The paper focuses on the emergence of ‘positive youth development’ and its impact on older, more established practices of working with young people, such as youth work. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in England between 2004 and 2006, in particular young people's and youth workers' accounts of participating in youth work, the analysis engages with the social spaces in which youth work takes place and asks key questions about why young people might participate in youth spaces, what they get out of participating and how such spaces can promote cultures of participation. The analysis shows that such spaces provide young people and their communities with biographical continuity and time becomes a key component for sustaining such spaces. The argument is made for a more nuanced understanding of what young people get out of their participation in youth spaces, and for an epistemological approach to youth praxis that embraces the messiness and inequalities of lived experience.
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