Three response to risk (and an exploration of online safety and Positive Youth Development)

PYD - A different logic[Summary: Extract from a draft literature review on Youth Work and Social Networking – looking at different responses to risk – and the role of Positive Youth Development responses in particular]

I'm in the middle of putting together a literature review on young people's Online Social Networking, and the possible roles and responses for Youth Workers to take to this emergent phenomena. In the literature review I'm seeking to tread a balanced path between talk of opportunities of Online Social Networking, and talk of risks – so this afternoon I've been looking to construct for a good model to use in pursuing a balanced exploration of responses to online risk.

I'm sharing the draft of that model here for two reasons:

  1. I'd really welcome feedback on whether this captures the relevant distinctions adequately – or suggestions for other models I should look at / adopt / consider.


  2. Going through this process demonstrated to me the value of the Positive Youth Development approach in giving a policy logic (see the 'a different logic' slide in this presentation) that can push us back beyond the obvious interventions (digital media literacy building) to more holistic capacity building interventions and support for young people (building core competencies, self-belief etc.).


    I realise I've not offered an argument or evidence for the PYD model being appropriate below (that will hopefully come in a later part of the literature review which I'm yet to draft) – and I wanted at this point to offer an opportunity for those familiar with other theories of intervention that operate at level (C) where I have PYD in my draft to suggest/explain them as alternative theoretical frameworks here.

So, here's the draft:


Draft extract from a literature review on Youth Work and Social Networking (Feb 25th 2008)

The safety is children and young people is a high priority for the UK Government and is an integral theme running through Every Child Matters and Youth Matters, most recently resulting the Staying Safe Action Plan (2008) which notes the "new opportunities for children to come to harm" from the internet in particular. In exploring possible responses to risks of Online Social Networking drawing a distinction between three different types of response is useful:

A) Managing the source of risk:
The Staying Safe Action Plan adopts a dialogue of 'safeguarding', managing risks and creating safe environments – changing and engineering the setting to remove these emergent risks so that young people are exposed to as few instances as possible where harm may result.

B) Addressing directly related skills and knowledge:
Where a risk management approach identifies and focuses on controlling and limiting the source of a risk, it is also possible to respond to concerns about risk by focussing on resourcing and equipping the person potentially 'at risk' to respond appropriately. Becta, in their report "Safeguarding children in a digital world" (2006), recommend developing and delivering "e-safety education and digital literacy skills". Digital literacy, it is suggested, will help young people to:

"…become safe and responsible users of new technologies, and allow them to be discriminating users of both the content they discover and the contacts they make when online."

Such digital literacy approaches address themselves at increasing young people's skills and knowledge directly related to the source of risk – in this case, the internet. However, as Bober and Livingstone (2005) argue in the UK Children Go Online report:

"Opportunities and risk go hand in hand: there is a strong, positive association between opportunities and risks – the more children and young people experience the one, the more they also experience the other, and vice versa."

The suggestion here is that building young people's digital literacy increases their effective use of the internet, but also increases their exposure to risk.

C) Addressing wider capacities and responses to risk:
Positive Youth Development (PYD) responses to online risk, by contrast to digital literacy building approaches, would seek to take a holistic look at all the relevant factors that could lead exposure to risk to impact negatively upon young people's development and thriving (Davies and Schulman, 2007). They would then propose developmentally appropriate capacity building interventions that may at first appear only loosely connected to the risks that first raised a concern. For example, a Positive Youth Development programme may design activities to build young people's self confidence and self-esteem across a variety of settings and with a variety of peers and adults in order to address concerns about young people's self-publishing of potentially harmful information online.

Positive Youth Development does not suppose all risk to be bad – and indeed suggests that navigating some risks can be an essential part of positive adolescent development. It's concern is with equipping young people with the resiliencies, competencies and development assets that ensure exposures to risk do not have a lasting harmful impact on an individuals thriving.

