The twitter post: txt for conferencing and consultation

(The twitter post: Well, it had to come sooner or later…)

Twitter from YOMO Event

I've just returned from an event in Chester (YOMO's Practical Ideas for Participation gathering) where we were making use of a tool called twitter to collect and share instant feedback throughout the event direct from people's mobile phones. The image above shows the feedback we got at the end of the event, all sent in by text message. With Twitter you can...

This has been my first large-scale experiment with twitter, and so shared below you will find:

  • A quick account of how we used twitter and a creative commons briefing you can adapt for using twitter at your conferences.
  • A reflection on the potential for twitter as a consultation/participation tool, and an invitation to suggest a pilot project.

Conference twitter for feedback
We set up a conference twitter account, and asked delegates to follow our account via mobile phone (by sending two sign-up text messages).

Throughout the event we were able to send instant text messages to all delegates – letting them know about what was coming up next, and inviting feedback. And delegates were able to text in their reflections, questions and feedback – with their views instantly appearing on the 'twitter wall' projected up on the main room, and on tickers running along the top of each powerpoint presentation being given.

Twitter briefingIt cost us nothing to set up. And it provided some really insightful gut-reaction instant feedback throughout the event.

The briefing paper I used to get people started using twitter at the event is attached at the bottom of this post.

It's not quite the same as the rest of the 'One pager…' series, as you will need to adapt this to your context if you want to use it. You will find comments in the margins giving you information on what you need to get set up for that.

Community twitter for consultation and participation

Twitter is a very flexible platform for building social networks. In general, it will work something like this:

  • People opt to follow your updates via the web, their mobile phone, or an instant messenger (gtalk).
  • You write an update.
  • Your followers receive your update on the web, by instant message or by text.
  • They can reply to you by instant message, web or text message either public ally, or privately.
  • You can read all the responses by phone, on the web or by instant message.
  • It doesn't cost anything more than the standard cost of any text messages involved.
  • If you are asking for public replies, then it would be possible to share the question and replies with others by pointing them to your twitter page on the web.

Some twitter users treat it as a way of keeping in touch with a geographically dispersed team. Some twitter users micro-blog using it to alert others to what they are up to.


But, if you're thinking what I'm thinking – you might spot that there is a powerful tool for youth participation here. Imagine this scenario:

  • People opt to follow your updates via the web, their mobile phone, or an instant messenger (gtalk) – you ask young people across the community to follow your updates by phone, building up a large groups of 250 'followers' across the community.
  • You write an update – when you need to gauge ideas in the area on a particular issue. You pose a short question.
  • Your followers receive your update on the web, by instant message or by text – hopefully as many as possible receive the message by text soon after you send it.
  • They can reply to you by instant message, web or text message either public ally, or privately – you ask for public replies and within an hour you have short text feedback and ideas from 90 young people. You send a text an hour later thanking everyone from feedback and letting them know you no longer need replies.
  • You can read all the responses by phone, on the web or by instant message – instantly gaining a deeper insight into different young people's views on an issue. If this helps you make a decision or make a change, you can send an update to provide instant feedback,
  • It doesn't cost anything more than the standard cost of any text messages involved.
  • If you are asking for public replies, then it would be possible to share the question and replies with others by pointing them to your twitter page on the web – you could send a link to the views to a local councilor to ask them to read young peoples views directly.

I'm not aware of any groups making use of twitter in this way yet (though I would be suspired if there aren't some out there applying it like this – do get in touch) and I would be very interested in supporting a pilot project.

Other applications

For more on applications of Twitter, you might want to check out

Attachment: Twitter briefing for conferences – draft.doc

Participation,and collaboration: a short philosphical exploration

In this comment David Wilcox suggests that participation is a sub-set of collaboration.

On definitions of participation, whether it is usefully different … I'm not sure any more. I think it only works as a sub-set of collaboration … that is, all parties have to want it to.

