The Centre for Social Research and Evaluation at YMCA George Williams College specialises in research and evaluation projects that are relevant to policy and practice relating to young people, families and communities.


Help needed! College History Project


Currently, we are in the process of undertaking a research project on the youth work and community learning and development training programmes at the YMCA George Williams College from 1970 –present date.

If you are a former student  would you be willing to take part in this project? To complete the questionnaire click here .

It should take you no longer than 10 minutes. Those who complete the questionnaire will be entered into a prize draw to win two new College publications ‘Youth Work and Faith’ and ‘Innovation in Youth Work’.

For more information about this project please contact

Lesley Buckland




Developing detached youth work in Europe

European project

From mid-2014, the YMCA George Williams College has been working on an Erasmus+ funded project that is researching and developing European detached youth work practice with partners in Malta, Romania and Holland.  The work, led by Dr Brian Belton, involves developing new practice at regional and national level within the partner countries and evaluating detached youth work initiatives. The project also involves the development of a range of training and guidance activities.

The project aims to advance the thinking and delivery of detached work through innovation and development as well as drawing on existing principles of outreach work and encompassing the traditions of European ‘street work’.

It is hoped that the outcome of this work will be the establishment of a ‘best practice model’ for detached and outreach practice in the European context that has potential to be replicated and built on elsewhere.

We are honoured that the project has been nominated for presentation at the European Youth Week.

The findings of the project so far are currently being disseminated at several other events in January and February 2015.

For more information about the project, please contact Brian Belton (Tel. 020 7540 4904 or email b.belton@ymca.ac.uk).



yresearch: the conference – February 6th 2015

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yresearch: the conference


Conference at the YMCA George Williams College, 199 Freemasons Road,

Canning Town, London E16 3PY

Friday 6th February 2015, 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. (followed by wine reception and book launch)

£35 (£10 student concession) including lunch

Online booking: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/yresearch-the-conference-tickets-13305602415

In 2011, a cross-party Select Committee on Services for Young People criticised heavily the research base for the youth sector, concluding that ‘we experienced great difficulty in finding objective evidence of the impact of services … thematic research studies by academics and … evaluations of individual services. This problem plagued our investigations and was recognised… as a historic and continuing problem’. Since then, under the Coalition Government’s austerity measures, we have seen the dismantling of local authority Youth Services across the country with Unison finding earlier this year that £260 million had been cut from Youth Service budgets so far. There is a need for more research to underpin practice which takes place within field of youth work. yresearch the conference provides an opportunity for practitioners and researchers to come together to explore and discuss recent research associated with youth work.

The conference will take place at YMCA George Williams College, a leading national training provider for youth work, based in Newham, East London – an area with one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country. Dr William Mason from the University of Sheffield will open the conference with a presentation of his research into ‘communities of risk’ and the experiences of youth workers and marginalised young people from minority ethnic backgrounds. As well as presenting his own findings, William will explore ways in which a stronger research community might add value to youth work teaching and practice.

Other topics covered by research presentations at the conference include: adolescent girls’ behaviour on Facebook; gangs and youth crime; young people and domestic violence; youth training and apprenticeships, and; the role of youth work in these areas. The day will conclude with a speech from leading youth work academic, Dr Mark K. Smith, on implications for the future of youth work and the role of research in this.

Following the event, there will be a wine reception and book launch with a free copy of new resource ‘Innovation in Youth Work: Creative Ideas for Practice’ for all attendees. This publication and the conference are supported by funding from the Big Lottery’s Awards for All: England programme.

Please see below for the conference programme.

Online booking: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/yresearch-the-conference-tickets-13305602415

For further information, please contact Tina Salter: t.salter@ymca.ac.uk or 0207 540 4908

yresearch: the conference – timetable

10.00 a.m.     Registration with tea and coffee on arrival (Common Room)

10.30 a.m.     Welcome from the Principal: Maxine Green (LR1)

10.45 a.m.     Keynote speaker: Dr William Mason, The University of Sheffield

y the need for research? (LR1)

11.30 a.m.     Seminar stream 1 options:

1a: Taking boys seriously, Dr Ken Harland and Professor Sam McCready (LR1)

1b: An exploration of adolescent girls’ disinhibited behaviour on Facebook, Sara Taylor (LR2)

1c: A continuum of knowledge and (un)certainty in youth crime prevention: a Danish example, Ann-Kristin Lassen (LR3)

1d: Exploring the transitional stages in acquiring new gang status, Craig Pinkney (SR3)

12.15 p.m.    Seminar stream 2 options:

2a: Another great training robbery: apprentices or students, Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley (LR1)

2b: The impact on boundary management of unsanctioned connections between youth work practitioners and young people through online social network sites, Liesl Conradie (LR2)

2c: The reality of working with domestic violence and abuse – a practitioner’s perspective in youth work, Lisa Sharp (LR3)

2d: Duke of Edinburgh’s award: a comparative case study examining the consistency of young people’s development, Rachael Hutchinson (SR3)

1.00 p.m.       Lunch (Common Room)

1.45 p.m.       Plenary Session (LR1)

Lessons learnt from two case studies of collaborative research projects, Ruth Marriott from Realising Ambition and Dr Naomi Stanton from YMCA George Williams College

2.30 p.m.       Seminar stream 3 options:

3a: Beyond work experience: what do young people gain from their involvement in social enterprise experiences? Steve Wallis (LR1)

3b: Practice cultures in the ‘not so new’ youth justice in England, Mark Manning (LR2)

3c: Story-telling as a way of capturing youth work, Tania de St Croix (LR3)

3d: A homage to services lost: risk, youth work and the great outdoors, Jean Harris-Evans (SR3)

3.15 p.m.       Tea/coffee break

3.30 p.m.       Plenary session (LR1)

What research is needed?