Youth Work Responses:
Youth Work in the UK, of the form advocated by Bernard Davies, broadly takes this holistic developmental approach – although it tends to situate its interventions in a sociological framework focussed on the group and community rather than an adolescent development/PYD framework which focuses on the social individual. Positive Youth Development potentially offers a dialogue and rigorous evidence based framework in which to explore and articulate how particular developmental interventions and supports for young people can more effectively address many of the concerns about risk that drive policy makers, parents, managers and practitioners to adopt the sort of limited risk management (A) and educative (B) interventions noted above.



As mentioned above, I'd really welcome your feedback on the model, and in particular, on the appropriateness of including PYD as part (C).

Small ideas that scale

[Summary: Could the Innovation Exchange be about a festival of small ideas that scale…]

Photo Credit: David WilcoxOne of the bits of blogging I struggle with most is getting the opening paragraph right. So let me instead quote David Wilcox (and borrow his photo of the event in question):

Earlier this week John Craig and colleagues, who are developing the Third Sector Innovation Exchange, invited a bunch of us along to share ideas over wine and pizza on what it takes to make collaborations work…. The Innovation Exchange is being funded by the UK Government to “find new ways to connect innovators in the third sector with public service commissioners and other investors and help them to work together to develop their work”.

I was part of that bunch, and given David and John have both shared their reflections on the evening already, I thought I should catch up and do the same.

One of the big questions that seems to face the Innovation Exchange, in light of the massive potential for innovation in the third sector and public sector, is where to focus. Cliff Prior of UnLtd shared a number of powerful stories about innovative 'movements' that have succeeded in creating dramatic changes, such as the re-invention of the House Association sector, and the shift to safe and soft playgroupd surfaces massively reducing childhood injuries. Primarily these succeeded, Cliff suggested, because of the passion and drive of their leaders and supporters. But it is not in incubating and supporting these forms of 'mass innovation' that I think the Exchange has most to offer. Rather, as David Wilcox captures in the idea of innovation 'thingies', it is in supporting the 'small ideas' that the most work needs to be done. And as John has blogged, it's growing and scaling these sorts of particular innovations (rather than 'growing innovation in general') that the Innovation Exchange will have a focus on.

So what are these small ideas that scale? What are the 'thingies' and 'widgets' the third sector and public sector need?

They might be processes. They might be technologies. They might be ways of getting people togther, or better ways of measuring impact. They might be tools for sharing knowledge, or practical gadgets that just make life on the front line that bit easier. They could be anything. The key is that they unblock the blockages, and make bigger things happen. I'm rather excited by the potential for such sorts of innovation to make a real difference for the most excluded young people.

So here are a few of the 'small ideas that scale' that occured to me during the discussions on Tuesday:

  • Developing skills for designing consultation games– games can make complex decision making processes more accessible to excluded young people. Using a 'game' or scenario to consult with a group of young people can ensure that everyone is involved, regarless of literacy and numeracy issues – and it makes sure participation is not just about hearing the voices of those who can fit into standard models of meetings and presentations.
  • Getting youth workers blogging – and building the ideas of keeping a shared reflective journal into training.
  • Knowledge management for youth participation projects – knowledge is power – and far too often we don't support young people moving on from participation projects to share the knowledge and experience they've aquired with their peers. Challening the 'boom and bust' cycle of participation projects could happen through introducing techniques for better knowledge management.

    That could be a technology driven process using video and blogging, or it could be, as Cliff Prior suggested, promoting the idea of youth forum chairs having a 'pre-chair' year to shadow the current chair, and a 'post-chair' year to mentor their successors.

  • A financial/organisational 'container' for youth led projects – anyone who has run a student society probably knows about the six-month period of trying to transfer the bank account mandate that occurs every year. And if you're under 18 and trying to run a bank account for a group, well, it can be near on impossible.

    But if young people are to be setting up and leading their own local projects and enterprises, making them sustainable, and handing them on to a new group, then there could be a role for a youth-friendly financial system that makes handling the organisational sides of running a youth project just work – freeing up time for actually running the project.

