Creating Hope in Dystopia – join the global dialogue on social pedagogy and social education

Creating Hope in Dystopia – the international online conference co-hosted by the Social Pedagogy Association, ThemPra and UCLan – is drawing nearer. The conference programme is coming together nicely, with a growing range of keynote presentations exploring complexity-informed practice, play and imagination in an anxious world, and how we can expand our social pedagogical perspective to the entire ecosystem.

We would love to have an even greater variety of contributions and hope you’ll be interested in sending us your proposal for interactive workshops, roundtable conversations, formal presentations (live or pre-recorded) or any other contributions (in English or Spanish). We’re interested in contributions that address contemporary challenges from a social pedagogical/educational perspective and chart possible ways forward for practice.

If your work can help illuminate our understanding of social issues and provide inspiration for how we can meaningfully respond to social inequalities, then please send us your proposal by 30th April. (We will accept late submissions subject to remaining availability.)

Just click one of the buttons below to make sure you’re part of the global conversation on social pedagogy and social education.



Please help us raise awareness for the conference by sharing this post within your network.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

MA Social Pedagogy Leadership – now fully online

Earlier this week, Lowis Charfe and I completed our chapter on Social Pedagogy in the forthcoming e-book Human Learning Systems: Public Service for the Real World, due out on June 15, 2021. If you haven’t yet come across Human Learning Systems, then make sure to visit the website here. In writing the chapter, we reflected on just how important ethical and relational leadership is and how social pedagogy can support both existing and aspiring leaders to create the conditions for relationship-centred practice, learning together and improving the systems we work in.

Here’s the great thing: If you’re interested in developing your leadership potential and being an effective changemaker, you can learn about both Human Learning Systems and Social Pedagogy on the MA in Social Pedagogy Leadership. Co-designed and co-delivered by Lowis and her colleagues at the University of Central Lancashire together with us here at ThemPra, it’s grown out of our longstanding collaboration and is very different to other MA programmes in 2 important aspects:
Firstly, we’re using creative and experiential learning methods to stimulate reflection and deeper critical examination of relevant issues from a leadership perspective.
Secondly, we’ve designed both the learning content and the course assignments to connect firmly to your practice, so that the commitment of undertaking a part-time or full-time degree integrates well with your other commitments.

Best of all, in the new era, the course is now running fully online, meaning you don’t need to live near Preston in order to study! It’s still as engaging and interactive as our in-person courses are.

If you’re curious about why this course is transformative, read MA student and Empowerment CEO Mike Crowther’s excellent blog about his journey or his brilliant case study for the above-mentioned Human Learning Systems publication. You can find out more about the MA programme here, on the UCLan website, or simply get in touch with Lowis.

We hope you’ll join us!

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 15th April. Please note that VAT is not applicable.



The 6 sessions will take place on the following mornings from 9.30am -12.30pm: 5th May, 12th May, 19th May, 3rd June, 10th June and 17th June, 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.

Webinar series exploring social pedagogy concepts at turbulent times

Our webinar series ‘Exploring Social Pedagogy Concepts at Turbulent Times’ offers a forum for dialogue and ideas. Register now for free!

Our new webinar 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. (If you missed it, you can watch a recording here.) Run 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:

  • 27/04/21 – 10-11am: Haltung – often translated as ethos or stance, this German term refers to the way in which we bring our values and beliefs to life in the interactions with others. We’re looking forward to great discussions about how we can be authentic at a time when our Haltung is challenged. Join us and share your perspective (register here).
  • 26/05/21 – 10-11am: Lifespace – 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. Join us to explore what working in the lifespace means within the context of the pandemic.(register here).

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 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).

International online conference: Creating Hope in Dystopia

For the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has starkly exposed the huge social inequalities and ruptures threatening to tear apart the social fabric in many countries and across the globe. The onslaught of social media has deepened divisions within societies and is increasingly leading to violent clashes reminiscent of dystopian storylines in film and fiction novels.

Amidst the deteriorating climate catastrophe, rising income inequalities, the resurgence of mainstream populism, and the accelerating replacement of human insight with technological advances through artificial intelligence, staying positive can be a challenge.

Social pedagogy and social education are about providing educational solutions to social issues, so how can we meaningfully respond during such turbulent times? How can we create hope, not just for those most affected by these challenges, but also for ourselves as social pedagogues and social educators? How can we recognise new opportunities amidst issues that seem increasingly insurmountable? It seems crucial that we face these uncertainties 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.

Join us for this important international conference to engage in the kind of dialogue that creates hope in dystopia.

Taking place online via Zoom, the 3-day conference combines live sessions and pre-recorded materials to create an engaging learning environment irrespective of your geographical location. You can contribute in a variety of ways:

  • Live interactive workshops are 60-90 minute sessions with a small group of participants and focused on exploring a specific theme relevant to the conference (see list below). Facilitators must ensure that participants are actively involved throughout the workshop session.

  • Live roundtable conversations are chaired 60-90 minute sessions with a panel of contributors initiating a conversation about a clearly defined theme. As live sessions, they must be designed to elicit contributions from conference participants, giving them a ‘seat around the table’.

  • Pre-recorded presentations are 5-20 minute videos sharing relevant insights from practice, projects or research. The videos will premiere at the conference, with exclusive access available to delegates after the conference too. There will be several opportunities over the 3 conference days to lead informal discussions of these videos or contribute to a live roundtable conversation. Presenters must ensure that high quality recordings are uploaded by 31/05/21 together with a full transcript for closed captioning and translation purposes.

  • Impromptu open space conversations will create opportunities for conference participants to explore emerging themes with others in ways that aren’t scripted or predetermined.

  • Meet-ups in the virtual gardens will provide informal spaces for networking throughout the conference, which can be used to continue conversations arising from conference contributions, reconnecting with other delegates or forming new alliances with like-minded participants.

Submit Your Proposal

We’re interested in contributions that address contemporary challenges from a social pedagogical/educational perspective and chart possible ways forward for practice. If your work can help illuminate our understanding of social issues and provide inspiration for how we can meaningfully respond to social inequalities, then please send us your proposal, clearly outlining how it reflects the conference theme.

Proposals should be submitted via the conference proposal Google form and are due no later than March 15, 2021. Accepted proposals will be notified via email by May 1, 2021.

Questions or concerns should be sent to: with the subject heading: Here and Now Online Conference 2021/Inquiry.

Conference Proceedings:

Presenters who would like to submit a paper for a post-conference publication after receiving feedback on their conference presentations will have until 1 August, 2021 (one month and a week after the end of the conference). Papers should not exceed 3,500 words (excluding references). This is optional and is not a requirement to present at the conference.