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Mark K. Smith edits infed.org. Based in Orkney, he also develops courses and learning resources and undertakes research.
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, 2020 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, the University of Lancaster, and undertook his doctorate at the University of London. He has worked in careers advice, youth and community work, projects and in higher education. Mark has also chaired a tenants cooperative that ran two tower blocks in Bermondsey, and been a foundation governor for a secondary school. He was, also, a Resident Friend at Westminster Quaker Meeting House.
seminars, training events and activities
I facilitate sessions and events that explore different aspects of informal education, social pedagogy and work with children, young people, families and communities. I also undertake individual and group supervision.
research and writing
My current research is concerned with rethinking schooling for the challenges that face us [see, for example, Dealing with the new normal]. I am also working on a series of articles exploring the contribution of critical theorists to thinking about education. At the moment the list includes Hannah Arendt, Pierre Bourdieu, Franz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Erich Fromm and Jürgen Habermas.
I founded and continue to edit infed.org – a website specializing in the theory and practice of informal education, social pedagogy, lifelong learning, social action, and community learning and development. It is used by over a million people each year across the world but especially in North America, India, Australia, and Britain.
learning resources and programme development
Over the last four years, I have undertaken a major rework of one first year, two second-year and one third-year 20 credit modules for the YMCA George Williams College/Coventry University Children, young people and families BA Hons programme. I have also developed three new modules – pedagogy, learning and development; working with systems and networks; and critical theory. Each has a reader with 24 articles and a study guide.
These materials are available in different formats – print, screen, phone and an A4 Open Dyslexic version. They can also be made available as kindle and epub files.
Another element of my recent work was the development of a new level 3 Children, young people and families programme that also led to a recognized Access to Higher Education qualification.
Forthcoming: Informal education. Conversation, democracy and learning
The fourth edition of Informal Education is nearly ready. Substantially rewritten, it explores the processes and rewards of informal education in changing times.
Informal education has, in recent years, attracted a lot of interest amongst educationalists, health and welfare professionals and others. Why is this? Also, what is it, who does it, and how can it be developed? This book seeks to answer these questions and provide an introduction to informal education.
The writers explore how informal educators encourage conversation, democracy and learning. They also examine evaluation, working with process, and living with values.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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
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).
Dealing with the ‘new normal’. Creating places of sanctuary, community and hope for children and young people in schools and local organizations. This piece 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’. It explores 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. We examine three, crucial, areas for intervention – offering sanctuary, community and hope.
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. We explore Sennett’s life and work and reflect on his achievements.
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. We explore her contribution.
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.
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.
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.
Acknowledgements: photo of Mark K Smith: Richard Hills; photo of the typewriter by Patrick Fore on Unsplash; photo of type by Fabio Santaniello Bruun on Unsplash; and photo of a pile of TLS by Mark K Smith.
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