What small ideas would you love to see the Innovation Exchange explore? (You're welcome to use the comments below, or you can, of course, blog them direct to the Innovation Exchange…)

P.S. David handed me the Camera to interview John Craig after the conversations. Here's what John had to say.

P.P.S. Sorry about the close up John. I was trying to avoid the background noise, but, erm, should have probably been standing a little futher back.

Social media options: Facebook groups for an online election dialogue

[Summary: shared learning/pointers from explorations of facebook groups as a platform for dialogue]

Picture by SmallKid Design - copyright NYAIn response to a number of questions I've had recently about how Social Networking sites could be used for youth participation and engaging young people in local democratic dialogue, I've been exploring a range of different options. To capture my learning, I though I would try and write up my explorations in the form of a number of strategic 'recipes'.

The scenario I have in mind is a local Youth Parliament election, or the election of a Children's Champion – where, over a limited time period, candidates need to respond to questions from possible electors, and where there is an opportunity to foster wider dialogue about issues and challenges for change in the local area.

Yesterday I wrote up a quick exploration I'd put together of the distinction between Facebook pages and Facebook groups as tools for engagement, and so here I'm exploring a possible strategy for hosting online election dialogue using Facebook pages.

Suggestions for other possible strategies are most welcome in the comments below, and where relevant I'll look to work them up into similar 'recipes'.

Strategy #1: Host the discussion on a Facebook group

A Facebook group provides a discussion space and space for sharing media and links, which Facebook members can join and contribute to. It is only available to Facebook members – but has the benefit of taking the discussion broadly to the space where many young people are already spending time and interacting.

Create Facebook Group 1) Create a Facebook group

Be clear in the description of your group about why the group has been created, whether you plan to moderate the discussion and the groups 'best before date' (i.e. when the decisions that discussions relate to are going to be taken).

When you create a group you have a lot of control over how it looks and works. Group Options

You can choose to only switch on the features you think you will need, such as the discussion board and wall.

The discussion board allows for 'threaded' discussions where you can post questions, and encourage others to offer answers.

The wall is a quick space for group members to leave comments.

If you are sharing photos, videos and links in the group you can set those so that only group administrators can add them. If you do limit posting like this, make sure you provide a note in the group description to let people know they can e-mail you with media they think could be useful to the group (for example, they may caught a good video interview with one of the candidates on their mobile phone that could be posted to the group as a useful video).

2) Add media to the Facebook group

Photos, videos and links can all make a group a more dynamic space. A short one minute video interview with each candidate in the election can provide great stimulus for discussion.

3) Promote your group

Group Access Options

You can set your group to be Invite Only (closed or secret) or to be Open to anyone. Unless you already have all the people you would want to be members as Facebook friends, Open should be your default choice here.

Your group will have a unique web address that looks something like this:

You can share that link via websites and e-mail, and Facebook members will be able to access your group and join in the discussions.

When a Facebook member joins your group, depending on their privacy settings, people on their 'friends list' may come to read about it via the list of updates on their homepage.

If you don't have an active 'friends list' on Facebook, you may want to encourage some of the group you are working to to invite their friends to the group to kick start the membership and dialogue.

4) Keeping discussions active

When someone posts a message on a Facebook discussion board, they will only find out if someone has replied by returning to that discussion thread to check later on (unless someone replies directly to their comment, when in some cases they may get e-mail notification). This means that to keep discussion flowing in a Facebook group, you need to be an active facilitator.

Message membersThis can mean:

  • Making sure candidates are replying to questions in a timely way.
  • Making sure discussion topics do not get left with no replies. Even if you just post a message to point out that the questions asked have been answered in another discussion thread.
  • Using the 'Message All Members' feature to (selectively) let group members know about 'hot topics' of discussion that they may be interested in.
  • Sending direct messages to individuals who asked a very relevant question which received a reply – but where you suspect the individual who asked the question has not checked back to see the reply.

