Recently I was in the privileged position of going to a Social Pedagogy development network conference in Dublin. It was my first time so I was a bit nervous and had no idea what to expect. To add to the nerves I had been asked to share a story about Alice at the first evenings event along with a whole load of other people who would also be bringing stories from their lives and work. As soon as I walked into the main room I could already tell that this was no average conference. We were encouraged to make our own name badge with glitter, sparkles and fuzzy felt. Soon after, the whole conference was invited into a massive icebreaker game and before long we were all killing ourselves laughing and there was an immediate feeling of connection in the room.
However, soon after I noticed however that I was among some very serious people. I met people who were working with some of the toughest kids in Ireland and were employing social pedagogues to work with them to achieve fantastic relationships with the kids. I met people who were from the world of fostering. I met people from education and local authorities; I met clinical directors and trainers. All kinds of people were there but regardless of anyone’s distinction or academic pedigree there was an absolute feeling of respect and equality in that room. No one was more important than anyone else and every single one of us wanted the person sat next to us to succeed using social pedagogy in their work and lives.
This was why I wanted to share about the time I had in Dublin. The talks and stories shared were fantastic and I learnt a lot but it was that feeling of connection with people from all over the place that I most valued. There is something about being amongst people that hope for a brighter future in our field of work. When I was chatting with the guy who was involved in the conference setup I shared that I really hoped that social pedagogy would bring our country the reform that it needs. He looked slightly taken aback and declared “not reform but revolution!” We smiled and he was absolutely right. The equality that we had together over those couple of days was the intrinsic hope that we all have in fostering. Every person’s story, opinion or piece that they had to share mattered. It reminded me that it is the way we want to work: a way in which we champion those around us and work where all the people in our network are raising up the person next to them and making sure the kids are being put front and centre. Being in that room of all of those people from different disciplines and capabilities cemented a long lasting memory for me. One that tells me that I am not the only one out there who wants to see a better way of working and connection with those around me and one where we value relationship above all else.