I found I couldn't immediately subscribe to that characterisation, and the exploration it led me too helps, I think, to clarify some of what is specific about children and young people's participation, and about participation in statuatory bodies, as opposed to participation within voluntary membership organisations or as part of a wider engagement agenda.

Warning: post of provisional philosphical musings follows…

I'm understanding collaboration as involving:

  • Multiple interactions between the parties involved
  • Some sense of a shared goal (at the least a goal which incorporates all parties wanting participation / engagement)

I would also like to suggest collaboration requires some symetry of power, but it seems possible to still identify collaboration where there is asymetry of power, so I won't include that in the definition.

I'm understanding participation as:

  • The opportunity for an individual to influence change

There need not be shared goals or more than one interaction.

Whereas in a membership organisation individuals 'right' to be listened to in decision making may be conditional upon their voluntary engagement in multiple interactions (that is, collaboration), in the case of children and young peoples participation we are often talking about circumstances where there is a basic right to be listened to, regardless of whether or not the child or young person chooses to 'collaborate' in actions arising from the expression of their views.

Why is that? Well two arguments might be that:

  1. There is a formal asymetry of power between children & young people and adults. A child has limited capacity to opt-out of arrangements that they do not agree with (an adult can always leave the membership organisation) and so the right to be listened to is set to act against the possibility of children and young people being constantly oppressed and governed by decisions they strongly object to.
  2. Adults hold specific responsibilities to provide for and protect children and young people (grounded in the limited, but evolving with age, capacities of the child). That responsibility includes the responsibility to listen to, and to weigh against other factors, the voice and preferences of the child/young person. That responsibility finds its correlative right in the child/young persons right to be listened to.

So the right to be listened to means that there are strong grounds for participation without there neccessarily being collaboration. This rights basis means that in some cases Children and Young people can participate through making claims, without being obliged to collaborate in the creation of solutions.

For example: a group of young people current affected by the family court system may attend a one-off workshop and express their views about how their experience of the system could be improved. The signigicant present pressures on these young people by virtue of being within the family court system may mean that they should not be obliged to collaborate further in designing service improvements before the body responsible takes action to make improvements.

That is, because of their status as children and young people with evolving capacities, young people in this case have been afforded opportunities for participation that are quite distinct from opportunities for collaboration.

Of course, the argument here is not that collaboration is not desireable. But it is that participation can be distinct from collaboration in significant ways. These distinctions can hopefully be useful in helping us understand how we best approach youth participation, civic participation and participation in other forms of organisation.

Children's, young people's or adult's participation with respect to a stautory body has some interesting parallels with children and young peoples participation.

Firstly, there is an analogous asymetry of power as that which grounded the right of young people to be listened to. Although in this case it is not neccessarily grounded in the adults limited capacities, which may prove to be significant.

Secondly, in that in being set-up in power over us, and in virtue of our democractic models, it does seem that there are times we can participate in-so-far-as-to claim action from the state, without being obliged to co-create or collaborate in the design and delivery of that action.

For voluntary membership organisations where I have a right to exit, and a right to create an alternative organisation should I wish (in theory at least), then David's characterisation of participation as a sub-set of collaboartion – only functional when all parties are committed to it, does seem to fit.

So – where does this lead us?

Well, it seems there are differences between participation by right and voluntary participation in organisations. I think, though I'll have to develop the idea elsewhere, that it would be right to say participation of both forms is at it's most effective in most cases where it is collaborative – but where as in voluntary participation, a collaborative approach may be pre-requisite for any tranfer of power – participation based on right can involve claims against a body, not just collaborative discussion, decision and action.

And why is this important?

Well, this post serves, for me at least, to provide:

  • the sketch of a framework for understanding the difference between participation based on right, and participation with other grounds (significant when exploring youth participation in cross-cultural contexts – as rights play a different role in different cultual and national contexts).
  • a bit of groundwork in thinking about whether standards for youth participation can transfer to general participation.

More on that last element soon.

