Monthly Archives: November 2008

A round up from the Youth Work web

The last couple of weeks have seen some great activity on the emerging youth work web:

NYA Youth Issues News as RSS

I like to try and keep up to date with the latest news about goings on in the Youth sector. I’ve got a dashboard page in my NetVibes homepage devoted to the latest information on youth issues and initiatives – particularly useful for sparking ideas about youth participation or promoting positive activities.

One of the best sources for news about young people related news is The National Youth Agency’s press clippings service (Youth Issues News), which serves up a dose of the latest headlines every day. Frustratingly though, it’s not available as an RSS feed to slot nicely into my news dashboard – so, with a little help from folk on twitter, I’ve used Dapper.net to create my own RSS feed from the NYA press clippings.

I thought other’s might find it useful as well, so if you want to use it, the simple copy this link here into your RSS reader and (if it all works alright) get daily updated headlines of young people-related news.

(If you’re not sure what all this RSS thing is about then the BBC have a pretty good introduction on their website.)

Using SNS in youth participation – action learning set

[Summary: take part in a six-month action learning set around social network sites and participation...]

(Update: The registration deadline has been extended until 9th January as we, erm, got the publicity out a bit late…)

Earlier this year I spoke at an event organised by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) exploring the role of Social Network Sites in youth participation. The event (which also coincided with the UK Youth Online unConference) was packed out – and there seemed to be a lot of interest in exploring more how we can use social media and online social networking tools in local democratic engagement, and to enable young people to influence chance in the organisations that affect their lives.

So – the LGIU decided to put together an Action Learning Set exploring Social Network Sites and Youth Participation and I’ve been invited to put together the programme and co-lead the process.

The Action Learning Set is going to be run over six months with monthly face-to-face meetings and an online network and web-meetings in-between sessions. We’re aiming for a mixture of presentation inputs and planned workshops, and open-spaces for shared learning and working together on shared projects such as:

  • Developing a handbook resource on youth engagement through social network sites;
  • Developing policy frameworks for promoting safety and opportunity when using social network sites for participation;
  • Exploring the commissioning of custom social network site applications to support youth participation initiatives;
  • Working on how social network site participation fits into wider strategies;

Participants in the Action Learning Set will also be able to bring their own ideas for these shared projects.

Headlines from the draft programme are below, and you can view a more details on the outline programme in this PDF. If you are interested in participating in the Action Learning Set then you can take a look at details of how to sign up in this flyer (PDF). The sign-up deadline is the end of November, but I believe LGIU are able to accept sign-ups after this point.


Draft programme:
Most meetings are likely to take place in London and will run from 10am till approx 4pm – apart from the Residential meetings which will probably take place outside London and will run from approx 11am on Day 1 until approx 3pm on Day 2.

  • Friday January 23rd: Understanding Social Network Site & exploring opportunities and risks
    With hands-on sessions getting acquainted with the features that makes the emerged of SNS so exciting for youth participation and democratic engagement, and presentations/discussions covering how we can respond to the opportunities presented whilst ensuring young people are kept safe from potential online harms.
  • Wednesday 25th – Thursday 26th February (Residential): Social Media, Social Networks and Young People’s Experiences
    Effective youth engagement through social network sites needs more than just the use of the site themselves, it requires use of a wide range of social media skills such as video sharing, using RSS and alerts to keep track of conversations, and facilitation skills for online groups. This residential will include a social media masterclass to help participants identify key skills to develop in their organisations.

    We will also spend time exploring young people’s experiences of Social Network Sites, with presentations from academia, from young people and from practioners using SNS to engage with young people. Using practical activities we will explore different ways of understanding the role of networks in creating change.

    At this meeting we will start to develop ideas for shared action projects and there will be opportunities to gain support from peers within the Action Learning Set and from invited experts to help shape your own plans for youth engagement through SNS.

  • Thusday 26th March: Approaches to SNS participation: tools, techniques and methods
    Presentations at this session will focus on different ways that you can use SNS to engage young people in influencing organisations and decision making. Do you use the networks that are out there? Do you let young people lead the engagement activities, or do you build engagement around workers? Should you build your own social network site, or should you be commissioning a social network site application? We’ll have expert input and space for discussion.

