Monthly Archives: May 2008

Youth Work and Social Networking – interim report out

Picture 16 Just a quick pointer to the Interim Report of the Youth Work and Social Networking project I've been working on with Pete Cranston over the last few months.

This turned into a far longer report and piece of work than I'd anticipated – but I hope it sets out some clear foundations for the next phase of research – working on the practical 'How To' of moving from where we now, to a place where an effective youth work perspective and practice in responding to online social networks is in place.

You can read more on the project blog over here…. and I'd really welcome any feedback or reflections through the comments or by e-mail.

What would Fair Trade 2.0 look like?

Over at the newly arrived 2gether08 website Steve Bridger has been musing about what Fair Trade 2.0 might look like.

The FAIRTRADE Mark changes peoples behavior by giving them information about the products they are buying. When you buy a product with a FAIRTRADE Mark on you know that the producer has been paid a fair price for their work, alongside a social premium to be invested in development projects in their community. But the Fair Trade movement is not just about changing people's buying decisions in the abstract – it is also about re-forging the connections between producer and consumer that get lost in a globalised market-driven world.

Whilst my jar of Fairtrade Coffee might provide me with a story about one of the producers involved in the co-op that made it – the social web could do a lot more – and that could bring on Fair Trade 2.0.

What might Fair Trade 2.0 look like?

1) Producer Stories
The short quote from Daniel Minaya Huaman on the back of my jar of Cafe Direct is great – but to really know where my coffee comes from – what if every producer was offering the sort of stories that I can find at From Crop 2 Cup?

Of course, you might ask just how many people are really going to go any look up all the items in their shopping basket online? When I was working for Just Fair Trade in Leicester we explored options for moving to an electronic point of sale system that would print information about the producers on customers receipts. If the stories were there – we would have been able to give customers a far stronger connection with the producer of the products they were buying.

2) Seeing the whole supply chain
Right now the FAIRTRADE Mark tells me about the original commodity producer – but it doesn't tell me the whole story. For example, I don't know the conditions in which the Fairtrade Cotton trousers I bought from M&S the other day were made – and whilst I know that the farmer of the coffee I'm drinking got more for her work that she would have selling a non-fair trade product – I don't know how much of the money went to the farmer.

That's one of the issues that projects like FairTracing are seeking to address – tracking and laying the whole supply chain open to see in Web 2.0 ways. Try this prototype for example.

Or when it comes to an audit trail – what about this system from coffee path that shows all the documentation from along the supply chain.

3) Better decision making information

Ever since I first saw the Corporate Fallout Detector I've been curious about the simple ways in which information about the ethics of a product can be presented to people at point of sale in a straightforward way.

There are two challenges:
a) The space available on packaging can make it tricky to present enough information to people when they are choosing between products. Often the information gets reduced to product marks (Organic, Fairtrade, Non-air-freight) from certifying bodies. But my ethical views may not be fully captured by the certifying marks available.

b) Even when I can get all the information I want about a product, the cognitive load of calculating and comparing products is often simply too much (I find myself wanting to go back to a simple certifying mark of some sort).

Improving decision making in Fair trade 2.0 could go a number of directions. It could go the Wiki-way being explored by WIBI.IT or we could find more advanced versions of the Ethiscore and Gooshing ideas that make it easy to order products according to your own ethical beliefs – as well as according to pre-set values.

4) Making connections
All the ideas above are about getting better Fair Trade information for the customer. But social media also presents massive potential opportunities for actual dis-intermediated connection between producer and consumer. As internet connectivity becomes more ubiquitous on the supply side – could I find myself following my coffee grower in Twitter, and competing in an eBay auction for a premium supply of chocolate beans? Could I be setting up a live chat with a grower, rather than just showing a slide-show when encouraging my workplace to switch to Fair Trade? The two-way role of social media in the future of fair trade is not something I've not yet given much thinking time to… but perhaps this is where the future really lies. The technology creates the connection… and then it can almost get out of the way…

5) What else?
What do you think lies in the future of Fair Trade? What will social media transform? What are the challenges ahead. I'm sure Steve would appreciate your comments over on the 2gether site – and I'd certainly welcome any reflections here…

Corporate Fallout Detector image from:

Three observations on policy responses to youth and social network sites

Ofcom Media LiteracyOn Friday Ofcom published their Media Literacy Audit on UK children's media literacy (thanks to Jackie Marsh for the link). As I was reading the Executive Summary, one paragraph in the section on content creation and online social network sites caught my attention:

Among many [young] social networking site users there is a lack of awareness of, or concern about, potential safety and security risks. Many feel that they are immune to any potential risks, and that even if they were to have problems, they would be able to deal with them.