Launching a social media experiment and piloting a metrics model: Aiming High for Young People

Aiming High WebsiteIf all goes well, I should be posting this just as we soft-launch the next of The National Youth Agency's* forrays into social media with the Aiming High for Young People: sharing, learning and developing action website. It's a companion website running alongside a series of regional events which are unpacking and exploring the recent Ten Year Strategy (Aiming High for Young People = Ten Year Youth Strategy) for young people launched by the UK Government.

The site, which should evolve and increase in interactivity over the course of the next three months, is based around three core elements:

  • A team blog – offering input from different staff members across The National Youth Agency – designed to capture and share insights and ideas from the events and from work within The National Youth Agency around the ten year strategy.
  • Reporting from regional events – where we will be capturing and sharing video clips, and slide-share powerpoint presentations on the site – and creating space for discussion around these. The video clips will offer narrative insights into examples of best practice. This will start next week after the first regional event (Tuesday 30th October).
  • Discussions space – based around free discussion and, drawing uponDiscuss the Youth Strategy the work of Comment On This, around a copy of the strategy itself. We've chunked the government strategy document up into small sections, each commentable upon – to encourage visitors to offer their commentary, examples of good projects and practice, shared learning and experiences relating directly to parts of the strategy. I'll write a little more about this soon…

As we progress we will hopefully make use of further social media tools. This exploration on social media builds upon earlier work with Youth Summit Live – a live-blogging experiment at a two-day event.

Social Media Metrics

It is, of course, no point making new steps into the social media space, if we don't know what it will achieve. This current launch isn't 'radical social media', but over time, through this project, and others, we will be adding new social media tools to our toolbox, and we need to be able to measure their impact and work out whether they are essential tools for everyone, or ones to 'keep in the cupboard' until we have a project they could really add to.

Beth's post that sparked this postSo to aid thinking around this, I've worked through Beth Kanters proposed model for Social Media Metrics below and filled in under the five headings what the goal, outcomes, metrics, measurement and map for the 'Aiming High for Young People: sharing, learning and developing action' website might be. And of course, in the interests of sharing and learning – I've shared that thinking here:

>>Goal: What is your most important organizational, business, program, or project goal?

The overall mission of The National Youth Agency is: supporting young people to achieve their full potential. The NYA works with organisations and services to improve the life NYA information leafletchances of young people and also works directly with young people themselves to develop their voice and influence in shaping policy and securing social justice.

With respect to this particular project – our aim is to provide information, insights and a space for dialogue that can support individuals and organisations across England in putting recent government policy for young people (Aiming High for Young People) into practice in the most effective ways possible. We're providing information, insights and space for dialogue in order to see services learn from each other, and work together, to provide the best for young people.

>>Outcomes: What changes? What happens? What would success look like to you?

The project and events sub-title provides a good framework for measuring outcomes. We want to see:

  • Sharing – not just from The NYA 'publishing' content on the Aiming High blog, and publishing videos on regional event write-ups. Rather, we want to see sharing from the field. Practioners sharing their own examples of best practice, their stories of challenges and ways they have overcome them, and their insights into steps that can be taken to improve services for young people.

    In that not much of this takes place online at present, encouraging practioners to engage with online spaces for sharing stories, challenges and sollutions will be a change.

    Success in terms of sharing would be to see the majority of content agregated through the Aiming High for Young People website originating not from The National Youth Agency, but from managers and practioners from across the country.

  • Learning – for both The NYA and managers and practioners in the field. Through gathering together stories, insights and discussion we should see new ideas highlighted, and areas for further investigation and work highlighted also.

    We should see a change in terms of how widely the captured learning from regional events is shared. Instead of just being available to delegates at each event, much of the learning should reach a far wider audience.

    Success would be sharing the learning opportunities around Aiming High for Young People with at least double the number of people who are able to attend the physical events.

  • Action developed – that makes a difference to the lives of young people. The sharing and learning that takes place through our social media work around Aiming High for Young People should impact on action.

    Change should be seen in the design and delivery of services for young people. Success would be being able to identify the impact of social media interactions on concrete actions.

