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.



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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!

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.

Next Social Pedagogy Development Network event

Join us at our next virtual SPDN event

27 November, 2020, 10am-1pm (GMT)

We warmly invite you to join our next Social Pedagogy Development Network event. As we’re nowhere nearer to holding face-to-face events and given the success of the virtual SPDN event in July, we’ll continue to run this via Zoom. Click here to register for your free place at the SPDN on 27 November, 2020.

The event will broadly follow a similar format to our previous face-to-face events, focussing focus on participatory methods that foster connection, dialogue and shared meaning-making. We’ll be adapting this even more to an online environment and share further details with you after registration.

The SPDN is a grassroots movement for nurturing change in education and social care through social pedagogy. It’s 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.

Who can come? If you’re curious about social pedagogy, interested in making connections or eager to improve your practice, then this is the right place for you. Most SPDN participants work with children, young people, families or other adult groups in a care, health or educational setting, but we’re not limited to these practice fields. Anybody is welcome to join us, and we generally have a broad mix of practitioners, senior managers, policy-makers, students, researchers and academics with a variety of backgrounds participating in the SPDN.

Please note that, for purposes of managing registrations and communications, we will transfer your registration details to the SPDN distribution list. You will only receive relevant updates on the SPDN and social pedagogy, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

If you would like to join us at any future SPDN events, please sign up to our SPDN distribution list via this link. We will send you regular updates about the Social Pedagogy Development Network and relevant activities around social pedagogy, and you can unsubscribe anytime.