Community Philosophy

Community Philosophy empowers people in any context to be active citizens and to generate ideas at a grassroots level.

This is about thinking together in a non-confrontational and truly democratic way. Concepts are questioned. Power shifts, minds change and preconceptions are discarded. Relationships strengthen as people come to understand one another. This is because (unlike other meetings and discussions) Community Philosophy steadfastly focuses on process – not outcomes. That process is caring, collaborative, critical and creative. Together, people work out what really matters, what’s possible, and what they can do. It’s a rich, deeply rewarding experience.

Community Philosophy is therefore an authentic tool for anyone genuinely committed to:

• public engagement
• community involvement
• student voice
• partnership working
• service-user consultation
• staff / client feedback
• qualitative evaluation
• patient engagement
• multi-agency working
• tenant participation
• participatory research
• mutual learning


For an introduction to the emergence of Community Philosophy, and how it empowers people to be active citizens and to generate ideas at a grassroots level, see this short video.


Videos of presentations to AHRC seminar on Philosophical Communities, Queen Mary, University of London, 8th October, 2012.

Graeme Tiffany
Jules Evans
Steve Bramall
Rick Lewis
Nicole Bleyleben
Paul Doran and Arthur Adlen
Sid Rodrigues


Overview of Community Philosophy:

Tiffany, G. et al. (2013) Community Philosophy, Sapere: Philosophy for Children, Colleges, Communities, Oxford


Examples of use of Community Philosophy as a research methodology:


Research into youth violence:

Tiffany, G. A. (2016) (forthcoming) Policy Making for Good Practice. Ch. in Harris, P. & Seal, M. Responding Meaningfully to Youth Violence through Youth Work. Policy Press: Bristol. See also video


Research into visitor experience at a museum:


Research into parental engagement in a primary school:

Haines Lyon, C. (2015) Exploring Community Philosophy as a tool for parental engagement in a primary school, International Journal for Transformative Research. Volume 3, Issue 1: pp. 39–48, ISSN (Online) 2353-5415


Other academic references:


Paper on the danger of instrumentalising Community Philosophy:

Tiffany, G.A. (2014) The Community of Philosophical Enquiry as, rather than for, democratic education. Might we be looking in the wrong place? Paper to the advanced seminar on community philosophy and civil society. Re-imagining Community of Philosophical Enquiry in Changing Times, Winchester University, Winchester.


Use of Community Philosophy as a research methodology:

Tiffany, G.A. (2012) Promoting Community Conversations through Community Philosophy. Paper to the Local Authorities Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) conference, Royal Holloway University, London.


An extensive introduction and overview of the evolution of Community Philosophy can be found in Jules Evans
‘Connected Communities: Philosophical Communities’ A report for the Arts and Humanities Research Council, November 2012.


Academic paper on the application of Community Philosophy to youth work:

Tiffany, G. (2010) “Community Philosophy”: a Transformational Youth Work Practice? Part of the series: L’inclusion sociale en pratique. Intervention sociale et jeunes marginalisés en Europe. Pub. Sociétés et Jeunesses en Difficulté, Bruxelles.

Associated presentation at international Conference on Youth Work & Youth Studies, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland.


Community of Enquiry has been central to school-based Philosophy for Children (P4C) for many years. Philosophy for Communities is newer and rarer. Rarer still are attempts to work on a whole community basis respectful of philosophies of informal rather than formal education. Community Philosophy aims to do this. It is found to have value in several respects. It can act as a research tool, helping youth workers to understand young people’s social reality – through their eyes. In turn, workers can then bear witness to these realities, a capacity highly sought after by service providers and policy officers alike. Youth work interventions become better informed and the gap between the world as experienced by young people and that envisioned by politicians and policy makers is narrowed; Community Philosophy offers up evidence that can go a long way to informing elusive ‘evidence-based policies’.

Community Philosophy is theory in practice. It is conversational and yet emphasises thinking and inquiring; it is collaborative and enables a more reasonable analysis of controversial issues – issues that so often create conflict and, implicitly, make cross-community consensus and action all the more difficult to catalyse. It lends itself then to fostering Community Cohesion, especially where the generations have become alienated from one another.

Its democratic nature breaks the mould of representative and often adversarial politics. It offers a new paradigm of decision-making where each can represents their own views but in a culture where listening, questioning and changing one’s mind is valued. Its critical nature makes is suited also to the very necessary values and concept-analysis that is assumed, but often lacking, in integrated teams and within multi-disciplinary working.

The paper shares findings from research into the study of initiatives that have used Community Philosophy in their work.


Report from JRF-funded Demonstration Project of Community Philosophy:

Tiffany, G. A. (2009) Community Philosophy: A project report. Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF): York

Reflections on the report:

This three-year experiment used an approach called ‘Community Philosophy’ to promote conversations and develop positive relationships between different groups of people within a community. This report:

  • draws on the examination and analysis that was part of the project’s day-to-day activity;
  • captures the reflections of the project director and participants in the project;
  • describes the theory behind the project, along with its activities (in the form of a series of practice-based examples);
  • derives lessons of use to people who work in the community, especially youth and community workers, and those with responsibility for community involvement and organisational governance.

Commentary on the report:

 “Just  contacting you to say how much I enjoyed reading your project report on Community Philosophy – a superb piece of work that should be compulsory reading for those training to be youth and community workers, adult educators, community workers and others.  I like the blend of theory, practice, evaluation, and the general tone – persuasive and in parts reflective, and not didactic.”

Dr John Bamber, Senior Lecturer in Community Education, The Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh / Principal Fellow – Community Development, Centre for Effective Services



Community Philosophy on the radio: This is NOT art – Community Philosophy meets Bettakultcha, January 2016

Philosophy in Pubs



The Salons:

Around the country there are various ‘salons’ committed to the promotion of public debate. Here the Leeds Salon:


And for something very different but also in celebration of public discourse see:

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