As well as sharing, learning and developing action – we also look towards outcomes around networking. Helping develop and maintain further links between The NYA and organisations across the country – links that can be activated and drawn upon when The NYA can offer support to organisations in the future. And creating space for, and fostering, links between front-line organisations who can support each other with ongoing sharing and learning.

>>Metrics: What are the attributes or evidence you will measure?

Google analyticsIt's tempting to look at our metrics in terms of 'Access, Empowerment and Quality' (the three themes in the Ten Year Youth Strategy) – but probably Access, Engagement and Action are more suitable. Here are a few of the metrics we may look to track.

Access – How many people are accessing content provided by this project? Where are they accessing it? How are they coming to find it? What is the demographic of users?

Engagement – How many people are engaging with interactive features (and who?). What percentage of content is user-generated?

Action – What are the anecdotal 'stories of change' and case studies of change that can track some of their inspiration back to this project?

How will you measure? What data? What source?

Below is a quick list of the measurements that we may use to assess against these metrics.

  • How many people are accessing content provided by this project? Where are they accessing it? How are they coming to find it?
    Google Analytics and statistics from the Content Management System (Drupal)
  • What is the demographic of users?
    We can use a combination of user registration information. We should be able to infer some information from working out how many users access accessing from Local Authority Networks / National Government (usually have a reverse DNS for a address). However, we will probably want to look at using some sort of small survey later in the project to gain a deeper insight.
  • How many people are engaging with interactive features (and who?)
    I could look to set up a goal in Google Analytics for users adding comments, and can then track at-a-glance how interactive features are performing.

    Using the Content Management System I should be able to pull out information about the average number of comments each user is adding, and to build up a picture of whether interactive features are being used very actively by a small minority, or more evenly by a larger group (we may need to think more about which of these is more desirable if any).

    It may be possible to use user segmentation features in Google Analytics to track activity from registered users according to their organisation and region (they provide this information at sign-up).

  • What percentage of content is user-generated?
    For this also the data will come from the Content Management System .
  • What are the anecdotal 'stories of change' and case studies of change that can track some of their inspiration back to this project?
    This is more of an evaluation question than an ongoing 'metric' – and finding data to make an assessment in answer to this question will require more than online statistics.

    We will need to look at building in questions about our Aiming High for Young People social media work into future case study gathering processes and in guidance to staff for facilitating sessions around the Ten Year Youth Strategy in future.

    By seeking to build strong ongoing networks on the back of this one-off social media project, we should also be able to open up channels for gaining more informal data about the impact of the project on concrete action.

Map: What social media strategies will you use to reach your goals?

We're started off with blogging, encouraging RSS subscriptions, and allowing comments. We'll be looking at different platforms for video and photo-sharing soon. We will have to see whether we can add social networking to the mix or not, but we're certainly open to trying different tools and strategies responding to metrics, measurements and our developing goals along the way.



Reflections on the draft model
Beth's Social Media Metrics model is at the draft/pilot stage at the moment – and part of my motivation for taking the time to work through it (as above) has been to help try it out and generate some reflections on how it works. So, on reflection:

  • Pyramid of measurementsThere is very much a pyramid at work here. I can write one goal, which leads to a number of expected outcomes, each of which could be assessed against a range of metrics, each of which can be measured by a range of measurements. It could easily become unmanageable at the measurements level if you're not careful higher up. Should I have a pyramid? Or should it be a neat chain of measurements, metrics and outcomes.

    Perhaps it I hadn't been working 'from the top down' I would have ended up with a different story. In my outline above each outcome has it's metrics, each metric has it's measurements – where quite possibly one measurement could tell me something about more than out outcome.

    This said, working from the goal does mean I've not limited myself to easy-to-get measurements only.

  • I'm not clear enough on the difference between metrics and measurements in the model. This is likely down to me not spending enough time reading Beth's post and working on this from the train with very intermittent internet access that has prevented me from following links… but the distinction between 'the attributes I'll measure' and their 'data' and 'source' seems fairly slim in some cases.
  • The model hasn't asked me to think enough about 'when' I'll take measurements. That might be the next step, but working out which of my measurements should be taken regularly and which should be ad-hoc would help me in breaking the bottom level of the pyramid into managageable chunks.

