Maggie Kuhn, leader of the Grey Panthers in the US in the 1980s, suggested the young and the old had much in common. Both were marginalised. Both were relatively poor. Both were in tension with the middle generation. Both were on drugs, but with different pushers. Karen Chouhan is Senior Area Education Manager for the Workers Educational Association (WEA) in the East Midlands, and Rob Hunter chairs Leicester Ageing Together, a Big Lottery programme addressing loneliness and social isolation in the 50+ with 16 voluntary sector partners. Karen and Rob discussed the parallels between community-based work with older and younger. Similar qualities, skills and perspectives but with a different focus – social pedagogy’s ‘wellbeing, learning and growth’ was just as relevant in work with older people, if rather counter-cultural. Rob renewed a previous contact with Pat Petrie, Emeritus Professor of Social Pedagogy at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL. Yes, there seemed much potential common ground. Social Pedagogy was essentially a set of principles and practices relevant across the life course. No, Pat knew of no explicitly social pedagogic work with older people in UK. Pat put Rob in touch with Thure Johansen, an experienced Danish social pedagogue, and now consultant of Treehouse Associates based in Leicester.

The quartet were soon planning an exploratory strategy. Might social pedagogy provide not only valuable staff development for individuals but also support collaborative work by providing a common conceptual framework and even a strengthened professional identity in a fragmented field?

The result:  Heads, Heart and Hands: an Introductory Day to Social Pedagogy for those working with older people held in Leicester on Thursday 26th April. The event, sponsored by the WEA, attracted 34 participants, mostly from the voluntary and community sector, project workers and community workers, but also some from adult social care, universities and one from domiciliary care. The programme gave participants a taste of core concepts: Head, Hands Hearts; Non-Violent Communication; 3 Ps; the Common Third; reflective practice; theoretical and historical perspectives broken up by lunch – Karen’s home-cooked chick pea curry. Feedback was unanimously favourable:

  • Encouragement that my focus on relationships in community development is the right one and supported by theory’.
  • Inspiring and motivational’.
  • ‘Building of relationships through activities is key’.
  • ‘Will improve management of team by reflective practice using the 3H model’.

 Where next? We are considering the potential of a further event planned for September 2018 and exploring whether a Level 2 qualification might be suitable for volunteers addressing residential and domiciliary care. The future is busy. Come and hear more at our SPPA conference workshop on 28 September 2018 at Surgeon’s Hall, Edinburgh.