Mark K. Smith

picture by Richard Hills
picture by Richard Hills
contents: biobooksarticles | click to contact


Mark K. Smith edits Used by around two million people each year, it seeks to be a space where people can explore education, pedagogy, community-building, and change.

His current research is concerned with the process of rethinking schooling [see, for example, Dealing with the new normal. Creating places of sanctuary, community and hope for children and young people (2020)]. He is also working on a series of pieces reflecting on the contribution of critical theorists to thinking about education [see the first: Pierre Bourdieu on education].

Previously, Mark was the Rank Research Fellow and Tutor at the YMCA George Williams College, London and a visiting professor in community education at the University of Strathclyde.

Among his books are Creators not Consumers (1980, 1982), Organise! (1981), Developing Youth Work (1988), Local Education (1994), Informal Education (1996, 1999, 2005 with Tony Jeffs), The Art of Helping Others (2008, with Heather Smith), Youth Work Practice (2010, edited with Tony Jeffs), Journeying Together (2011, edited with Alan Rogers) and Youth Work and Faith (2015, edited with Naomi Stanton and Tom Wylie). [click for a full listing]

Mark K Smith was educated at the Cavendish School, Hemel Hempstead, Lancaster University, and undertook his doctorate at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has worked in careers advice, youth and community work, projects and in higher education. Mark has chaired the Community and Youth Worker’s Union (now part of Unite) and a tenants’ cooperative that ran two tower blocks in Bermondsey; served on the editorial board of Youth and Policy; and been a foundation governor for a secondary school. He was, also, a Resident Friend at Westminster Quaker Meeting House. Now his home is further north – in Orkney.


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youth work and faith

Youth work and faith. Debates, delights and dilemmas

Edited by Mark K Smith, Naomi Stanton and Tom Wylie. Russell House Publications 2015. Click for the blurb on Amazon.

This unique book draws on the debates, delights and dilemmas of the relationship between youth work and faith. It is informed by a range of perspectives, from specific faith traditions as well as cross-cutting issues, and will enhance both practice and study. In recent years, the balance of youth work provision has markedly shifted so that, at present, more full-time workers are employed in faith settings than secular ones. This book fills a gap in the market for a contemporary youth work text that addresses the underlying tensions within faith-based work and embraces a multi-faith approach. Its editors have worked within faith-based, voluntary and statutory youth work sectors; this balance of experience ensures that the book approaches the debates around youth work and faith in a way that is relevant to the youth work field as a whole.  The book opens up the debate between the faith-based and wider youth work sectors, recognising the field in its current form and the issues and opportunities we face as we approach a new era in youth work policy and practice.

Journeying together

Journeying together. Growing youth work and youth workers in local communities

Edited by Alan  Rogers and Mark K Smith. Russell House Press. 2010. Click for Amazon blurb

This accessible text explores a way of working – pioneered and developed over 22 years in a UK-wide initiative – to grow youth work by supporting individuals to train professionally while working in community-based organizations… and, through this investment in people, to create a lasting impact within communities. Grounded in workers personal experiences, as well as in relevant theory, it will encourage anyone who is working directly or in partnership with young people to look at and develop, their own ways of working in communities. Journeying Together shows how demonstrating trust in young people, valuing them, and acknowledging their rights and responsibilities enable us to involve them in community concerns. Journeying Together encourages readers to consider what they can learn from the approach, and how they can apply it in their own work. The book is about taking a step towards young people, so as to engage with them as valuable contributors to their communities, and to offer them an opportunity and a challenge.

learning through outdoor experienceLearning through outdoor experience. A guide for schools and youth groups

Edited by Alan Rogers and Mark K Smith. The Rank Foundation/YMCA George Williams College 2012

Contributions from Amanda Davies, Chris Dunning, Charlie Harris, David Hassard, Chris Saunders, Danielle Sharp, Jenny Tibbles, Mark Williams and Kai Wooder.

a5 version [free] · a4 version [free] · mobile version (mobi/prc) [free] · Kindle version from Amazon

Experiencing the outdoors can be a powerful stimulus for learning. Being deep in a forest, feeling alone on a hillside or just sharing a cup of tea around a fire can set us on a path that changes the way we think about ourselves, our relationships and way we live our lives.

These pages are a compilation of practical insight and advice on the educational potential of the outdoor experience – and what we can do to deepen learning and support change.

Learning through outdoor experience was written by a team of people involved in outdoor learning and experience. They are part of a network of workers and agencies linked to the Rank Foundation (yarn) in the UK. As well as drawing on their own experience and expertise they were also helped by responses and contributions by more than 50 other people in the network.

Acknowledgement: The opening image is from Learning through outdoor experience – and was provided by Logic Cafe – all rights reserved.