5) Rounding up

After the dialogue has taken place make sure you offer feedback to the group. You can use the 'Message All Members' feature to let group members know the results of the election, and you can edit the group to make sure this information is displayed on the 'Recent News' page.

Once the elections are over, you need to decide whether you will purpose the group and keep it running for other discussions, whether you will shut it down (change it into a closed or secret group, or even delete it), or whether you will leave it open, but will post a clear message in the Recent News and Group Description to explain whether or not you will still be checking up on new messages and discussions.

Facebook groups vs. Facebook pages

I’ve been working on series of strategy options for engaging young people in local democracy activities through Facebook. The two key platforms for engagement that support some level of dialogue appear to be Facebook pages, and Facebook groups. So I though I’d try and get a sense of when you would choose one over the other.

If you were looking to host a discussion between young people and local councillors on Facebook – which would you use?

Below are the notes I’ve drafted on the topic so far…

Pages of Groups?

Groups or Pages?

Both ‘Facebook pages’ and ‘Facebook groups’ offer a way of promoting activities and of hosting a discussion between different Facebook users. Both can have a discussion wall, and discussion forum. Both offer ways of Facebook members affiliating with them, with that affiliation optionally displayed to a members ‘friends’ (creating a viral marketing effect). They are, however, subtly different:


You can create a Facebook group for just about anything. They can be used as serious discussion forums, virtual petitions where membership indicates support for a cause, a space for sharing photos and videos or a way of subscribing to get messages from an organisation (amongst other things).

As the creator of a group you gain control over which features of the group are enabled, and whether it is visible to all members of Facebook, or is closed and visible only to invited Facebook members. Facebook groups are never visible to non Facebook users.

Users of Facebook can ‘join’ your group and then post messages on the ‘wall’ or in the ‘discussion forum’ (which allows for threaded discussions). As the group owner you can send a message to all your group members – this will appear in their Facebook inbox. You can also invite group members to events created through the Facebook event system (which allows RSVP guest lists etc.).


  • Facebook users are familiar with groups
  • You can send messages to group members
  • They are marginally easier to set up and manage than pages


  • Groups are only visible to Facebook members
  • Groups cannot have extra applications added to them
  • You generally have to visit a group regularly and to use the messaging feature to keep discussions flowing.


You can create a ‘Facebook Page’ for any entity such as a club, youth council, youth project etc. Unlike groups which have ‘members’, and which are only visible to logged in Facebook users, most of a ‘Facebook Page’ can be visible on the wider internet to those without a Facebook account, and have ‘fans’.

You can send updates to fans, but these will only be displayed on the side of a users homepage when they log-in, rather than appearing in their inbox. This means they are likely to get less attention that messages sent to group members.

You can add some ‘applications’ to pages, similar to the way you can add applications to your Facebook profile. For example, you could add an RSS application to your page that would pull in the headlines from your blog, or from another discussion board, to display on your Facebook page.

Here is an example page created for Practical Participation.


  • Can be visible on the wider internet to non-Facebook members (although only Facebook members can interact with them)
  • You can add applications
  • Facebook presents you with visitor statistics to let you know how many visitors you pages are getting.


  • ‘Updates’ sent to those who decide to be a ‘fan’ of your page are lower key than messages to group ‘members’.
  • Facebook users are less familiar with pages than they are with groups.
  • Visitors still need to be a member of Facebook if they want to join in discussions on your page message board.

When would you choose one over the other?

If you were looking to host a discussion between young people and local councillors on Facebook – which would you use?

There are many factors that could decide between pages and groups. However, in this case my leanings would lead me to choose:

  • Pages if I wanted a long-term public record of the dialogue, and wanted to engage young people via Facebook over the longer term
  • Groups if I wanted to quickly host a discussion with those already on facebook, but without building a presence on Facebook right now.

What would your choice be?

Developing a BarCampUKYouthOnline

Young People: CC Image: 'thaas loomoo 128' -

There are a lot of people working on supporting young people through the internet, or supporting young people to engage with the internet.