It's worth just picking that apart briefly:

  • 1) The first part, "a lack of awareness of, or concern about, potential safety and security risks", is something we can address. The architecture of sites, the information made available to young people and informal learning opportunities can help young people to become aware of possible pitfalls and dangers in the use of social network sites.

    That said, amongst young people there is a lack of awareness, or concern about, many potential risks. To know whether there is a clear case for increasing young people's awareness of risk we need:

    a) to know if young people are comparatively less aware of risks on social network sites as opposed to risks of equal severity in the offline world (e.g. risk of becoming a victim or crime, risk of sexual abuse by a known adult).

    b) to decide whether the risks to young people are severe enough to prioritise making young people acutely aware of them.

    In the same way that internet filters are often guilty of 'overblocking' (filtering out good content along with the bad) – awareness of potential risk is 'overblocking' – it creates a fear of caution that not only prevents individuals engaging in risky behaviors, but it also has a tendency to make individuals cautious and risk-averse in their take up of potentially very beneficial opportunities.

  • 2) "Many feel that they are immune to any potential risks,". Put simply: don't all teenagers believe they are invulnerable? By way of a more sustained argument – adolescence is a time of risk-taking in which young people's brain chemistry is geared towards feelings of invulnerability. We should take this aspect of youth as more or less a given, rather than a problem that needs to be 'solved' through information and awareness campaigns.

  • 3) Young people believe that "even if they were to have problems, they would be able to deal with them." From the way this sentence is phrased, I take it that the authors consider this to be a concern.

    It's not obvious, however, that a large number young people believing they can deal with the problems they encounter should be of concern. Again – we need to know a lot more to make a sensible policy decision. In particular, we need to know whether those young people who believe they would be able to deal with problems actually could.

    If is exactly an increase in the number of young people who believe they would be able to deal with problems (and actually would) that we need. Increases in young people's resiliency and ability to address negative outcomes of risky behaviors as early as possible should be our core positive indicator in looking at online safety.

    It is worth noting that we can't accurately test how many young people actually could deal with 'problems' online by asking them about their responses to a theoretical question and comparing this to adult ideas of 'best practice' in such cases. Young people's coping strategies may be adopted on creative patens that adults would not necessarily recognize as sensible responses to a given problem. That adults do not immediately recognize them as sensible or effective does not immediately mean that they are not.

Ofcom's paper is research report – and does not make policy recommendations. However, the research often reflects and directs policy concerns – and I hope in the above I've managed to at least point to a number of potentially problematic assumptions or implicit beliefs that are often active in the direction of policy responses to youth and social network sites.

Le Triple Ventoux: sponsor Bill Badham's mildly insane cycle ride

As if annually taking on a stage of the Tour de France hasn't been enough, this year, in celebration of his 50th Birthday, Bill Badham is taking on 'Le Triple Ventoux' challenge to raise money for the Maypole Centre. This from his Just Giving page:

There is a challenge organized by a French bicycle club (actually, a brotherhood) next to Mount Ventoux, a massive 2000 metre mountain in Provence in France. They say, “It is normal for a bike rider to try to climb Mont Ventoux at least once in a lifetime, but you are crazy if you do it again.”

There are 3 different routes you can use to go to the top of Mont Ventoux.

If you can climb all the routes in one day thats what Bill is going to do on July 6 2008 (starting from Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault), between sunrise and sunset, you are declared “Nut of Mont Ventoux.” Putting all that in perspective, to accomplish this feat Bill will climb 4500 metres. That's over half the height of Everest – the descending is another story.


Bill is raising funds for Maypole Youth Centre. Pete and 3 young people, Ross, Matt and Jon will be cycling up one of the routes and descending with Bill on his final descent.

