Scottish Youth Work Research Steering Group

The Scottish Youth Work Research Steering Group (SYWRSG) works to further the interests and needs of research in the youth work sector in Scotland.

This group has emerged to fulfil a need identified in the National Youth Work Strategy and to further momentum which was gathered through the publication of Universal Youth Work: A Critical Review of the Literature

The work of this group contributes to the National Youth Work Strategy and oversees the development of a national programme of youth work research, including the impact of universal youth work research.   


The aims of the group are to identify and create opportunities:


Terms of Reference

In 2024 the Scottish Youth Work Research Group refreshed their Terms of Reference.

Youth Work Research Priorities - Summary Report

In 2023 youth workers and young people told us that their priorities for research included role and purpose of youth work, mental health impacts, the role of youth work in schools, development of the profession and the inclusion of all young people.

Read the report to find out more about the topics and questions which will shape the work of the research steering group over the next 5 years, in collaboration with the sector.

A photo of adults hands round a table with post it notes, as part of a workshop activity

Meet the Steering Group

Dr Ruth McKenna
Principal Research Officer in Advanced Learning and Skills Analysis at Scottish Government
Dr Ruth McKenna leads a social research team in the Advanced Learning and Skills Analysis (ALSA) Unit of the Scottish Government. ALSA provide analytical support to policy teams working on post-school education and skills. Prior to joining the Scottish Government, Ruth worked in the third sector, leading a range of participatory research programmes on topics such as trans people’s access to sexual health services in Scotland and the experiences of destitute asylum seekers accessing public services in Glasgow.
Dona Milne, Director of Public Health, NHS Lothian - Headshot
Dona Milne
Director of Public Health at NHS Lothian
Dona has worked in children and young people’s health and education within local authorities, the voluntary sector, Scottish Government and the NHS. Dona is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health. Her main interests are reducing inequalities, reducing poverty, youth work and increasing life chances. Dona was chair of the Research Steering Group until 2024.
Headshot of Ian Fyfe from University of Edinburgh
Dr Ian Fyfe
Senior Lecturer and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy at University of Edinburgh
Dr Ian Fyfe is Chair of the Research Steering Group and is a Senior Lecturer and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy based at Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh. His academic teaching and research interests and expertise include; youth work practice, youth studies, learning in communities and participative approaches to qualitative research.
headshot of Dr Amy Calder of YouthLink Scotland.
Dr Amy Calder
Senior Policy and Research Officer at YouthLink Scotland
Amy is the secretariat on the Research Steering Group. Amy leads on using participatory research methods to demonstrate the impact of youth work on young people’s lives and supports the sector and young people to develop research skills.
A headshot of David Brown
David Brown
Clydesdale Area Coordinator, Youth, Family & Community Learning, South Lanarkshire Council
David has been involved in CLD for 30 years as a young person, volunteer, part-time worker, full-time worker, team leader and manager. He studied at Dundee University and is a member of the CLD Standards Council Professional Learning Committee. David has met so many inspiring people during his amazing journey and says "I really do have the best job in the world".
Headshot of Martin Purcell from University of Dundee
Dr Martin Purcell
Lecturer - Youth and Community Work at University of Dundee
Martin has over thirty years' experience as a Community Education practitioner, having worked in various community development and youth work roles throughout the UK. A member of the University of Dundee Community Education team, Martin's research explores the enactment of values in professional practice, focusing on the role of love as an element of practice in work with young people.
Photo of Dr Ross Whitehead from Public Health Scotland
Dr Ross Whitehead
Head of Public Health Intelligence at NHS Lothian
Ross’ career has focused on the health of children and young people at national, local and international levels, including roles as a Public Health Adviser at Public Health Scotland and as a researcher developing the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey in Scotland. Of particular relevance to the youth work sector, Ross has published literature reviews evidencing the impact and role of trusted adults and youth-friendly health services.
Photo of Kelly Ross from Dumfries and Galloway Council
Kelly Ross
Team Leader – Youth Work at Dumfries and Galloway Council
Kelly is a Team Leader in Youth Work in Dumfries and Galloway and is responsible for the operational youth work services. This includes all community-based youth work and youth work in schools. A key project Kelly leads on is the Low Level Mental Health in Schools Project delivering the function of counselling in schools and support to the third sector.
Photo of Laurene Edgar from LAYC
Laurene Edgar
Director at Lothian Association of Youth Clubs (LAYC)
Laurene has 21 years’ experience of working within community-based youth work organisations. Laurene became the Director of LAYC in 2019, where the majority of time is spent representing and advocating for the Member Groups ensuring youth and children’s work is championed at a strategic level.
Headshot of Jo MacDonald from Youth Scotland
Jo MacDonald
Head of Impact and Business Development at Youth Scotland
Jo has been working in the youth work sector for over 20 years and is a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Youth Scotland. Jo holds an MA in Psychology as well as postgraduate qualifications in leadership and management. She brings experience of community-based youth work practice to the research group and represents the Youth Scotland network of over 2,000 youth groups.
Headshot of Andrew Williams from University of Edinburgh
Dr Andrew James Williams
Senior Lecturer and Co-Director for the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy at University of Edinburgh
Andrew is an epidemiologist and health researcher, interested in the social and cultural determinants of health (the fifth wave of public health and health creation), especially among children and young people. His research is often collaborative and transdisciplinary, including engaged research (such as his work with the TR14ers).
Headshot of Alan Mackie from University of Dundee
Dr Alan Mackie
Lecturer (Teaching and Research) at University of Dundee
Alan is a lecturer on the Community Education team at the University of Dundee. He worked in the field of community education for over a decade prior to the move into academia. He primarily worked with young people in a variety of areas – homelessness, mental health and employability to name a few.

Contact our Research Team

If you are interested in hearing more about this group and how you can support its work please email our Senior Research Officer Dr Amy Calder.