Monthly Archives: July 2008

Roaming wild with web cams: video camera consultation

I was down in Devon last Friday at the county's fantastic Kongomana youth festival. Alas, however, I wasn't there to chill out and enjoy two days of activities and socialising. I was there along with Carl and Russel to find out what young people thought of Devon County Council using social network sites for youth participation (all part of the Youth Work and Social Networking project, and building on work I've been doing over here).

I'll share more later on about how we used magnets, the side of a bus, and little cut up bits of Bebo on cardboard to ask young people about the sorts of policies, rules and safety guidelines the council should use. For now, I just wanted to share a few quick reflections on using cheap video cameras for consultation.

What we did:
Devon County Council got hold of 5 Busbi Video cameras (£29.99) each which we could hand out to young people throughout the day.

The cameras are very simple to use, with an on/off switch, and big red button to start and stop recording. Even more useful, they've got a space where the battery compartment is (they run off AA batteries) where you can stick a question onto each camera so that the camera operator can read it.

We used questions such as 'What three words do you think of when I say Bebo?' and 'How could councils use Social Network Sites to help you get your voice heard?'.

During the chaos of running our paper-based consultation on social network site policy we were handing out the cameras to groups of young people to borrow for 5 to 10 minutes to go and interview their friends with the question on the back of the particular camera they had borrowed.

That way, so the theory went, we could get in views from a far wider range of young people. And the responses would be young people talking to young people – without the usual young person <–> strange adult dynamic that can occur during quick consultation exercises.

What happened:
Kongomana - Video Camera ConsultationThe cameras were borrowed and the cameras came back. Throughout the day groups of young people were taking the cameras to go and record things.

We had to help one or two groups get started using the cameras – and had to keep turning them off as they almost always came back still turned on and draining the batteries (although the batteries all lasted).

We didn't get chance to watch any of the video coming back in until we were packing up – and the first few clips I watched were not very promising. Mostly video clips of the grass as people were running places with the cameras.

However, as I watched through the rest of the clips I found a lot of really good content. Simple questions like 'What three words do you think of when I say Bebo?' had gathered a lot more responses that 'How could councils use Social Network Sites…' – but between the five cameras there was a lot of content, and, importantly, content that we hadn't been hearing from standing around and talking to young people in our more static consultation activity.

Unfortunately, because we were at a festival event, and because I wanted to keep the video interview activity as quick for participants as possible, we didn't ask each young person if they would be happy for their video clip to go online – so I can't share the actual clips with you. However, I did write up responses to the question 'What three words do you think of when I say Bebo?' and then ran them through Wordle.net to give this tag cloud (the larger the world, the more often it was said):

What did we learn about the method?

  • Young people talking to young people offers real insights: a lot of things came across in the video clips that didn't come across in our other conversations. Young people talking to their peers often do so in a more relaxed way. There is a lot of joking around in the clips that came back – but also a lot of really good comments and remarks that provide great insights.



  • Keep the questions simple: test out your questions first on the young people you expect to take the cameras round and interview people. If you need to provide any clarification of the question – then it won't work in this method.

  • Even point-and-shoot needs some guidance: I had hoped that the video clips we captured might be usable to edit together into a video report of the consultation. However, whilst the audio on most of them was usable – the video clips were rarely framed well (and often were super-close-ups or cut people's heads off). In the future I'll try to add some sort of guide onto the screen of the cameras to show how to frame a show (a circle showing where someones face should be in shot for example).


  • Bring spare batteries and memory cards - we were only running the consultation for a couple of hours – so managed to just use one set of batteries and memory cards per camera. But if you were running for longer – be ready with spare batteries and ready to swap out the memory cards (The Busbi Video cameras record onto cheap SD cards) so that the cameras can stay in use.

  • The cameras may not come back – we had one camera that took a long time to get back to us (we had almost given up on getting it back). Loosing the camera would have been a disappointment – but we would have also lost all the clips recored on there. Thats why for some events you may want to have memory cards in rotation so that whenever a camera gets swapped over you change the memory card and save a copy of the footage captured up to that point onto a laptop etc.

How could the idea be developed?
I'm keen to try using the same method again – but also to explore other ways of putting recording equipment into young people's hands with simple prompts – and then seeing what comes back.

I could imagine recording a short 'introduction to an issue' clip on the memory cards of the Busbi Video camera (the camera has a play button which plays back the last clip) and then sending the cameras in the post to young people across and area with a spare memory card. Young people would be invited by the video introduction to create a clip in response to the issue in question – and would be asked to send back that memory card.