    This session will also include a social media surgery to deal with follow up questions from the social media masterclass, and there will be space to work on shared action projects.

  • Friday April 24th: A strategic approach: exploring where SNS participation fits
    This session will look in particular at how the use of SNS can complement existing participation strategies and how to integrate SNS participation into wider corporate communication and organisational change work within a local authority or large organisation.

    We also plan to use a simulation game to explore using SNS in consultation excercises, and to address particular key issues in Children’s Services with input from the LGIU Children’s Service’s Network. Again, there will be time to work on shared action learning projects.

  • Thursday 21st – Friday 22nd May (Residential): SNS Participation and Digital Democracy: and sharing our learning so far
    With input from academics, international consultants and members of the UK Youth Parliament we will take a broader look at how participation through SNS fits into the landscape of digital democracy.

    We will also return to look at practical skills for using SNS with skill sharing sessions, and we’ll be looking to the future with trend-spotting activities. Much of the agenda for this session will be set by the needs of participants, and we be fascilitating a range of opportunities to actively share learning from local action, as well as our shared action projects.

  • Friday June 26th: Activism and evaluation: creating change and measuring impact
    Our final session will address how SNS can enable youth led campaigning. We will also be exploring how to measure change from youth participation on SNS, both through metrics and through capturing young people’s own assessments of what’s changed.

    There will also be opportunities to feedback more on local learning, and to identify possible future developments of the Action Learning Set.

If you’ve got any questions about the draft programme, do feel free to drop me or Jasmine at LGIU a note.


If you can’t take part in this LGIU Action Learning Set, but want to learn more about using social network sites in participation work or in youth work, worry not – I’ve also got some announcements coming up about a possible project to run some open-source online learning sets for youth workers and practitioners in the New Year…

Sharing learning from the Plings project…

[Summary: I'm going to be blogging for the Plings project - exploring new ways of collecting and sharing positive activity information for young people]

The Plings project has been one to watch for a while. Exploring new ways of collecting, processing and sharing information for on positive activities for young people.

Local authorities are under a duty to provide information on the out-of-school activities in a local area  young people can get involved with Рbut collecting and disseminating all that information is a big challenge.

Plings, built by research cooperative Substance, is an open source project that has been seeking to pilot and explore ways of semantically aggregating and then distributing that data, through XML feeds, iCal widgets and other mash-ups. Now that Substance has won the contract to lead the DCSF funded Information and Signposting Project, they’re going to be accelerating the development of the Plings project, and working with 20 local authorities to generate stacks of shared learning about collecting, processing and sharing positive activity information. This week has already seen the data from Plings made available via DigiTV, and I’m in the midst of scoping how positive activity information could be shared through Social Network Sites.

And if I can keep up with all the learning being generated, I’ll hopefully be blogging as much of it as possible over on the Plings blog.

So, if you’re interested in public sector mash-ups, promoting positive activities to young people, or just exploring new ways of innovating in the youth sector, please do subscribe to the Plings blog and throw in your thoughts and reflections to the comments there as the project moves forward…


(Disclosure: My blogging for the Plings project is part of a paid contract with Substance. I’m sharing news of it here as I think the learning from the ISP/Plings project will be of interest to a lot of readers of this blog.)

Participle’s Peggy – intergenerational interaction

[Summary: new application to send real snail-mail postcards from Facebook - interesting way to explore intergenerational interaction with young people]

Picture 3.pngI’ve long been interested in how the explosion of amazing networking and interactivity on the social web can bridge to the offline world of paper and pens. Well, thanks to a tweet from Alberto I just came across a great Beta project exploring exactly that.

Send with Peggy is a facebook application from Participle (put together by the fantastic MakeMode) that makes it easy to create and mail a real postcard direct from within Facebook.

Participle take the message typed on screen, and then get a postcard with the message, and with a pre-prepared reply envelope, delivered to the person of your choice. The Facebook generation can type, whilst the paper generation can write.

