Courageous Conversations – new online course dates for 2023

Join our new course to improve constructive communication that leads to greater connection

The Elephant in the Room

We’ve all been there. Yet another elephant is on the loose and has taken centre stage in the room. Yet again, everybody is trying hard to pretend that it isn’t there. After all, elephants are big and heavy, so pushing it back out of the room isn’t really an option. But what if we could find the courage to address the elephant in the room constructively? Better yet, what if we could have meaningful conversations about difficult issues in ways that improve the relationships between us?

These are the questions at the heart of our new experiential online learning programme, tailored to the particular professional context of social care. We know how challenging it can be to have to deliver difficult messages to the people you support. We also know how beneficial it can be to create the conditions for meaningful dialogue with the people you support, so that you can have a courageous conversation.

Social work requires practitioners to work in challenging situations and sometimes hostile environments. Lord Laming (2003) called for ‘respectful uncertainty’ whereby social workers are able to capture the delicate balance of trust and doubt. Likewise, Cooper (2018) suggests these are often the instances where professionals can lose their heads with anxiety and become very reactive. Being self-reflective in how they communicate within these tension fields is therefore a critical skill. Through this learning programme we want to enable you to develop your skillset and experience the benefits of having courageous conversations within your organisation and with the people you support.

Learning Takes Courage

Learning requires a leap of faith into the unknown, the courage to try things out, and the support of people who share the learning journey. We have therefore designed this learning programme to draw on the power of peer learning, combined with insights from communication theory, conflict resolution methods, space for self-reflection and action planning.

Over the course of 6 3hr sessions, we will build a peer learning community in which participants increasingly take on greater responsibility for supporting each other in the ongoing process of applying your learning to your respective practice context. Why is this a powerful way to achieve practice improvement? Because converting learning experiences into meaningful behaviour change relies on three factors:

  • CAPABILITY: Acquiring new skills and insights into relevant communication theory and conflict resolution methods
  • MOTIVATION: Being eager and feeling confident to create positive change, finding your inner courage to address conflicts pro-actively and constructively
  • OPPORTUNITY: Finding ways to apply learning in practice, creating the space for self-reflection within the peer learning community, and identifying further opportunities for leading courageous conversations

We expect participants to commit to taking action in between each session, so that you can practice having more courageous conversations both in your professional and personal life.

Session Content

We explore courageous conversations as the interplay between you and another person, framed by the environment in which this interplay takes place. Importantly, we believe that courageous conversations should be an empowering encounter for everyone involved.

Sessions 1 & 2: Find your courage, face your fears

In the first two sessions, we start off your learning journey with you. By introducing you to a range of communication theories, including non-violent communication, we help you better understand the dynamics at play in communication, how you usually communicate and the implications this might have for leading courageous conversations.

Sessions 3 & 4: Connect with empathy

In the third and fourth session, we shift the focus towards better understanding the other person’s role and how you can help someone else be open to what you wish to convey, provide relational certainty, and empathically listen to truly understand their point of view.

Sessions 5 & 6: Create the conditions for learning together

In the last two sessions, we explore how you can create an environment that enables people to have courageous conversations, for instance through imaginative ways to provide feedback, by framing courageous conversations as learning together and integrating critical reflection processes into existing structures such as supervision, team meetings, review meetings, and appraisals.

Each 3-hr session is designed to connect capability, motivation and opportunity by giving you time to explore an area of your practice that you’re determined to change, plan a micro-intervention – a small thing you’ll do to communicate more constructively – and commit to your peers that you’ll come back the following session having tried this out.

Who We Are

The course is designed and delivered by Ali Gardner, a registered social worker and director of Head, Hearts, Hands in Practice, and Gabriel Eichsteller, a social pedagogue and co-director with ThemPra Social Pedagogy CIC. Our backgrounds are in social work practice, policy, education, training, publishing and international projects in the field of social pedagogy, so we’ve worked with a broad range of people in environments where authentic dialogue and trusting relationships are critical. Ali has harnessed these experiences to create the new Research in Practice for Adults briefing paper on Courageous Conversations. This learning programme builds on this and our other work around relationship-centred practice to help you transfer these insights into your practice.

Course Dates

The six sessions are scheduled in the following intervals to allow sufficient time for learning application:

Session 1: 9th Jan, 2023 – 9.30am – 12.30pm

Session 2: 11th Jan, 2023 – 1.30pm – 4.30pm

Session 3: 23rd Jan, 2023 – 9.30am – 12.30pm

Session 4: 21st Feb, 2023 – 9.30am – 12.30pm

Session 5: 13th Mar, 2023 – 9.30am – 12.30pm

Session 6: 3rd Apr, 2023 – 9.30am – 12.30pm

Please note that we expect all participants to take part in every session and to commit to taking action in between each session.


