Obituary - Jim McKinney

16th March 2012 at 00:00
The pioneer in youth and community work was known for his powers of persuasion and flamboyant shirts

im McKinney was the director of the first national centre for youth and community work at a time when the profession was in its infancy. He was dynamic, charismatic, sometimes delusional and chaotic, but had the unerring ability to surround himself with people who could turn his innovative ideas into practice.

A love of athletics and sports took him naturally to Jordanhill to study to be a PE teacher, and he followed that with a short course in youth and community work.

On graduating, he worked at the purpose-built Hub Centre in Clydebank. Even then, newly qualified, Jim brought energy and innovation to the centre's programme and to part-time leader training. Such was his impact, he was then head-hunted to return to Jordanhill as a lecturer.

At the start of the 1970s, he was appointed the first director of the Board for Information on Youth and Community Service (later to become the Scottish Community Education Centre).

McKinney was ahead of his time in realising that key to the development of the service was raising awareness of it and its work in the field. He launched an information and PR service and developed publications, professional staff support and training resources.

Working with the new Scottish office for the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges, opened in 1972, he was able to drive forward his belief that all young people should have the opportunity to experience life and cultures in other countries. This ultimately led to the setting up of the Scottish Youth Travel Service in 1978.

Latterly he set up the International Community Education Project before leaving in the early 1980s to start his own travel and exchange business - a lifelong passion.

But it was his years at the Scottish Community Education Centre, characterised by continual innovation, that typified the man. His powers of persuasion, moving both practitioners and policy, were legendary. As were his flamboyant shirts.

One of his typically ambitious schemes to raise profile and funds was to offer to take on the distribution of all the BBC education publications to every Scottish school. With no extra space or staff for this, a massive mailing operation was undertaken in the evenings - a production line of staff fuelled by copious amounts of red wine and the odd pizza.

His idea of heaven was "sailing in the summer, skiing in the winter and buggering about the rest of the time".

He spent the happiest times of his life doing all three, but still, in his own inimitable way, was a major force in the development of the youth and community service in Scotland. He died last month aged 73.

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