Whether it's the web officers who run local and national youth websites, the people encouraging online campaigning and volunteering, the youth team at Direct Gov, the students and academics studying young peoples identity and interaction online, the youth workers working out how to support young people online, the policy makers thinking about sensible response, the developers of services targetted at young people, the consultants and bloggers thinking about what social media means, or indeed young people themselves – there are a lot of people with important perspectives and experience and questions around:

  • Online information services for young people
  • Supporting young people's online interaction and activity
  • Researching young people and the internet/blogging/social networking etc.
  • Developing online tools and platforms for young people
  • Exploring online technologies in education and participation
  • Young people's civic engagement online
  • And a whole lot more…

Well, inspired and encouraged by the success of BarCampUKGovWeb, and after lots of conversations with folk, I though we could probably do with a BarCampUKYouthOnline to draw together some of those threads, to bring together some of the people interesting in exploring these threads, and to build some networks and ideas for action. So let's organise it.

Provisionally I've put in 17th May 2008 as the date for the event – but that's about all that is decided so far. If you're interested in attending, getting involved in planning, or just finding out more – drop me an e-mail, edit the Wiki and join the Google Group mailing list. It would be great to have you on board… 🙂


BarCamps are self-organised dynamic conferences created by the participants. The name is misleading, they've not officially got anything to do with alcohol.

Young People as I'm thinking of the category is broadly 11 – 19 year olds – although that's not a strict boundary on what we can talk about.


I'd originally proposed 3rd May 2008 as the BarCamp date – but on realising this was a bank holiday weekend – am suggesting a switch to the 17th May.

Attachment: BarCampUKYouthOnline.doc

Learning with a Haiku


games make things more interesting

response rates are always lower than expected

we should build in incentives


Ok, it's not strictly a Haiku – it should be in 5, 7, 5 in sylables rather than words, but I thought I would experiment with using the Haiku form to capture learning, inspired by this post from Michelle Martin via Matthew Homann via Christine Martell.

The learning in question? It's about this online game for consultation on workforce development. We've extended the time it's open for to try and increase the rate of responses from young people, although the tight timescale of the project means I've not got the opportunities that I'd like to revise the game to draw on what we've already learnt.

However, if the incentive of knowing that responses to the consultation game could impact on the future of leadership and management training in youth services in England is enough of an incentive for you, then please do encourage any 13- 18 year olds you know to take the time to create their own youth workforce dream teams.

Welcome to the blogosphere Alice

Alice Casey's new blogLast week I met up with Alice Casey from Involve for a short chat about all things participation, and we quickly got onto talking about the role of social media in connecting the many participation people working in different areas of the country, the world and the web. In the conversation Alice mentioned that she'd been thinking of starting a blog… and would give it more thought again.

Well – true to her word, she has – and a it's great to welcome a new blog to the participation scene. Here's what Alice say's in her opening post on 'Cased'

I don’t blog. I think blogs are for other people. That’s about to change…

I work for on all things participatory (more about that later). You might think that would include online participation, and yes it does in the broad research sense – but on a personal level I have consistently put off starting a blog of my own for these main reasons:

1) Convinced I won’t have enough time or inclination to update it

2) What’s the use? I won’t have anything interesting or useful to say that hasn’t already been said by someone wiser.

3) Blogging is something other people do – I’m a commenter not a writer! It’s just ‘not me’.

But Alice has committed to a three month experiment to overcome those reasons why not to blog. She says:

So, I’m beginning this blogsperiment with these goals in mind:

1) To share my own learning

2) To help better connect public participation people and related ideas

3) To add a dose of realism to the world of the already immersed bloggers out there

4) To have fun and share some personal interests

I'm really looking forward to reading Alice's contributions, and to benefitting from that helpful dose of realism 🙂

So – um, if you're involved in participation, stakeholder engagement, blogging for learning etc, do head over and say hi.

One page guide to Google Alerts

Google AlertsTomorrow the Buzz Off campaign will be launched. The youth led Buzz Off campaign is calling for a ban on mosquito devices, and you can hear the campaign team talking about the mosquito devices in this video.