Youth work practice (Practical Social Work Series)

Edited by Tony Jeffs and Mark K Smith. Macmillan. 2010

As a contemporary reflection on current practice, this book tackles the diversity of what ‘youth work’ means and the challenging yet rewarding job that it is. It offers meaningful insight into the everyday experiences of a youth worker, written by practitioners themselves.

In a clear conversational style, the text analyses the many aspects of youth work, including activities, group life, making conversation and mentoring, alongside practical guidance to advise on working with today’s young people.

Jeffs and Smith’s previous book, Youth Work (1988), was a seminal text on working with young people. This successor text, Youth Work Practice is it’s equal in providing an intriguing update for all those studying or working with young people.

Click to look inside.

the art of helping othersThe art of helping others: Being around, being there, being wise

Heather Smith and Mark K Smith. Jessica Kingsley 2008

When searching for someone to help them reflect upon and improve their lives, people tend to be drawn towards those who are compassionate, committed and wise. This book is aimed at those who recognise these qualities in themselves and wish to develop their capacity to engage with and help others.

The authors argue for ways of approaching helping and counselling that are rooted in care and commitment, drawing upon the experiences and practice wisdom of youth workers, housing support and hostel workers, the clergy and those working in a religious setting, educators and settlement and community workers. They explore the key characteristics of those who counsel and teach and examine aspects of the helping process, focusing on living life well, knowing and being oneself, relating to others and working to make change possible.

Click to look inside.

other books etc

Local education. Community, conversation, praxis

Mark K Smith. Open University Press 1994

The book blurb: Drawing upon the experiences of adult and community educators, youth and community workers, Mark Smith examines the practice of educators who build up ways of working with local networks and cultures. Shops, launderettes, streets, bars, cafes and people’s houses are the settings for much of their work, and when they do appear in schools and colleges, they are most likely to be found in corridors, eating areas and student common-rooms. Their work is not organized by subject, syllabi or lessons; it is about conversation and community, a commitment to local democracy and self-organization, and is often unpredictable and risky.

Mark Smith offers an analysis of the subtle and difficult activity of intervening in other peoples’ lives, of conversing with purpose, and of engaging with people to broaden opportunity and to effect change in their lives and communities.

Click to look inside.

Developing youth work. Informal education, mutual aid and popular practice

Mark K Smith. Open University Press. 1988.

Click to read the book

The book blurb: The Youth Service is in crisis. The rationale and practice of welfare are, generally under attack, and the development of other forms of provision (both public and commercial) for young people has pushed the Youth Service into something of a corner. Youth workers have increasingly become located within schooling, social services and leisure services. If practitioners are to retain a unique identity and distinctive forms of working, they must address a number of fundamental philosophical and political questions and develop the necessary theory to sustain their practice. In Developing Youth Work, Mark Smith begins to chart a coherent and distinctive understanding of this area of welfare practice.

He examines the development of youth work and the crisis it now faces, explores t key ideas that inform the ways in which youth workers see their tasks and, in particular, critiques the notion of ‘social education’. He argues that the real purpose of youth work should be to seek to enlarge young people’s understanding of their ’ own well-being so that they may weigh their own needs with those of others; help; them to display civic courage; and enable them to gain the knowledge, skills and disposition necessary to think and act politically. Central to this is firstly the concept of informal education and the idea of a critical dialogue between workers . and young people, amongst workers themselves, and amongst learners; and secondly an emphasis on mutual aid and self-organization. Mark Smith argues that this kind of re-appraisal of theory and practise is essential to the development of a genuinely popular youth work.

Organise! A guide to practical politics for youth groups and community groups

This book explored the practical tasks and approaches to local organising. It grew out of the work of the Political Education Project based at NAYC and funded by the Department for Education and Science. The Department was concerned about the growth of the National Front and sought to develop alternative approaches to combating their influence. It was designed to be photocopied and had two page spreads on each topic covered. Organise! sold well to local youth groups and community groups – and was used by a number of schools. Elements of the book were picked up by the BBC and used for a Radio 4 series Joining Together. It was also translated into German and reworked as Ideen Stark Machen. Organisations-Handbuch fùr Initiativen, Unna: LKD Verlag. 1997

Published by NAYC Publications 1981.

Creators not Consumers: Rediscovering social education

Two main themes run through Creators not Consumers. First, there is a concern to encourage young people to get involved in organizing things for themselves. This flows from a belief in the benefits of associational life both for the happiness and self-confidence of individuals, and for the strengthening of community life. Second, there is an invitation to workers to embrace and explore their educational role. These two themes help to explain the sub-title – rediscovering social education.

