Exploring Social Pedagogy Concepts at Turbulent Times – webinar series

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. 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 focussed on a particular social pedagogical concept and discussed its practice relevance with a few guest speakers and with webinar participants. Below is an overview of all 19 webinars in the series, together with links to the video recordings:

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.


In our session on empowerment on 28/09/21, we explored how we can flip the narrative about power and create the conditions in which the people we support feel a sense of ownership, control and empowerment. Re-watch the conversation with June McDonald & Joe Gibb (Renfrewshire Council), Georgina Evans (Empowerment) and Cecile Remy (UCL Institute of Education) here.

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’, our webinar on 27/10/21 explored how HLS can strengthen social pedagogical practice in organisations. Watch this recorded conversation with contributions by Dawn Plimmer (Collaborate CIC), David Barr (Aberlour Child Care Trust) and Lowis Charfe (UCLan).

Human Rights

In many countries, social pedagogy is characterised as a human rights profession. In the UK, we haven’t actually talked too much about that yet, so in this webinar it was time to explore what this means and why this is so important for practice. Taking a human rights approach has profound implications, and in this webinar from 27/11 we explored these with Jameel Hadi and Seamus Martin who have both been involved in some amazing creative community projects in Salford.

The 4 Aspects of a Message

A powerful communication model developed by German communication theorist Friedemann Schulz von Thun, the 4 aspects of a message explains just how easily we can miscommunicate, how we can clear up misunderstandings – and how we can make healthier choices about what we read into other people’s messages. In this webinar from 14/12/21, we discussed the model’s practice applications with Nicole Ashworth (Middlesbrough Council) and Alex Priver (ThemPra).

Balancing Values with the Values Square

Social pedagogical practice requires us to be highly reflective of our values and how we bring these into our interactions, especially when we work with people who may not share the same values. It’s therefore important to have a conceptual framework for balancing values that appear to be in conflict. Developed by Hartmann, Helwig and Schulz von Thun, the Values Square can guide us in achieving a greater sense of balance. Watch the recording of this webinar from 21/02/22 in which we explored the model’s potential with Alex Priver (ThemPra) and Robyn Kemp (SPPA).


In this webinar of our series, we focussed on co-production and social pedagogy. The central question we explored on 30/03/22 was how we can create the conditions for the people we support to enjoy meaningful involvement as genuine partners. We had fascinating thematic contributions from Tara Bartlett at Arizona State University about her amazing work there on participatory budgeting in schools. Faith Walker, who is part of Friends of Cymru Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia, shared why co-production has been so existential on the journey of transition from a support group into a social enterprise.

The Riemann-Thomann Model

How can we better understand human diversity and draw on its strengths when we work with people who are different to us? Developed by Riemann and Thomann, this model suggests four fundamentally opposing human orientations along two dimensions: proximity and distance, and continuity and change. In the conversation with Sylvia Holthoff (ThemPra) and Robyn Kemp (SPPA) on 26/04/22, we explored how the Riemann-Thomann model can guide social pedagogical practice and developmental reflection both with individuals and within teams to bring out the best in every person.

Lifeworld Orientation

Lifeworld orientation is synonymous with how social pedagogues and social workers in Germany engage with the people they support, focussing on people’s lived experience and ensuring that any support is firmly grounded in their ‘lifeworld’. In this webinar from 23/05/22, we gained insights into how this can enhance social work and social care practice, with contributions from 3 German-born social workers in the UK: Bianka Lang (Essex County Council), Renny Amayo (Bradford Council) and Martin Schwarz (Camphill Community Glencraig).