This probably falls into the class of one of those positive aspects of social network site to explore with young people…

(BTW – if you find this project interesting, you may want to keep an eye on some of the other things Particle is exploring around youth engagement. The fantastic Sarah Schulman has just started working with Particle to head up a new youth programme there… so I’m expecting exciting innovations to be emerging soon…)

A social media game without an evening lost laminating

cardimages.jpg[Summary: Using Moo.com to make workshop resources]

(This post is mainly for those who have spent far too long laminating little bits of card late at night in preparation for a workshop the next day…)

I’ve used variations on the Social Media Game in workshops before. The game, which works by setting scenarios, and getting workshop participants to explore how they would use different tools or approaches to respond to those scenarios is a really effective way to encourage knowledge sharing and practical learning in a session.

However, preparing the game cards for a workshop always turns into one of those nightmare jobs. Simply printing them on paper or card isn’t enough – they’re too flimsy – and it’s always surprising how much the quality of a resource affects people’s interaction with. So, up until now – that’s always meant an evening of laminating little bits of printed paper to create good quality cards. And I know I’m not the only one who suffers this small but significant laminating challenge – @davebriggswife has rendered great services to social media in this country through laminating little bits of social media game card.

So, this time, as I started putting together the ‘Social Network Game’ for the Federation of Detached Youth Workers’ conference next Friday I though I’d try something different. And this morning a set of wonderful ‘Social Network Game’ postcards arrived on my doormat courtesy of Moo.com.


Picture 21.png

All I needed to do was to create each of the cards as an image, upload them to Moo, pay a few quid, and ta-da – high quality postcard-size workshop resources ready to go.

Why bother blogging this?

Well, asides from trying to save others who loose evenings to the laminating machine – I’m really interested by the potential that Print on Demand solutions like that of Moo.com can offer for:

  • Creating high quality resources – I’ve always been struck by how having good quality resources for workshops affects people’s responses. But often getting things professionally printed for a one-off workshop just isn’t viable… but can be with Print on Demand.
  • Resource sharing – Using the Moo.com API I could provide an easy way for anyone else to order a set of the Social Network Game cards I’ve designed. (In fact, once I’ve tested them out in a workshop I might try and create a set for others to get hold of…)
  • Promoting positive activities – Could the Information and Signposting project make use of the positive activities data and multi-media it’s collecting to make it really cheap and easy for activity providers to order promotional postcards to hand out?

Definitely something I’m keen to explore more. Would be great to hear about any other ideas or experience that you have…

That’s too risky – but for who?

[Summary: things local authorities might say... and why they need to think again]

You might have heard a local authority or organisation you work with say something like this:

riskcartoon.jpg“We can’t engage with young people through social networking sites – it’s just too risky.”

To which my reply is generally ‘Risky to who?’.

Engaging with social network sites may present risks to organisations. Risks of not understanding what’s going on; Risks of hearing negative feedback from young people about what the organisation is doing; and risks of being associated with negative news stories about social network sites.

And leaping into SNS without preparing staff and having policies and support in place for practitioners also creates risks of mistakes being made.

But when organisations and authorities, who have a duty to promote the safety of children and young people don’t engage – it’s young people who are put at risk.

If Social Network Sites are blocked at school, and young people encounter unsuitable content or contact that worries them whilst they are circumventing the school filters, they are less likely to raise a concern with teachers or other adults because they may worry about getting into trouble for circumventing the blocks.

If staff don’t gain an understanding of social network sites through using them then they won’t be able to support young people to engage with them safely, or to respond to potential risks proactively.

But if staff are engaged with social network sites they can identify risks before they become harms; they can become approachable adults who young people will talk to about their worries; they can help young people develop their online communities into pro-social positive spaces.

WISE Kids Webcast: a tale of four youth workers

[Summary: watch a webcast of the Youth Work and Social Networking research]

If you prefer listening to a presentation over reading a report (PDF) – then you can catch some of the key learning from the Youth Work and Social Networking project in this video from Tim speaking at the Wise Kids conference in Swansea during October.


Picture 19.png

You can find the Video here. Choose ‘Workshop B’ from the Playlist, and then select the presentation labelled ‘Tim Davies’ to watch.

This video also introduces a new way of looking at the workforce development aspect of the Youth Work and Social Networking final report – exploring different youth work responses to Social Network Sites through the stories of four different youth workers.

Plus – whilst you’re looking at the webcast – you can enjoy many other presentations from the Wise Kids conference – including a great Key Note by John Davitt about new media tools for education and learning during the morning sessions.