Community Philosophy

7-9 September 2010, Mind the Gap: conversations on youth work and youth studies that contribute to research, theory and practice on work with young people. International Conference on Youth Work & Youth Studies, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland.

Paper entitled: ‘Community Philosophy: a transformational youth work practice? How thinking and enquiry might Bridge the Gap between research, theory and Practice.’


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 will share findings from research into the study of initiatives that have used Community Philosophy in their work.