I'd love to hear ideas from others about how to develop this peer-to-peer recording for consultation sort of model. What have you done in the past? Or what sort of thing would you like to do?

(Disclaimed: I have used an affiliate code on links to the Busbi Video on Amazon. There are other cheap digital video cameras on the market – and if you've got access to more durable kit already – the this method could work with that also. I just happen to have used the Busbi and found it to do the job for what I wanted).

Chain Reaction: tapping into the innovation potential of young people

Chain Reaction is a conference/collaboration/networking event taking place in London from the 17th to the 18th November this year – part of the Prime Ministers Council on Social Action. It's aiming to bring together people with ideas for positive action on social change to 'Connect', 'Collaborate' and 'Commit' to action.

And I was rather encouraged to see that in response to the question 'Who should come' they make explicit that this isn't just for the established great and good of the emerging social innovation conference circuit.

Chain Reaction is for social leaders — people who, regardless of where they work or live or how old they are, see a social problem and do something about it.

 

But not only that – they back it up with the fee structure. Take a look at this:


Category 1 day 1 day (inc. VAT) 2 days 2 days (inc. VAT)
Business £397 £466.48 £715 £839.66
Government / Public Sector £247 £290.23 £445 £522.41
Third Sector £97 £113.98 £175 £205.16
Under 21 £10 £11.75 £18 £21.15

 


£18 for a ticket if you are under 21 – as opposed to £715 for a business. That is getting the incentives and the priorities right!

 

 

So if you know young people who have been exploring positive ideas for action on social change – whose energy, enthusiasm and insights are much needed by events like this – let them know about it. With the wealth of experience in running projects and taking action being built through the Youth Opportunity Fund and Youth Banks, and through many other youth led projects – there are plenty of people out there who the PMs Council on Social Action really need as part of their Chain Reaction…

SMSPoll – Accessible big screen voting

If you're looking for a way to run a quick mobile phone based consultation – or you've been wanting to use interactive voting at a conference or participation event – but haven't been able to afford expensive e-voting equipment – then you might want to take a look at SMSPoll.net.

 The service (which I just discovered this evening and have only briefly tested) lets you set up quick polls – which anyone you tell about them can vote on by sending a text message to a UK number. The results are updated in near real-time on the website – meaning you can get an 'ask the audience' style effect if you project the graphs that SNSPoll generates onto a big screen.

It's free for small polls (25 votes or less) and is very cheap for larger polls (from £5 month). 

When using it with groups of young people you would need to think carefully about any text message costs it might lead to – but even so – giving each young person £1 toward text message costs and having a few mobile phones to loan to those without them (or more likely, with no credit) at an event could potentially overcome those barriers.

If you do make use of SMSPoll – then I'd love to hear about how it works for you. Or if you've used any alternative systems perhaps you could share details of those and how they worked in the comments…

Online consultation on science and society

Thanks to tweets from Dave Briggs and a blog post from Simon over at Puffbox I've just been exploring Steph Gray's quite fantastic innovations over the Science and Society consultation website.

Not only does the site work hard to make a complex consultation more accessible through the use of video introductions and a blog format – but it sets the consultation free, and let's any visitor select questions from the Consultation to make available on their own websites via a custom widget – which feeds information right back into the core consultation.
So – bloggers, schools, youth services – anyone with a web presence where they can add in a little widget code can help their users and audience engage with the Science and Society consultation in a manageable way.

For example, the widget below (you may not see this if viewing in an RSS reader – so click through to the main post to take a look) displays a couple of questions I thought readers of this blog might be interested in answering.

Science and Society: your views

Please visit the Science and Society consultation site to join the debate.

This approach of enabling citizens to easily take, remix and re-publish government consultations to their networks is worth exploring in many more contexts – not least in promoting positive activities, enabling young people to take, remix and share information about positive activities in their areas with their networks.

Engaging young people with learning disabilities

The Participation Works blogging platform platform may still be a noticeable omission from the Participation Works Network for England offering – but it's good to see a few more comment articles coming through from PW, particularly when they are sharing some great insights.
In this report from the North West Participation Workers conference, PWNE co-ordinator Natalie Jeal shares her reflections from the event, including a pointer to a new research website from Mencap and the OU – and including tips about how to engage young people with learning disabilities in participation work. The tips include:

  • Writing minutes and agendas with BIG text and no long words
  • Using pictures and symbols where appropriate to tell the story
  • Using creative methods instead of just talking
  • Making the most of frequent breaks
  • Introducing a jargon wall so any complicated words can be explained later on
  • Ensuring young people have time to prepare properly so sending out agendas and activities in advance, even to providing Dictaphones so pre-recorded questions can be used during interviews or formal meeting

I can't emphasise enough the importance of thinking about accessibility and creative methods when planning any participation project or opportunity. With the rise of photo sharing websites like Flickr it's easier than ever to find images and quickly put together visual resources – and thinking carefully about ways to remove jargon from any documents not only helps those with learning difficulties – but helps make the participation process more accessible to just about everyone involved.
One area I'm keen to learn more about is writing and creating online content in more accessible ways – as being aware of the literacy levels and particular abilities of participants in online consultation and participation opportunities is no less important that being tuned in at in-person events – and hopefully I'll get the chance to explore that on some projects coming up soon.

