‘It’s a great place to find where you belong’: creating, curating and valuing place and space in open youth work

de St Croix, Tania and Doherty, Louise. 2023. ‘It’s a great place to find where you belong’: creating, curating and valuing place and space in open youth work. Children's Geographies, 21(6), pp. 1029-1043. ISSN 1473-3285 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Open youth work is a practice of informal education that operates in a variety of spaces, from youth clubs and community centres to street corners. This article highlights the distinctive spatiality of these settings, their valuable contribution to young people’s lives, and how they are actively created and curated by those involved. Rooted in the perspectives of young people and youth workers who took part in a three-year qualitative study in eight youth work settings in England, it proposes that open youth work can provide a relational, educational, and potentially liberatory ‘third place’ beyond home, school and work. The research found that youth work provides young people with spatially and temporally fluid places for belonging, association, and understanding and acting on the unequal contexts in which they live. We argue for more critical reflection on the distinctively spatial aspects of youth work, including more engagement between youth work and the geographies of childhood and youth. As well as having implications for youth work practice and training, this engagement could support the (re-)imagining of a wide range of ‘third places’ of refuge and critical democracy for children and young people, in a context of oppression and inequalities.

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This article was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council under grant [ES/R004773/1].

Data availability statement
A dataset associated with this study is available at UK Data Service Reshare; see https://reshare.ukdataservice.ac.uk/


Relationships; space; third place; time; young people; youth work

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


17 January 2023Accepted
4 February 2023Published Online

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Date Deposited:

07 Feb 2023 15:39

Last Modified:

08 Jan 2024 11:37

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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