The cost per participant is £300 (ex VAT). We offer a 5% discount per place to organisations purchasing 5+ places and a 10% discount per place for 10+ places. Payment can be made either by bank transfer or invoice and must be received at least 14 days prior to the start date.

Register Your Place

To book your place on this course, please register below:

Professional Standards

Upon completing the learning programme, we will provide you with a certificate over 21 hours of CPD. You can use your applied learning from this course as part of your CPD requirements, including towards the following professional standards:

Post-qualifying standards: Knowledge and Skills Statements:

Person-centred practice | Effective assessment and outcome based support planning | Direct work with individuals and families | Supervision, critical analysis and reflection | Professional ethics and leadership | Values and ethics | Influencing and governing practice excellence within the organisation and community | Developing confident and capable social workers | Assuring good social work practice and development | Relationship-based practice supervision | Effective use of power and authority as a practice supervisor

Care Quality Commission – Key lines of enquiry:

Effective | Caring | Responsive | Well-led

Professional Capabilities Framework for Social Work in England:

Professionalism | Values and ethics | Diversity and equality | Rights, justice and economic well-being | Critical reflection and analysis | Intervention and skills | Professional leadership

Royal College of Occupational Therapists – Professional Standards:

Understanding relationship | Service users | Screen needs | Develop intervention | Evaluate impact | Collaborative | Communication | Support development

Further Questions?

Please get in touch with us via email if you would like to know more about this course or any of our other learning activities.

Social Pedagogical Practice in Adult Care

By Maggie Bagley

Social pedagogy is becoming a familiar phrase within children’s services in the UK but is not as common in adult care, perhaps because people relate pedagogy with education and teaching.

Social pedagogy is a relationship-centred approach to support well-being, learning and social inclusion, and all these things are as important to adults as they are to children and the theories and concepts that form a social pedagogues practice can be used in any situation.

Social pedagogues contemplate what cannot be seen and yet needs to be understood, so that they can work holistically to build authentic and trusting relationships. Our personal perceptions, understanding and realities are influenced by our experiences, and views of the world. At the heart of social pedagogy is an absolute respect for the value of all human beings, and supports power with instead of power over, to support positive change.

 “If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognise the whole gamut of human potential and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one which is each diverse human gift fill find a fitting place.” (Margaret Mead)

My background is in adult social care with older adults and people with learning disabilities in a care home environment and in community-based projects. I have seen many examples of practice, although not recognised as such, that align with the holistic nature of social pedagogy, using strength-based approaches, and with unconditional positive regard for the value of all human beings, that is present in many care organisations.

One charity managed an allotment to produce vegetables that supplied a community café that the charity owned. Both projects operated with a mixture of paid staff, community volunteers and charity members. None of the people involved were expert gardeners or bakers but they learned together how to grow potatoes and green beans, make scones or vegetable soup. Drawing on individual talents they discovered and developed friendships and worked towards a common goal. Social pedagogues would call this The Common Third, a practical concept that enables us to build relationships while learning from each other to develop new skills. The overall aim was to generate income for the charity, offer work experience opportunities and to support the local community.

Another concept I have seen in action is the Diamond Model, playing an essential role in building confidence and self-esteem. The Diamond Model, so called because it recognises the diamond within each of us. It has four core elements, well-being and happiness, relationships, holistic learning, and empowerment, that are accomplished through positive experiences.

For instance, a member of staff working in a supported living house took her dog to work. The person she worked with was particularly fond of animals, and he was thrilled to take the dog for a walk. Daily dog walks around town meant that they became a familiar sight in the community, and many people stopped to talk and pet the dog, establishing relationships and forming friendships and creating opportunities for the young man to use his voice, as communicating with others had been a stumbling block for this young man. The walks also supported his mental and physical health, encouraging regular exercise and lowering stress levels when he felt anxious. Without noticing the person also learned routes around town that he could use to go out independently, empowering him to go shopping on his own and fulfilling his potential.

Lastly, another of my favourite social pedagogy theories is the learning zone model. I have used this myself on many occasions. The model considers three areas, the comfort zone, where we mostly like to be because it feels safe and secure, the learning zone which challenges and is less familiar but helps us to learn and grow, and lastly the panic zone where we feel threatened and scared, unable to learn due to negative impact of our anxiety. 

The learning zone will be different for each person, so for instance someone who is frightened of heights will feel very differently to an experienced mountaineer on a trip to a climbing wall. I frequently think about this quote “Growth happens outside your comfort zone; magic happens when you go there with others” (Richard Branson).

