‘Capturing the magic': grassroots perspectives on evaluating open youth work

de St Croix, Tania and Doherty, Louise. 2022. ‘Capturing the magic': grassroots perspectives on evaluating open youth work. Journal of Youth Studies, pp. 1-17. ISSN 1367-6261 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

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.

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Additional Information:

Funding: This work was supported by Economic and Social Research Council: [Grant Number ES/R004773/1].


Accountability; anti-oppressive practice; evaluation; impact measurement; young people; youth work

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


17 November 2022Accepted
8 December 2022Published Online

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Date Deposited:

19 Jan 2023 09:37

Last Modified:

19 Jan 2023 09:40

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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