Overall – however – I've certainly been encouraged to do a lot of thinking here… and thinking that, I hope to be able to blog soon, will really add to our ability to make the most of the opportunities for social media to support 'Learning, sharing and developing action' around Aiming High for Young People.

*Context: I work in a consultancy capacity with The National Youth Agency on youth participation and introducing social media into the organisations work.

Free guide: analytics for social change organisations…

Tracking impact - analytics guideIn social change organisations we want to change things. Real world things. Things that make a difference to people.

If changing the numbers in our website statistics can contribute towards that, then we want to change those numbers.

But it can be far to easy (doubly so, it seems, when reports for funders are involved) to get trapped looking at the numbers, and to lose sight of how those are part of creating change for people.

I recently had the chance to put together a training pack/guide for Participation Works about web analytics, and how they can be used in a social change focussed organisation.

Much of the guide was specific to Participation Works, but a lot is, I hope, relevant to other social change organisations as well. And as I must acknowledge much debt to shared content from Beth Kanter and many others in putting together this guide, it only seems right to share what I can of it back freely to non-profit organisations.

So, attached to the bottom of this post you will find an outline version of that guide for you to use, adapt and build upon . To quote from it:

This is a skeleton document for building a guide to web analytics for social change organisations.

It is shared under a creative commons non commercial license in the interests of supporting those working with not for profit organisations. If you wish to use or adapt this guide as part of paid consultancy to not-for-profit organisations, or in private sector settings, please contact in advance.

This guide is not out-of-the-box ready to be used. Throughout this document you will find text highlighted in yellow which will need customizing for the particular context where use of this guide is intended. This customization will require some technical knowledge. Other areas of the document not highlighted in yellow may also need to be changed depending on your context.

Analytics Guide contentsThat said, most of Chapters 1, 2 and 4 can be taken and used fairly as-is.

Oh, and whilst you are thinking about ways of measuing the impact of your organisation, if you happen to be:

  • From a not for profit organisation,
  • Based in Enland,
  • Working with young people, or with young people as stakeholders in your work,

then you might want to get in touch with Participation Works to find out about their free programme of training and support third-sector organisations in building their capacity to listen to and respond to the voice of children and young people. The web analytics only tell you so much… it’s the conversations with, and the handing of power to, service users that really helps you know whether you’re heading in the right direction…

Attachment: Analytics for social change organisations.doc

Social bookmarking on one page of A4

Social Bookmarking in one pageI've had more free time than I expected this evening, so here is the second of my one-page guides to social media tools, prepared for a training course I'm currently running.

This time, social bookmarking with in one page of A4.

Each of these sheets aims to:

  • Introduce a social media tool
  • Provide quick instructions on getting started with it
  • Suggest one or two uses for the tool

I've found the contraints of one page to provide an interesting challenge in making me think really carefully about how to communicate the essence of each tool. Sue Waters post on 'hitting the bulls eye' has really helped me in thinking about ways to escape my general propensity to want to write in depth on everything.

On it's way fairly soon should be one page on NetVibes, and one page on Blogging… all feedback is, of course, welcome.

Attachment: 3 – Social Bookmarking.pdf
Attachment: 3 – Social Bookmarking.doc

Flickr in one side of A4

Flickr in one side of A4I've recently started creating a series of 'Social media in one side of A4' mini guides as part of an online course I'm leading to introduce social media into one of the organisations I work with.

I'm planning to tidy up the first few for a general audience soon, but, as I noticed mention of Flickr on the Fairtrade Towns Yahoo Group this afternoon (thanks to Stafford Area FT Group who have set-up a Flickr group here) I though I would get a copy of the guide to Flickr online now.

So, here is Flickr in one side of A4.

Flickr is an online photo sharing too – and a very powerful one at that. So, if you're interested in how you can make the most of your photos, do take a look.