Presenting in second life tomorrow

I've never been entirely convinced that Second Life has a big role to play in campaigning, participation and public sector activity (it seems to fail both on counts of being intuitive and accessible to new users, and in being somewhere with a large existing constituency of people to work with…) although seeing Wheelies on the short list of the UK Catalyst Awards, and with Google's launch of Lively perhaps virtual worlds will have more of a role to play in the future.

 

In any case, tomorrow I'm heading down to Maidstone to share a little at the Kent Innovation Showdown about the possibilities for using social media in engaging service users, citizens and communities in the design, development and delivery of better services. And the presentation is also being broadcast in Second Life – so do feel free to drop by and join in. I'll be speaking at around 14.40 till 15.20pm.
You can also drop by the same location (Second Life URL) to see the following presentations. The one at 13.40 looks like the most interesting for those, as me, interested in hearing a bit more about what second life has to offer to local authorities.

02 – Introduction to Mobilisation (11.05 – 11.35)

IBM – Team Collaboration (11.45 – 12.20)

New Line Learning Academy – Online Curriculum (12.30 – 13.00)

Second Places – Virtual Councils (13.40- 14.15)

Five-to-nine volunteering

I found myself on a commuter train on the way to 2gether08 on Thursday morning.

Literally hundreds of, most probably very bright, people around me were heads down, buried away in Sudoku puzzles or reading the Metro – occaisionally checking their phones or Blackberry's.

What if we could find some way of harnessing that cognitive surplus – and providing volunteering/pro-social crowd-sourcing opportunities that commuters could dip into at five-minutes-to-nine, just before they got stuck into their nine-till-five?

Just a thought…

Photo credit: Rule of thirds by pfig

We could really do with most of those (.com)

Show us a better way screenshot Wow. If you've ever wondered why government should release it's data for communities to mash-up and turn into useful things, then take a look at this list. An array of many quite fantastic ideas.

Browsing down the ideas already submitted to the Cabinet Office's ShowUsABetterWay.com public-data mash-up competition there are so many ideas which I really want to see turn into realities (amongst the obligatory regular selection off slightly off-the-wall and odd ideas as well of course).

Go take a look – and if you've got an idea for something that you could do if more government data was released into the wild then head on over and submit it a) to call for the data to be released, and b) to stand a chance of winning £20k to take your idea to the next level.

Opportunities for young trainers with Participation Works

My work in youth participation really got started when the fantastic Bill Badham (Who incidentally is right his moment is somewhere cycling three times up a mountain in France to raise funds for a youth centre in Birmingham. Go sponsor him.) created four part-time jobs in The National Youth Agency Participation Team for 16 – 24 year olds to become co-trainers in equipping local and national government to include young people. Being one of the young members of that training team was a great experience for me – so I'm always delighted to see the model spreading.
Flyer Participation Works are recruiting young trainers to help in delivering their programme of support and training for third-sector organisations. Here is what they say:

Participation Works runs a national programme of training for organisations working with children and young people. Two of our one-day courses, Ready Steady Change and Building a Culture of Participation are delivered by a team of Associate Trainers (some of these Associates are young people).

Participation Works is offering this opportunity to enable young people with potential to develop the skills and confidence to join the Associate Trainers in delivering the training courses.

We will be recruiting young people to join the team initially as trainees, who will take part in a comprehensive learning programme. This programme will give trainees access to accredited learning, development opportunities and ongoing support. Travel costs will be paid during training, and once trainees are delivering training they will be paid up to £120 a day.

What skills and experience do I need?

You will need to be aged 16-24.You don’t need to have experience in training others, but you will need to demonstrate….

· Enthusiasm and commitment
· Being keen to learn and develop training skills to a high level
· Being happy to travel around England
· Ability to work with others
· Some knowledge of community, voluntary or faith sector organisations
· Passion for children and young people’s involvement in decision making
· Awareness/ brief understanding of ICT
· And finally, free time to get involved – We anticipate this will be about 10 days over 6 months (including 2 residential weekends and 6 days – some weekdays, some weekends).