Clearly things have changed in English work with young people since this booklet was written. The space for open, associational work of this kind has been severely limited – at least within state-sponsored settings; and the values of the market and individual consumption have become even more dominant.

Here we reproduce the second edition from 1982. Originally published by NAYC Publications (now Youth Clubs UK). First published in August 1980. Reprinted October 1980. Second Edition January 1982.

Click to view

Edited collections

Youth Work (BASW Practical Social Work Series). London: Macmillan 1987. (Edited plus one chapter – with Tony Jeffs). pp. 168.

Youth or Adult? Working Papers London: YMCA National College/Rank Foundation, 1988. (Edited plus one chapter). pp. 64.

Welfare and Youth Work Practice. London: Macmillan 1988. (Edited plus 6 chapters – with Tony Jeffs). pp. 290.

Social Work and Social Welfare Yearbook. Volume 1. Milton Keynes: Open University Press 1989 (edited with Pam Carter and Tony Jeffs).  pp. 224.

Young People, Inequality and Youth Work. London: Macmillan 1990. (Edited plus 2 chapters  – with Tony Jeffs). pp. 274.

Using Informal Education. An alternative to casework, teaching and control? Milton Keynes: Open University Press 1990. (Edited plus 2 chapters – with Tony Jeffs). pp. 168.

Social Work and Social Welfare Yearbook. Volume 2.  Milton Keynes: Open University Press 1990 (edited with Pam Carter and Tony Jeffs).  pp. 218.

Social Work and Social Welfare Yearbook. Volume 3.  Milton Keynes: Open University Press 1991 (edited with Pam Carter and Tony Jeffs). pp. 222.

The Challenge for Voluntary Youth Work Organizations. London: YMCA National College/Rank Foundation, 1991. (Edited plus three chapters). pp. 68.

Changing Social Work and Welfare.  Milton Keynes: Open University Press 1992e (edited with Pam Carter and Tony Jeffs). pp. 252.

Youth or Adult? The first five years, London: YMCA National College/Rank Foundation. 1993, (Edited plus 2 chapters). pp. 108

Setting Up and Managing Projects. London: YMCA National College/Rank Foundation 1994, (Edited plus introduction). pp. 80. (A4).


times literary supplement


Pierre Bourdieu on education: Habitus, capital, and field. Reproduction in the practice of education. Bourdieu’s exploration of how the social order is reproduced, and inequality persists across generations, is more pertinent than ever. We examine some key lessons for educators and pedagogues.

Dealing with the ‘new normal’. Creating places of sanctuary, community and hope for children and young people in schools and local organizations. This series of articles explores how educators, pedagogues and practitioners work to create the conditions for education, learning and change in the context of the COVID-19 ‘new normal’. They examine what is involved in working with children and young people so that they have space to begin to explore fundamental issues, to contain their worries and develop their capacity to create change. Schools, colleges and many civil society organizations will have to alter the way in which they work and the focus for their activities. The articles: dealing with the new normaloffering sanctuaryoffering communityoffering hope] [2020].

Richard Sennett: Class and the new capitalism, craftsmanship, cooperation and cities. Over 50 years Richard Sennett has contributed to our understanding of the experiences of class, capitalism and the life of cities – and our appreciation of Homo faber – humans as makers, users of tools and creators of common life. This piece reviews Sennett’s life and work and reflects on his achievements. [2020].

Naomi Klein: globalization, capitalism, neoliberalism and climate change. Naomi Klein has probably done more than any other commentator, to raise public understanding of the relationships between capitalism, neoliberalism and climate change. This article explores her contribution. [2020].

Marie Paneth: Branch Street, the Windemere children, art and pedagogy. Marie Paneth (1895-1986) was a talented painter, art therapist and pedagogue. Her book, Branch Street (1944) is a classic exploration of community-based work with children during the Second World War – and the healing use she made of art both with The Windemere Children (2020) and in later practice was pioneering. Her approach was based in pedagogy and an appreciation of therapeutic practice. In this piece, we explore her work – mostly in the 1940s – and continuing relevance. [2020].

Recent articles

Animate, care and educate. The core processes of social pedagogy. Pedagogy can be viewed as a process of accompanying people and bringing flourishing and relationship to life (animation); caring for, and about, people (caring); and drawing out learning (education). Here we explore these core processes. [2019]


Haltung, pedagogy and informal education: Within informal education and social pedagogy, the character and integrity of practitioners is seen as central to the processes of working with others. Here we explore how the German notion of ‘haltung’ draws together key elements around this pivotal concern for pedagogues and informal educators. [2019]

Acknowledgements: photo of Mark K Smith: Richard Hills; the typewriter: Patrick Fore on Unsplash; type: Fabio Santaniello Bruun on Unsplash; and the pile of TLS: Mark K Smith.