The guide is Creative Commons licenced, so feel free to take it and adapt it if it could be useful to you (original word version attached below). I'd also be really interested to hear responses to the format of the guide – as I'm looking to produce, and soon share, quite a few more…

Attachment: 5 – Flickr in one side of A4.pdf
Attachment: 5 – Flickr.doc

Living generously

One No - Many YesesI've just returned from a weekend catching up with friends, and have been struck again by how important the movement of One No, Many Yeses* is.

Social change requires co-ordination that takes place not (just?) through the market, but through individuals taking action because it is the right action to take. That means deeper conversations to creatively work out how we each play our part. That means understanding the real nature of our relationships with others and not leaving the £ sign to mediate in all our interactions.

It needs communities. And I've just been reminded by the loose community of bloggers whose work I read and on occaision interact with, that today is 'Blog Action Day'. A chance for a community to come together around On No (killing the planet) and Many Yeses (ways to live more environmentally friendly lives) and to reflect on environmentalism in their individual areas.

Generous Banner

So as my contribution to promoting some enviro-wise things to say yes to, I though I would point in the direction of the Generous Community, an experiment that arose from Greenbelt Festival as a way of taking small actions as part of a bigger group. You can see all the environmental actions suggested on Generous here, and if there's some that you're already trying, or that grab your attention – do sign-up and join us. You can find my Generous household over here.

Is it always easier to blog about blogging?

If I write a post about some facet of social media or reflecting upon blogging (like this one), two things seem to be the case:

  • There are a lot of bloggers reading blogs (or a lot of blog readers blogging). This offers a shared experience.
  • The 'objects' and 'spaces' I might refer to when blogging about social media are available online. I can pepper a post with links that you can follow for context. There offers shared space.

When I want to reflect or ask questions on learning or action which lacks an online component it is, it seems, far more difficult to do that through blogging.

I can't link off to the context on some other site. And without there being shared experience or shared space between blogger and reader, I either need to write in a lot of context for a post, or to risk it failing to capture the essence of the reflection or question.

What's the sollution? Must I stick to subjects with an online component? Bring my own 'social objects' along (which can be tricky when reflecting after the event if you forgot to take photos etc.)? Try and pursuade my 'sector' to live online a bit more so that it can develop a more lively blogosphere?

Most of those I think… but what would your sollution be?

No election – the good and the bad

Ok, so we're not going to have an election this autumn. capture2

That's a good thing. It means the project I've been snowed under with that has kept me away from blogging doesn't have to be scrapped because of political purdah*.

But it also means I've now got to go back into overdrive on the project (after slowing down a little on the threat of an election…) so normal blogging service is yet to be resumed…

*A co-incidental bit of shared learning & reflection: In searching for a link for Purdah I discovered that the use of the term is quite contested (the term having it's origins meaning 'curtain' and being connected to Islamic and Indian cultural practices relating to the segregation of women [Wikipedia]). The best description, however, of it's political context that I could find in the top google results was from the very well designed Chester Blogs and reads:

During the six week period prior to local and general elections there is a ban in place on publicising the views of political parties. Issuing press releases or promoting intiatives with quotes and photos from a particular councillor, for example, could be seen as unfairly promoting one political agenda over another. This period is know as a Purdah.

The basic principle is that any activity which could call into question political impartiality or could give rise to the criticism that public resources are being used for Party political purposes is suspended for this time.

New Youth Participation Blog

Children's Participation BlogJust a quick pointer to the Children's Participation blog recently launched by Henk van Beers as a way of sharing useful links / resources and information around the theory and practice of children and young people's participation.

If you're interested in pointers to organisations and literature relating to children's participation from across the globe then it looks well worth subscribing to. Henk writes:

In this blog I will collect information, resources, materials, and experiences that relate to the theory and practice of children's rights to participation in the widest sense. Over the years, with a limited number of people. I have shared useful information that I came across. Through this blog I want to make relevant information available to a wider audience while at the same time building a site that can be revisited for useful information and links.

And it looks like that's what the blog is set to do.