 14/12/21 – 10-11am: The 4 Aspects of a Message
    This communication model shows just why there is so much that can be misinterpreted or go wrong when we communicate with each other. Find out how we can become clearer and more effective both in talking with and listening to others. Click here to register.

And here is an overview of previous webinars in the series, together with links to the video recordings (where available):

The Common Third

Our first session on 17/06/20 focussed on the Common Third and how we can develop relationships through purposeful shared activities at a time when lockdown restrictions on meeting face-to-face create huge challenges. We had a brilliant discussion with Jameel Hadi (Salford University), Danny Henderson (Common View) and Vasileios Tiliakos (Athirma) sharing their experiences and ideas.


Diamond Model

This session from 27/08/20 explored the Diamond Model, a reminder that every person is inherently rich and that we all benefit when we look for the best in people. We were delighted to be joined by Lowis Charfe (UCLan), Kara O’Neil (Social Pedagogy Association), and Robyn Kemp (Social Pedagogy Professional Association) as well as an inspiring group of participants who joined the conversation.


The 3 Ps

In this session from 28/09/20 we examined how we can be professional AND personal whilst leaving the private self out of practice. We also focussed on how lockdown has changed this balance. Thanks to everyone who contributed with their thoughts and reflections, particularly Alicja Kabat-Pastwa (Coventry Council), Cath Barton (Community Circles), Cecile Remy (St Christopher’s Fellowship), and Ali Gardner (Head, Heart, Hands in Practice).


Relational Universe

Our session from 26/10/20 focused on the Relational Universe, given that the pandemic has higlighted how crucial it is to feel connected. As human beings we are all interdependent, and the Relational Universe expands our professional understanding of what relationship-centred practice is all about. We were delighted that Nicola Boyce (Lighthouse Children’s Home) and Krysta Parsons (Lincolnshire County Council) shared examples from their practice, which stimulated participants to bring in their thoughts and insights.


Learning Zone Model

Uncertainty and upheaval make it challenging to be in the learning zone when the panic zone feels just around the corner and the comfort zone feels like the only safe place. So how can the Learning Zone Model help us? Watch the recording from the session on 23/11/20 with Elaine Hamilton (Nether Johnston House) and Krysta Parsons (Lincolnshire County Council) joining the fishbowl conversation.


Critical Reflection

In the session on 14/12/20, our focus was on critical reflection, which is never more needed than when things are turbulent, chaotic and messy. By using a structured process to examine more deeply what’s happening, how this is affecting us and others, what influences there are, how we can critically analyse the situation to learn and act, we’re ensuring that we feel better equipped to deal with uncertainty and complexity. We discussed the FEIALA model for critical reflection, which we developed together with Robyn Kemp, and heard how this can be used in practice, with contributions from Robyn herself, Chardelle Margerison (St Christopher’s Fellowship), Simon Johr (Coventry Council) and Diana Schmidt (Brent Council).


Nonviolent Communication

The new year started off with our webinar on 18/01/21 focussing on Nonviolent Communication and how we can connect to what’s alive in people. Marshall Rosenberg’s concept helps nurture kindness and compassion at a time when the challenges of the pandemic tear at the fabric of societies, and it was exciting to explore these tensions with Kara O’Neil (Social Pedagogy Association), Simon Taylor (Derbyshire County Council), and Maggie Bagley (MA Social Pedagogy Leadership graduate).


Multiple Intelligences

In this session from 26/02/21, we discussed Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory and how we can create learning situations that bring out the best in people and recognise their potential. Thanks to Martin Schwarz (Camphill Community Glencraig), Nicola Boyce (Lighthouse Children’s Home), Lowis Charfe (University of Central Lancashire), and Dan Nester (Barnardo’s) for sharing their experiences and examining links with creativity.



Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition provides a valuable framework for how we can create the conditions in which people feel validated as human beings. A focus on recognition offers a rich understanding of how we can build meaningful relationships with the people we support, strengthen the structural aspects that ensure they feel heard, and cultivate social inclusion. We had a fascinating discussion on 23/03/21 about why recognition is such a crucial concept, with contributions by Adam Pagett (Bradford Council), Lotte Harbo (VIA University College), and Daniela Reimer (Zurich University of Applied Science).



