An update of sorts

[Summary: I’m heading into full time study, and Practical Participation welcomes Bill Badham as our work continues to grow]

I’ve been informally sharing the news in tweets and conversations for a while now – but I realise I’ve been remiss in keeping readers of this blog up-to-date with a couple of big changes for me. So – here’s the news:

In two weeks I start a full time MSc at the Oxford Internet Institute and St Cross College – studying for a taught course in the ‘Social Science of the Internet’. I’ve been wanting to return to University to spend some quality time studying and building by research skills for a while now – and so I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to spend the next 10 months deepening my understanding of both social scientific methods and contemporary scholarship of the internet (and of course, to get back into student life…)

Practical Participation
When I discovered I was heading back to University I thought that might mean a drop in activity for Practical Participation, the consultancy organisation which has emerged from, and acted as a vehicle for, my work over the last couple of years.

However, it turns out that is not to be – and next week Bill Badham will be joining as a co-director of Practical Participation, as we expand and refocus our work on supporting and catalysing action around youth participation and the ethical, effective use of social technology in participation and work with young people.

Bill is not only a thought and practice leader in his deep commitment to children’s rights and to youth participation, but he has also been my friend, mentor and colleague for the last 10 years – so I’m delighted that Bill is on board shaping the future of Practical Participation.

MSc + Practical Participation
Of course, as I’ll be studying full-time, my work with Practical Participation may take on a slightly different form. Whilst Bill will be out actively supporting organisations in their youth engagement work, I’ll be focussing on catalysing action around digital youth work & participation – working in-between times of study to carry on delivering innovation projects and get involved in developing and delivering training.

So –

  • I may be a bit slower getting back to work related e-mails & less able to make meetings & conferences during term-time;
  • But, look out for exciting new development emerging as we find out how best to use Practical Participation to create and catalyse social change;

Plus, keep an eye out for the new Practical Participation website and blog coming soon.

And Oxford Sing…
And whilst I’m talking of exciting developments, there is one I can’t take credit for, but which I’m still pretty chuffed about. As well as helping out with the work of Practical Participation, making our recent house move work smooth as anything, and taking on tricky task of making me take a full weeks holiday last week – my wife Rachel has been launching her own freelance community enterprise – now running singing for health and community music workshops across and around Oxford.

The journey continues…

One Interesting Thing about Five Interesting Things

(and a bonus reflection on the network society)

If you write a title of the form ‘Five interesting things about X’ at the top of a page or blog post, where X is an event, a workshop you’ve run, or a paper you’ve just read, chances are you can fairly quickly distil a page or post full of, well, five interesting things..

And chances are that other people will find it useful.

If you ask me, that’s fairly interesting. And it’s got interesting implications.

I’ve just spent three days with various academics, managers and practitioners from the world of human services (which included quite a few folk with experience of youth work) where we’ve been exploring the rise of the ‘Network Society‘ (if the term is not familiar, at least look at the Wikipedia page) and it’s impact on the whole field of human services.

We encountered a lot of challenges: Many of the practitioners and managers can perceive the need think about and adapt to the network society – but they struggle to find the time to engage with both the literature on the network society and the practice dilemmas and tensions that need to be resolved in responding to the rise of a digitally connected world. Many of the academics are doing in depth research and writing great articles (sometimes about the fact practitioners are ever more time pressured) – but are struggling to get that research to influence practice. And both academics and practitioners alike with teaching responsibilities were talking about the challenges of using old lecture & essay based formats of education to equip a new generation of youth workers, social workers and probation officers.

Talking about “Five interesting things” may not offer a resolution to all those challenges, but over lunch today we explored how it might have something to offer. What if:

  • Tutors encouraged students to read recent research and summarise the ‘Five Interesting Things’ from key articles.
  • We combined the lists of ‘interesting things’ produced by different students through an online tool like IdeaScale and encouraged students and practitioners to vote up and down the most and least significant ‘interesting things.
  • We took the top five ‘most interesting things’ and used them as abstracts alongside all the articles being input into big knowledge management systems for practitioners.

A new teaching approach. Turning research into practical nuggets of information & knowledge. And helping practitioners engage with contemporary learning about major social shifts and developments.


(BTW: Do check out the Connected Practice Ning if the idea of ‘human services in the network society’ is one that resonates with you)

Social Network Sites & Social Change Communication

Picture 32[Summary: the ‘Future Connect’ paper on Social Networking and AIDS Communication has just been published by Communications for Social Change Consortium]

Back in February I mentioned a project I was working on with Pete Cranston for AIDS2031, through Communications for Social Change Consortium (CFSC). We were tasked with taking a global look at how young people were engaging with social networking, and what opportunities and challenges that created for HIV/AIDs communicators in communicating with young people.

We finished the paper back in April, but it’s taken a while for it to make it’s way to being available online. But it now is – and you can find the full report to browse, or download as a PDF here.

Whilst we put the report together in the context of work for AIDS2031, and many of the case studies and examples have a HIV/AIDS element to them, my hope is that the full report also provides useful input for anyone exploring how young people in the UK and beyond are engaged with social networking.

In particular, you can take a look at:

The report also includes a full section looking comparatively at social networking by young people in South Africa, UK, Brazil, India and Thailand as well as our attempt to look forward to unfolding trends and future possibilities.

This hope is that this report is only the first step for further work by CFSC and Pete Cranston looking at tracking emerging trends in the use of social networks for social change communication – so all feedback and comments, and ideas for future developments, are most welcome.