Find out more on the Participation Works website – and do pass details of this opportunity on to any young people who you think might be interested.

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Pitching for Detached Youth Work 2.0

[Summary: Can you help us scale up training, process and practice innovations to take us towards Youth Work 2.0]

I’m on the way home from two days of 2gether08 festival. It’s been an intense two days of idea exploration and this afternoon I took advantage of a design clinic session from Think Public to focus down some of the ideas I’ve been exploring with others over the festival into a 3 minute ‘pitch’ to the assembled crowd at the closing plenary. Well, at least, that’s what ended up happening. Here’s a bit of an overview of how it happened:

A diary entry from Thursday 3rd July 2008.

2pm. Standing outside the Think Public shed at 2gether08 festival wondering whether or not to approach them and take up my booked slot exploring Youth Work 2.0.

2.10pm. Decided to step forward. Talking to Think Public team, and with Raj from the Innovation Exchange. Trying to explain what youth work is again and to sketch out the challenges facing youth workers such as:

  • filtering and blocks;
  • a skills/confidence gap;
  • technical issues with social network tools that limit interaction between under 18s and over 18s or that make it tricky for a professional to prove their professional identify in the space;
  • a lack of clarity about exactly what codes of conduct should apply to interaction in young people’s spaces online and how it works to ‘go to where young people are at’ in the online space;

2.30. Got it. Detached youth work is far easier to explain than general center based work – as there is no real formal education parallel for people to get sidetracked onto. We’re going to focus on detached youth work 2.0.


2.35. Building a story about the problem; the opportunities; and the possible solutions (training, negotiate with young people the code of practice for youth workers in SNS space; develop support for young people’s peer-education).

Raj brings us back to a conversation from yesterday and to a story that draws out the online detached youth work contribution. “Detached youth worker on MySpace notices mention of recent gun/knife crime on young people’s profiles. Becomes aware that many are thinking of carrying knives. Invites those young people to in-person local workshop / group work sessions / event. Sends personal notes to one or two with signpost to useful resources. Suggests that people might form a SNS site group to campaign against knife crime – and after a while drops in a note about how the young people who have joined that group could apply for Youth Opportunity Funding to promote it locally. As worker has been present for a while, there is already an established relationship with the group to enable this to happen.”

2.40. 2gether08 team approach. Do we want to pitch? Raj has to head off. I’m on my own… erm – go on then, let’s pitch this idea.

2.45. We need some graphics. Panic to find images online. In the end we take a photo of my ‘social media on little bits of paper cards’.

2.50. Practicing a three minute pitch. We’ve got to go and practice at 3.20.

3.20. In the cloak room with other people pitching for rehearsals. Meet Jonnie Moore who will be chairing session. Realise that as we’ve chucked out the cloak room volunteers we’re going to have to keep getting people’s coats for them whilst trying to practice. Invite the cloak room volunteers back in. Run through pitch in my head. Getting rather nervous.

3.45. Steve Moore suggest we hold the pitching sessions in the open air. Sounds good. Less pressure. Start to feel more relaxed.

3.55. In the open air. Heavens open. Ah.

4.15. Rain isn’t stopping, so back to plan A. Pitching in the Theatre. Heat levels and humidity in the theatre at oppressive levels. Now nervous again.

4.35. Time to pitch. Stand up and give a three minute overview of:
What detached youth work is

  • What the possibilities for detached youth work online looks like
  • What the blocks that hold it back are
  • The need for (1) training; (2) youth-adult negotiation about youth work 2.0; (3) support for peer led work online.

4.38. Positive noises from the audience. Seems to have gone ok. Certainly has helped me clarify some of what we need. Pitch over. I think it was being caught on video. So perhaps I’ll share that soon.

4.55. Listening to other people’s pitches. They all end with a really clear ‘call for action’, or ‘request for help’. I didn’t have that in my pitch very clearly. Hmmm, missed opportunity? But I’m not sure what my call for help would have been.

5.30. onwards. Great conversations flow after the session. Still not quite as focussed on youth work as I want… but useful none-the-less.

20.24. Writing all this up. Realise that we’re going to be doing (1) in Rotherham in a few weeks, and (2) is coming up as part of the Youth Work and Social Networking project when I’m down in Devon at the end of July. Hmm, looks like we might already be building the solutions. But on the very local level. Now all we need is a model to scale all this up.

Ah-ha that was the call for help/action that I missed. What I need is help to scale this stuff up. Any offers?