What has this got to do with Google Alerts? Well – if you're launching a new campaign you probably want to keep track of the sort of coverage it's getting. And it's not just converage in the mainstream press that matters, but converage right across the web. And that's where Google Alerts come in.

Google Alerts lets you set up certain keywords that Google will track for you. As soon as it finds new webpages, blog posts, news stories or documents containing those key words, you get an e-mail to let you know.

So with Google Alerts the Buzz Off campaign can see who is talking about them, and, where that's happening on the interactive web, they can offer input and responses to conversations taking place.

To let members of the campaign know about setting up a Google Alert, I quickly put together this one page guide. It's available as a PDF for printing, and, as with all these one page guides, is creative commons licenced – so you can also download the original Word document and adapt it to meet your needs.

Attachment: Google Alerts.doc
Attachment: Google Alerts.pdf

Blogging for professional development

Centre for learning

One of the 7 reasons I gave for getting youth workers blogging was to foster reflective practice. Michelle Martin offered her reflections in the comments about the role of blogging for professional development:

One thought that occurs to me though is that your point about blogs for professional development may be the best entry into blogging for people. It's a safe, low-risk way to start blogging. I think part of the resistance comes from feeling like you have to do this really public thing where you're blogging to market your organization and what if you say something people don't like or whatever? But if people are blogging to support their own learning–to reflect, etc., this might feel safer. It doesn't even have to be public for that matter. A tool like Vox would also give a way for people to blog both publicly with a network of other youth workers and privately for their own reflection, all on the same blog.

And since then I've heard from a number of trainee youth workers who are keen to get make use of blogging and social media to support their learning, development and community building.

Well, with fantastic timing, Michelle has launched into another learning challenge (it was Michelle's call to action on the 31-days-to-a-better-blog challenge that really encouraged me to be a more active blogger), this time focussing precisely on blogging for learning.

Michelle has put together a Wiki of 18 different styles of blog posts with examples that can be used to support learning, and will be writing a post in each style over the next two months. If you've been thinking about starting a blog, but haven't known how to launch into it, joining this learning journey could be a great way to take your first steps .

It's a journey I'll be joining, and particularly if you're a youth worker thinking about making a start blogging, it would be great to have your company along the way…


Photo Credit: Adult Education? by PatrickS

PubPart: A tag for participation?


'nptech' stands for 'Not-for-Profit TECHnology'. In the last year, these six characters have probably led me to discover more extermely interesting stuff, and more extermely interesting people than I've discovered through all my wider reading, web-surfing and (albeit limited) conference going put together.

Why? Because nptech is used as a shared 'tag' across social bookmarking and blogging websites by an active community of people interested in not-for-profit technology in the UK. And it's possible, using an RSS reader, to follow all the blog posts, links and other interesting things they are sharing as they are shared – making a daily dose of the latest new ideas, insightful reflections and helpful resources easily available.

Each morning I use NetVibes or Google Reader to skim read the 30 or 40 links that have been posted with the nptech tag on the social bookmarking website since I last looked, and I might follow two or three links to read more. It usually takes less that 5 minutes – but it's 5 minutes well spent.

A tag for public participation?

So, after a conversation this afternoon with Alice Casey and Edward Anderson from Involve – I'm wondering if we need a shared tag for those working on public participation and youth participation in the UK? (Or is there one already that I'm missing?). Involve may even be pursuaded to take on putting together the type of weekly digest of tagged content that Beth Kanter creates and that makes the nptech tag work so well…

I was thinking about 'Participation Exchange' – but in tag terms that became 'PartExchange' which I'm not so sure about. So Edward suggested the tag: 'PubPart' for 'Public Participation'. What do you think?

Any other suggestions for a suitable tag? Or shall we get started with 'PubPart ' and see where we get?

(Not social bookmarking of blogging yet? It's really easy to get started – particularly with social bookmarking. Check out this video intro, and this one page guide to get the basics and get up and running in under 15 minutes…)