Bill is wanting to raise £1 a metre of climbing – that's £4500. The money raised will fund 45 young people from Druids Heath Estate over the next three years to take part in their Spring Adventure weekend which Matt, Ross and Jon will be organising. Check out our youtube sites! oh yeah and with your speaker volume to high

Why Maypole? Bill says "Well there are of course many great projects working with young people. It's just that for me, the Maypole Centre represents all that is most wonderful and inspiring about young people and all that is best in supporting young people achieve their full potential."

So, if you've ever sneakily downloaded a copy of Hear by Right or you've been inspired by one of Bill's energetic keynote speeches, or even if you don't know Bill, but want to support a fantastic youth project in Birmingham – then do head over to Just Giving and drop in a donation.

(I've worked with Bill for the last 6 years – in fact, it was in a project managed by Bill that I first got involved in youth participation. Plus, the Maypole Centre were one of the sites piloting a model of youth work based upon Positive Youth Development earlier this year. T'is really worth supporting.)

Maypole Youth-Healthy Outcomes

Hilary Mason talks about Youth Work Blogging

DK from Mediasnackers has spoken to Hilary Mason from West Sussex Youth Service about her blogging over at UK Youth Blog and has put it together as a PodCast.You can listen to it here.

It's a fantastic 8 minutes of exploration of how social media tools can be used in Youth Work and informal education, and how just about anyone can pick up and learn the tools to make blogging work for them. Here's DK's index of what you will find:

0.00—0.24 intro

0.25—1.22 why Hilary started her blog

1.23—2.20 barriers of entry

2.21—3.11 internal feedback from the organisation

3.12—4.35 following the digital breadcrumbs and wider impact of blogging

4.36—5.31 specific tools and platforms

5.32—6.16 inspiring other to blog (Dave Petrie)

6.17—7.05 advice for other youth workers thinking about blogging

7.06—7.55 future

7.56—8.07 outro

Well worth a listen…

Youth and social networks: 10 articles that have influenced my thinking

This is a post I've been wanting to put together for a while. Hopefully the phase 1 report from the Youth Work and Social Networking project I'm co-researching with Pete Cranston will be out soon (sending if off for formatting tomorrow…) – but as that looks like it will be about 15,000 words of literature review, survey and focus group write up, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of the literature that has most influenced or challenged my thinking.

The works below may not explicitly address young people and social networking directly, but they all offer useful context and insights. I can't promise that I've managed to adequately take account of them all in my writing (indeed, I'm quite aware that I haven't – for that I'd need to be working on this full time rather than having the day or so a week I have right now) – but I hope that offering a summary of them here helps others in following these trains of thought….

Perspectives on online social networking and social network sites:

1) boyd & Ellison: Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.
I've been to far too many events lately which have billed themselves as talking about social networking when in fact presentations and discussions have covered just about anything internet related but social networking. boyd and Ellison's formal definition of social network sites is a really helpful 'centre of gravity' for thinking about online social networking, and the discussion on danah boyd's blog post on the subject is particularly useful.

For the Youth Work and Social Networking project we tried to look at the activity of online social networking, through in effect our focus was on social network sites (although in an ideal world we would have been able to extend our investigation to online social networking with gaming etc.).

2) Larsen: 35 Perspective on Online Social Networking
I only found Malene Larsen's work half-way through putting together the Youth Work and Social Networking project – but it provides some fantastic insights and and conceptual frameworks for looking at online social networking. The 35 Perspectives on Online Social Networking are a particularly useful tool for reflection in thinking about the wide range of responses different organisations and individuals have to social networking (ranging from the 'consumer perspective' and 'body and sex perspective' through to the 'friendship perspective' and the 'group work perspective'.

Social networking, youth and identity:

3) Larsen: Understanding Social Networking: On Young People's Construction and Co-Construction of Identity Online
The fourth perspective Larsen introduces is 'The identity perspective' – “Social networking sites are spaces for identity construction. Here, young people continuously constructing, re-constructing and displaying their self-image and Also, the network sites make them co-constructors of each other’s identities.” That gets a far deeper exploration in this ethnographical exploration of MySpace-like Danish social networking site Arto.

4) Stern: Producing Sites, Exploring Identities: Youth Online Authorship
Susannah Stern's article isn't about social network sites. It's about young people creating personal homepages and blogs – but it's exploration of how homepage creation facilitates identity formation and reflection upon identity formation is extremely interesting. It raises interesting questions about whether or not social network sites also provide young people with a canvas for self reflection or not.