Often translated as ethos or stance, the German term Haltung refers to the way in which we bring our values and beliefs to life in the interactions with others. In this webinar on 27/04/21, we enjoyed an insightful discussion about how we can be authentic at a time when our Haltung is challenged. Ian Jones (Nottingham University), Cath Barton (Community Circles) and Mike Crowther (Empowerment) shared their practice experiences and why it’s important for us to be mindful and constantly reflective of our Haltung.



The concept of lifespace highlights that much of the support we offer in social pedagogical practice happens in the space that people inhabit, in their homes, their community, their lives. Lifespace also emphasises the importance of everyday activities to develop meaningful relationships. On 26/05/21 we were joined by Alex Priver (ThemPra), Matthew McFadzean (Pebbles Care) and George Evans (Camphill Community Beannachar) to reflect on how conceptualisations of lifespace have evolved during the pandemic.


New online course dates – Developing Relationship-Centred Practice 2021

We’re pleased to announce new course dates for our online course on developing relationship-centred practice, offered with Ali Gardner, co-author of Social Pedagogy and Social Work. This is a facilitated 18-hour online course for practitioners and managers working in the field of social care.


Course Outline:

Over the course sessions, participants will be introduced to a number of tools to develop relational approaches in their practice when working within complex and challenging environments. Drawing on Social Pedagogy theory and principles, this interactive course will focus on the central role of relationships within teams, organisations and working with individuals and families in the community. Our course will be highly relevant for individuals who seek to bring passion, compassion, integrity and creativity to strength-based practice.

We know that individuals accessing social care place the highest value on good relationships. The recent challenges of COVID-19 have reinforced the urgency of relationships and humanity in our work together and with the community. This timely course therefore seeks to build individual resilience and leadership through strengthening the role of relationships at a practice and organisational level as we move forward.


Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the online course, participants will be able to:

  1. Apply relational approaches to support strength-based practice.
  2. Understand the role of learning in facilitating well-being, resilience and empowerment.
  3. Develop relational leadership skills supporting professional practice in complex environments.
  4. Adopt a range of reflective tools to enhance relational practice
  5. Look forward to future practice with a renewed focus on the values, key purpose and goals of their work.



The course will be delivered by Ali Gardner (Head, Hearts, Hands in Practice) and Gabriel Eichsteller (ThemPra, a social enterprise leading social pedagogy developments in the UK). With their experience in social work practice, policy, education, training, publishing and international projects in the field of social pedagogy, Ali and Gabriel are well placed to support learning in this area, enabling participants to further strengthen their practice through greater theoretical insight and clear commitment to ethical action.


Video conferencing platform:

The six 3-hour sessions will be facilitated using Zoom to allow participants from a wide range of organisations to engage. We operate the upgraded Zoom package with end-to-end encryption and the highest security settings available for video conferencing. No confidential information will be shared as part of the course, and both hosts are ICO registered.



The pricing is set at £295.00 per participant. 10% discount per place will be offered for the purchase of 5+ places and 15% discount per place will be offered for purchase of 10+ places. Payment can be made either by bank transfer or invoice and must be received by 31st August. Please note that VAT is not applicable.



The 6 sessions will take place on the following mornings from 9.30am -12.30pm: 20th September, 27th September, 4th October, 18th October, 25th October, 1st November, 2021



To register, please complete our booking form below. Please note that places are limited to 20 participants.

Participants will receive a certificate for the CPD hours completed.


Further questions:

If you have any further questions please email Gabriel or Ali.

Human Learning Systems – e-book launch and webinar

Human Learning Systems: Public Service for the Real World

In association with Dr Toby Lowe and the wider Human Learning Systems Collaborative, we have come together to write and launch a new e-book Human Learning Systems: Public Service for the Real World, a resource and guide for organisations or teams working in public service who feel they want to change the current way they’re working. Human Learning Systems offers an alternative approach to funding, leading and managing all forms of social intervention and public service and features nearly 50 case studies from across the world.

