“Capturing the magic”: Grassroots perspectives on evaluating open youth work

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Youth work’s informal and youth-centred nature raises challenges for evaluation, challenges that are intensified by the growing dominance of measurement, market values and surveillance in the context of the neoliberal restructuring of youth services. This article builds on Griffiths’ (2012, Why Joy in Education Is an Issue for Socially Just Policies. Journal of Education Policy 27 (5): 655–670) philosophical argument for valuing the intrinsic contribution of education, thus conceptualising evaluation as encompassing more than measuring outcomes. It reports the findings of a three-year qualitative study in eight open youth work settings in England that investigated the perspectives of 143 young people, youth workers and policy makers on evaluation in youth work. While young people and youth workers had often participated in evaluations they found meaningful, some approaches to impact measurement were experienced as too formal, intrusive, insensitive and burdensome. The article argues that evaluation and accountability processes must be practice-informed, youth-centred, and anti-oppressive. It recommends the participatory and collaborative development of diverse methods and approaches to evaluation that ‘capture the magic’ of youth work while enabling further reflection and development of practice.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date8 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Dec 2022


  • Evaluation
  • Youth work
  • Young People
  • Accountability
  • impact measurement
  • anti-oppressive practice


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