Social Pedagogical Life at Camphill

There is no place like home as Covid-19 unleashed creativity in a Scottish Camphill Community!

By Laurence Alfred

It’s quite a challenge to summarise all that’s happened in our lives over the last 6 months. Whilst possibilities waned as we progressed into and through lockdown, our smaller inner lives became much more vibrant and dominant. As the world shrank around us, we found ourselves emerged in our microcosmos, living and working in this wonderful place we call home.

Coronavirus has, nonetheless, had a big impact on our lives, just like with everyone else. From mid-March till the end of June life was quite different to before. All of us missed our regular activities such as going to workshops, the gym, school, the pub, meeting friends and family, going to restaurants, cafes, museums, the list is endless. Add to this, the fact that we had to quarantine twice because of unclear tests and symptoms you can only imagine how complicated living with Covid around us, is. However, life went on and we all managed really well to adapt. Daily walks, craft activities, preparing for Halloween, playing games, BBQ’s (lots of them), gardening, water fights, playing music, watching movies, experimenting with haircuts and Thursday night NHS clapping were just some of the activities we did.

By the end of the summer we had a new norm – we’d buy more disinfectant than Nutella, we’d have people joining meals and celebrations through an iPad, and PPE was part of our everyday attire. Before we knew it, we were living a new kind of life, in a new kind of community. We’d found our way. Our home is a happy vibrant place, where something is always happening. We enjoy cinema in the comfort of our living room, there’s always live music and crafty activities to enjoy. Mary, Lizzy, Chris, and Scott have all become expert gardeners – we’ve plenty to celebrate and be thankful for.

Through being there for each other and sharing these stretching times we have managed to continue to make lasting memories in the household. The evenings are filled with the little ones zooming through on roller skates and filling the house with wonderful piano music whilst peaceful newly born Mark is smiling in the background! Michael enjoys ‘house band’ concerts with Clarinet, Drums, Guitar and Colin’s singing! (not quite Usher Hall but we manage!). Samantha has made a couple of appearances on local radio and continues to find joy and laughter in her new day to day activities despite everything and she’s really enjoyed getting to know our new co-workers! And then there is Brian who keeps us all grounded through his help with cooking and evening relaxation with classical radio.

Between the fits of giggles after supper to reminiscing about past memories there is always a smile to be seen around the house. In August we waved goodbye to the co-workers who stuck with us through a rollercoaster of changing times as we warmly opened our doors to our new co-workers who quickly made themselves right at home. We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to all the people, who decided against all odds, risks, and warnings to come and share a year of their lives with us, in this very different world we’re living in. We are also incredibly thankful to those dear friends from previous years who returned throughout 2020 to support us when times were challenging.

We wish everyone inner light and warmth through the darkening days of Autumn as we look forward to the day when these things can be shared in person again.

Laurence Alfred, with thanks for colleagues of all ages in Camphill, and in particular those in Tiphereth Camphill in Edinburgh for the inspiration behind this blog, who share their vibrant life with me.

International Journal of Social Pedagogy – call for papers

Latest Articles

Read these latest articles and special issues from the journal, freely online:


Call for Submissions and New Special Series

The Editors of the International Journal of Social Pedagogy welcome new submissions for publication in 2022 and invite papers on social pedagogy as defined in its broadest sense which includes all aspects of social, philosophical, and pedagogical dimensions. The journal publishes articles open access (meaning anyone with an internet connection can read the full articles for free) and doesn’t charge any author a few to publish in the journal – the whole open access publication process is free of charge!

The journals full aims and scope as well as submission information can be found online at



In addition to general submissions, we are excited to announce a new special issue open for submission that aims to examine social pedagogical practices, ideals and ambitions of social inclusion and active citizenship in the global context of anti-extremism and anti-terror politics. This special issue looks to shine a light on how those practices and traditions vary in different countries and contexts.

Abstracts (up to 300 words) should be submitted by January 14th, 2022. Journal Editors will then invite successful authors to submit a full draft for editorial review by June 15th, 2022. Publication is anticipated for autumn/winter 2022/23.

For more information about submitting to this special issue please see the full call for papers here or contact the Editors by email at


Follow the UCL Press and the International Journal of Social Pedagogy on Twitter @UCLPress


virtual Social Pedagogy Development Network – 02/12/21

The SPDN is a community of practice for nurturing change in education and social care through social pedagogy. Join our virtual gathering.

About this event

We warmly invite you to join our next virtual Social Pedagogy Development Network event. 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, our webinar series and other learning events.