5) Donnovan: Whose Safety? Whose Security?
Gregory Donnovan's work explores the problematic nature of box-filling social network site profiles and the way in which the reductive nature of profiles (for example, being asked to sum up religious belief, political affiliation or relationship status in a single line) can harm identity formation. Donnovan also raises important questions about how a growth in young people living out lives online potentially increases opportunities for state control of childhood, rather than increasing young people's freedom from control. Similar questions about the increasing power and control afforded to corporations through young people's engagement with online social networks may be asked.

6) Solove: The future of reputation: gossip, rumour, and privacy on the internet
Solve doesn't address social networking explicitly – and in fact the elements I found most interesting in his book are a little less developed than I'd like – but he does raise a number of crucial points about the way notions of privacy may be being redefined by the internet, and about the risks of publishing information online in preventing people from escaping past misdemeanour's that may be of particular interest to those working with young people. Will we see the availability of data about people's pasts becoming anchors that tie them down? Or will a norm that accepts everyone has a data-trail emerge?

7) Ellison, Steinfield, Lampe: Spacially Bounded Online Social Networks and Social Capital: The Role of Facebook
What is the role of online social networks in reflecting, and contributing to, young people's social capital resources? If local social networks have a significant impact on educational aspiration and attainment (as The JRF found they do) then exploring the role of online social networks seems to be a useful line of enquiry…

Responses to online social networking

8) Wolak, Finkelhor, Mitchell, Ybarra: Online “Predators” and Their Victims – Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment and 9) Ybarra et. al: Internet Prevention Messages: Targetting the Right Online Behaviours
The Crimes Against Children Research Centre (CCRC) have produced some fantastic research which is extremely helpful in trying to find a balanced response to risk online. Their work drawing on the US based Second Youth Internet Safety Survey gets beyond the unhelpful blunt (and possibly counter-productive) safety guidelines commonly given to young people such as 'Don't share any personal details online' to look at the real markers of risk (for example, Talking with people known only online (“strangers”) under some conditions is related to online interpersonal victimization, but sharing personal information is not.) and to develop guidance and recommendations that make a lot of sense. In fact, two points from the bulleted summary on the CCRC Internet page are worth quoting in full:

  • Focus prevention efforts more on adolescents, less on parents, and frankly on concerns relevant to adolescents, including autonomy, romance and sex.
  • Focus prevention more on interactive aspects of Internet use and less on posting personal information.

I would strongly suggest that no-one should be proposing online safety messages without looking at these and other CCRC articles.

10) Merton: Good Youth Work: What youth workers do, why and how
When I first read Bryan Merton's 'Good Youth Work' I scribbled furiously in the margins about the lack of referencing and got frustrated about the complete reliance on anecdote and stories to explain what youth work does. However, having spent time over the Youth Work and Social Networking project talking with youth workers, and exploring possible youth work responses to online social networking – I've come to find it does provide a strong insight into how good youth work responses to online social networking could have an lot to offer (although it would still be good to see youth work adopting more explicit frameworks to be able to describe what it does).

Crucially, where a lot of focus gets put onto information campaigns and formal education to support young people in making safe and effective use of online social networking, informal education approaches are often not given enough consideration. Providing space for reflection, group work interventions, and individual interventions at the right time could potentially achieve a lot more than any amount of lesson plans, safety videos and even media literacy classes.

Well, that's 10 articles for now. But I'd be interested to hear from readers of this post – what article or resources are inspiring you to explore different lines of thought about youth and online social networking right now?

Photo credit: Piles of books by Ollily

A new 31 day challenge… this time for blog comments

31 Day CommentFirst off, appologies for my lack of blogging of late. There's a lot to blog, but I'm having to put all my time into getting a few big projects rounded off right now.

However, I thought I should break blog silence to introduce the 31-Day Comment Challenge. It was the 31 days to a better blog challenge co-ordinated by Michelle Martin that really get my blogging started last year, and Michelle is leading the way in reflective learning again this year – this time with a focus on commenting on blogs and creating conversation.

You can join the challenge by following each of the daily tasks throughout May (you don't have to strickly work on them day-by-day) and it's a great way to more actively engage with blogs and blog-based community building.

I'm going to try and work through some of the first challenges tomorrow to catch up a little, and it would be great if any other readers of this blog wanted to join in too…