If you design, deliver or work with people and are dissatisfied with the current processes and ways of working, HLS offers an alternative approach to public management based on being human, continuously learning and nurturing healthy systems. It fits really well with social pedagogy and, as the case studies by Empowerment and Lighthouse show, HLS can create the organisational conditions for social pedagogical practice to thrive.

Ahead of the e-book launch, you can sign up to join us for an exclusive webinar on the 17th June. At the webinar, you will hear from practitioners on how they have been using the Human Learning Systems approach to transform the way in which they work. Click here to register.

Creating Hope in Dystopia – a sneak peek at the programme

‘Creating Hope in Dystopia’ is the conference for you if you are concerned or even overwhelmed by the increasing social inequalities and divisions we’re all confronted with in day-to-day practice. How can we create hope, not just for the people who are most affected by these challenges, but also for ourselves? And how can we face these seemingly insurmountable issues with a sense of resilience, hopefulness and energy, clearer insights into the complex conditions, and inspirational ideas of how we can contribute to positive change? To help us explore meaningful answers to these questions, we’re bringing together an excellent line-up of keynote presenters:

  • Towards a Planetary Social Pedagogy: Arto Salonen (Professor for Social Pedagogy, University of Eastern Finland) on extending our perspective to encompass the ecosystem that we’re part of (see details).
  • Social Pedagogy and Social Education: Karla Villaseñor (Autonomous University of Puebla) on what we can learn from the current situation in Mexico.
  • Play in an Anxious World: Carrie Lobman (Rutgers University) on the role of creativity and playfulness in thriving amidst uncertainty (see details).
  • Rehumanising Public Service through Human Learning Systems: Toby Lowe (Centre for Public Impact) on the paradigm shift away from New Public Management to create space for social pedagogy (see details).
  • Working with Complexity and Gut Instinct: Lotte Harbo and Charlotte Vange Løvstad (VIA University College Aarhus) on the role of intuition and evidence-based manuals (see details).

Add to that a broad range of interactive workshops, roundtable conversations and presentation sessions, as well as lots of interaction and networking opportunities, and you’ll find yourself in highly stimulating surroundings!

If you know us, you’ll be aware that we want to make a genuine positive difference in the world – we’re a social enterprise for a reason. That’s why many of our learning resources are free and why we try hard to keep any charges for longer learning events as low as we can. As a member of the SPDN, you get $25 off the full conference fee. And until the end of May, you can still receive the early bird rate of just $110 for the full 3-day programme (including all recordings). Best of all, if your organisation won’t be funding your conference fee, you only pay the $65 self-funder rate (that’s just over £45). So there’s every reason to join us!

virtual Social Pedagogy Development Network – 23/06/21

The SPDN is back with a free virtual open space event as part of the international online conference ‘Creating Hope in Dystopia’

We warmly invite you to join our next virtual Social Pedagogy Development Network event on June 23rd, 2021 from 10.00am-12.00pm. The virtual gathering offers a forum for practitioners, students, service managers and academics alike to find out how organisations are developing social pedagogy within their services, to share ideas and to connect with other professionals who have a similar passion for their practice. We hold two free events each year, which aim to increase our collective understandings of social pedagogy in ways that are inspiring, practice-relevant and reflective of social pedagogical principles and values. We aim to stimulate reflection on how you can further develop your practice and thus make an even greater difference to the individuals, groups or communities you engage with.

Thanks to the diversity of participants, the SPDN offers you a real flavour of what social pedagogical practice looks like in children’s homes, fostering services, family support services, communities for adults with disabilities, residential schools and many other settings. For us it’s about enabling a thousand flowers to bloom – so instead of the conformity of monocultures you’ll get a flavour of the rich diversity in which social pedagogy is growing in different practice settings.

The virtual gathering offers an open space for you to talk about what matters most to you with people who share your interest and thus help shape the social pedagogy discourse. If you’re interested in learning a lot more about social pedagogy, then join one of our experiential online courses or register for the international online conference ‘Creating Hope in Dystopia’, which this event is part of.