Dr Mark K Smith, YMCA George Williams College

4.00 p.m.      Wine reception and book launch

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YMCA George Williams College – Innovating, Reflecting and Leading

conf pic

 (College Principal, Maxine Green, at the conference)

‘Innovation in Youth Work: Creative Practice in Challenging Times’ was a conference held on 13th May 2014 at YMCA George Williams College. The event was part supported by the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Awards for All: England’ programme through a bid held by the college.

The conference was attended by youth work practitioners and academics from across the UK and discussion focused on the positive and innovative practice that is taking place during the current Government austerity.

The main speaker sessions included:

– Tony Jeffs (Youth and Policy) on the current state of youth work and the challenges and opportunities the field faces in moving forward;

– Aniela Wenham (University of York) and Ian McGimpsey (University of Birmingham) on measuring the impact of youth work including both current problems in the way it is measured and ways to think creatively in moving forward

– Elaine Johannes (Kansas State University) on how youth work is developed and sustained in the USA where there is no state or federal requirement for investment in youth services.

Workshops were facilitated by practitioners from a range of organisations including, among others; In Defence of Youth Work, NUS, The Foyer Federation and The Boys Brigade.

The College’s new Centre for Reflective Leadership was also launched during the conference in a session led by Vice Principal, Jeff Salter, who has founded this exciting new college venture.

The Centre for Reflective Leadership is a network for developing leaders in the youth and community sector. It’s current professional development courses include…

New MA! Reflective Leadership and Management

New accredited short courses at MA level! Strategic Leadership and Management and Professional Studies in Supervision

New one day training events

Please visit the Centre for Reflective Leadership website for details on these courses and other activities through the network as well as how to join.


Please keep reading for Senior Lecturer, Simon Frost’s reflections on the ‘Innovation in Youth Work’ conference which were written for and published on the In Defence of Youth Work site.

Reflecting on the event

At a time of steady decline, rallying cries levied against those responsible for cuts to youth services seems to be falling on deaf ears. Why is this? Is youth work living though its final hours or is now the time for youth work to be reborn so that it can fulfil its telos? In his key note speech, Tony Jeffs argued that the withdrawal of the state, in funding youth work, is not a feature of austerity, rather the state has little interest in youth work now. Recent attempts to revive youth work have proved both costly and unsuccessful in the bigger scheme of things as seen with the Youth Service Development Fund, Transforming Youth Work, Connexions and, most recently, Myplace.

But is the writing on the wall for youth work? Outside state funded provisions it would seem all is well and good. Youth work in the faith sector and the uniformed organisations is thriving. Rather than responding to what funders want to hear, fighting for the scraps of targeted youth work being tendered out, we see youth work which has thought about what it wants to be rather than responding to what funders want to hear.  Katherine O’Brien, a church based youth worker, talked extensively in her workshop about how she sees youth work as a way to empower young people through social action and a commitment to social justice. For those youth workers who were perhaps a little longer in the tooth, this was a rejuvenating experience allowing time to consider the importance of youth work that is political; working with issues that young people are really concerned with.

Similarly, the need to encourage a more politicised approach through collective action seemed to be one of the main messages coming from Ben Kinross and Sarah Kerton of the NUS as they sought to build links between the work of student unions and youth work.

In seeking to reclaim youth work’s raison d’etre, a call for rigorous research and strong philosophical grounding were both considered to be important principles for supporting and developing practice rich in intrinsic value, furrowing its own path rather than following the ploughed lines of political rhetoric and targets – now is the time to innovate.

Simon Frost, YMCA George Williams College.



Developing good practice with Roma young people

Roma web

(Photograph used with permission of Slough YMCA)

Dr Brian Belton is currently working on an exciting new project with Roma young people and their families, building on the good work that Slough YMCA have already been doing in this area.

The project follows on from College involvement in the award winning project ‘Roma Helping Roma?’ 2010-2012. It will involve members of the Roma community being offered youth work training, with a view to them playing a part in developing a model of more participatory and cohesive practice with Roma communities.  The venture will be premised on supporting young people and their families in combating stigma and discrimination via heightening interaction with host communities.

The second stage of the project will be participatory research, led by Roma communities. This will focus on identifying, promoting and disseminating models of good practice for work with Roma communities.

Under the auspices of the Grundtvig Learning Partnership, Brian has just returned from a conference in Oerlinghausen, Germany. Alongside partners from Germany, Spain, Turkey and the UK, he helped frame the first stages of developing research into good practice with Roma communities. Over the next two years subsequent meetings will take place in Berlin, Cambridge, Madrid and Mardin, Turkey.

This international dimension offers the potential for Slough YMCA and the College to learn from and work with European partners. It will also present the opportunity for young people to be involved in the generation and publication of an e-book devoted to research and practice with Roma communities.

The YMCA George Williams College will be involved in guiding and editing this publication. There is also the potential for students to be part of the research. Looking to the future, the project will provide a foundation on which the College can generate similar research projects and evaluation of practice with other stakeholders, initially within the YMCA in the UK, and thereafter across Europe.   We will look to adapt this strategy to accommodate Gypsy and Traveller communities, but also other marginalised groups subjected to prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping.

To find out more about this project, please contact Brian Belton (B.Belton@ymca.ac.uk)