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…

11 thoughts on “Using SNS in youth participation – action learning set”

  1. Hey Harry

    And as the programme is still in draft I may well be looking out for some SNS application builders in the youth sector to come along to one or more sessions…

    …something you might be up for?


  2. Sure – very much so in fact.

    By then I think we’ll have launched three more apps. – one with Tom at Norfolk and certainly two for Channel 4.

    There’s so much to be learned here…

  3. Hi Tim,

    Just wanted to drop by to say how much I enjoyed your presentation and workshop yesterday at the 4 Children conference in London.

    Didn’t get the chance to speak to you in person yesterday, but I walked away from your sessions, and the day as a whole, brimming with inspiration and raring to get back to work.

    If you’d be willing, I’d love to pick your brains some time if you have any suggestions on ways to persuade IT departments about the benefits of SNS.

    Back when the whole Myspace craze really boomed a few years back, I wrote a whole report on using the site as a communication tool, only to have it shot down without discussion.

    So infuriating!

  4. @Chris Skoyles: Thanks for the great feedback.

    Definitely always happy to chat about ways to get more effective use of communication tools to engage young people and wider citizen groups.

    Do you still have the report you wrote? If it’s something you can share it might be interesting to post it over on the site – and to explore whether IT depts and decision makers have yet moved on, or what work we need to do to help them understand the potential of the technologies, and to understand that they can engage safely…

  5. Thanks Tim,

    I think I should still have that report lying around somewhere, I’ll dig it out as soon as possible and do as you suggest.

    I do definitly find myself in the middle of two very different sets of people in my work. There are those who believe that we should be using every form of new technology and social media avaliable without much regard as to its effectiveness, and then there are those (the IT folk) who think, to quote DK from Mediasnackers “it’s all evil”.

    The main barriers I seem to be facing from the latter camp are the safety issue (Myspace etc leave young people open to predators etc, we can’t promote this), and setting precedents (if we let you use Myspace/Facebook etc) in your working hours, will we need to let everyone else do the same etc).

    Sorry for such a long comment, I could write whole blog posts of my own on this issue! Would be interesting to know what you think.

    Thanks again,


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