Event: Social Media and Youth Engagement Hotseat

[Summary: join me for an online conference hotseat on social media and youth engagement next Thursday]

Last year I was involved in a project in Nottingham called Measure-Up, exploring youth-led approaches to promoting positive activities through a range of different digital tools. It resulted in the Measure Up handbook, a step-by-step eight-week guide to using social media to promote activities for young people, and for youth projects to develop their online presence.

Next Thursday I’ll be joining some of the team who were involved to take part in an online hotseat on the LGA Communities of Practice platform sharing learning from the project. More details below:

How can social media support you to engage with young people and at the same time increase the uptake in positive activities?
Join the online discussions with Nottingham City Council on Thursday 4 August between 11:00 – 13:00
Click on the link below to access the draft case study, vox pops and online discussion:
Please join us via the above link on Thurs 4th August at 11:00 – 13:00 to hear more about the approach and discuss:
  • which social media tools young people wanted us to develop and which ones they told us they wouldn’t use
  • how social media increased the uptake of positive activities
  • how a youth-led approach helped to promote youth participation in a range of activities, supporting wider agendas such as anti-social behaviour, community engagement and civic participation.
  • Frances Howard, Arts & Education OfficerNottingham City Council
  • Esme Macauley, Marketing and Communications managerNottingham City Council
  • Tim Davies, Director, Practical Participation.
Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage with their peers in discussing the findings from the projects .
If you are unable to join us on the day please feel free to add any questions beforehand. All the information will remain on the Communities of Practice place so can be revisited at any time.
If you want more information about how hotseats work  please go through this link –

Open Personae: a step towards user-centred data developments?

[Summary: reflections on data-shaped design, and adding user persona as a new raw material in working with open data]

A lot has been written recently about the fact that open data alone is not enough to make a difference. Data needs to be put into the hands of those who can use it to make a difference, and if the only way to do that is as a programmer, or someone with the resources to hire one, we end up with a bigger, rather than narrower, data divide.

Infomediaries, with the technical skills to take data and create accessible interface onto it; to integrate it into existing systems; and to make it accessible to be communicated to those who need it, are a key part of the solution. However, unlike common software and resource development challenges, which often start from a clearly articulated problem and user needs, and then work backwards to source data and information, open data projects often have a different structure. A need is recognized; data is identified; data is opened; and then from the data applications and resources are built. The advantage of open data is that, rather than data being accessed just to solve one particular problem, it is now available to be used in a wide range of problem solving. But, there is a risk that the structure of the open data process introduces a disconnect: specific problems drive demands for open data, but open data offers general solutions – and those with the skills to work with data may not be aware of, or connected with, the specific problems that motivated the desire to open the data in the first place; nor with other specific problems which the data, now it is open, can be part of solving.

When open data is the primary raw material for a project, that data can exert a powerful influence in shaping the design of the project and its outputs. The limitations of the data quickly become accepted as limitations of the application; the structure of the data is often presented to the user, regardless of whether this is the structure of information they need to be able to use the application effectively. Data-shaped design is not necessarily good design. But finding ways to put users back at the heart of projects, and adopt user-centered design approaches to working with data can be a challenge.

The frictionless nature of accessing data contrasts heavily with the friction involved in identifying and working with potential users of a data-driven application. For technical developers interested in experimenting with data in hack-day contexts*, or working in small, time and resource-limited, projects, the overheads of user engagement are a big ask. It’s an even bigger challenge in projects like the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), where with aidinfo labs I’m currently trying to support development of informediary apps and resources for users spread across the globe: users who might be in low-bandwidth/limited Internet access environments, or in senior governmental positions, where engagement in a user-workshop is not easy to secure.

So – without ignoring the need to have real user engagement in a project – one of the things we’re just starting to experiment with in the aidinfo labs project, is adding another raw material alongside our open data. We’re creating a set of ‘open personae’ – imaginary profiles of potential users of applications and resources built with IATI data, designed to help techies and developers gain insights into the people who might benefit from the data, and to help provide a clearer idea of some of the challenges applications need to meet.

So far we’ve created four personae (borrowing one from another project), simply working in open Google Docs so that we can collaboratively draft them, and leave them open to comment to help them develop. And we’re planning to create lots more over the coming months (with fantastic support from Tara Burke who is researching and writing a lot of the profiles), created as an open resource so others can use them too.

I’m keen to explore how these personae can provide a first step to greater user-centered design in data use – and how we can use them as an intuitive tool for us to explore who is being best served by the eco-system of applications and infomediaries around IATI data. I’m also curious about the potential for a wider library of open personae to be used to help other open data projects include users as a key raw material for app building.

If ‘Data + Data-use skills + Involvement of Users’ is a part of ‘effective use’ of open data, then ‘Data + Skills + Understanding of users’ must be a step in the right direction…

Call for Papers: Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange

One of my favourite events to be part of over the last few years has been the E-Campaigning Forum – an gathering of online campaigners convened around open space discussions. At the last two annual ECF gatherings we’ve tried to include some discussions of recent research, and, thanks to a great team coming together in 2012 we’re hoping for a full ‘knowledge exchange’ track bringing academics and practitioners together.

The call for papers is below. General registration for the E-Campaigning Forum is likely to open later in the year.

Call for Papers: Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange

Charities and campaigning organisations increasingly employ campaigners with digital expertise, with many developing dedicated digital campaigning teams to work on furthering social change goals. The eCampaigning Forum (ECF) has, for the last 10 years, brought together e-campaigning practitioners from across the world for an annual knowledge-sharing event. For more information see www.ecampaigningforum.com

The Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange will be a new element of the 2012 eCampaigning Forum (21st-22nd March, Oxford, UK), providing a parallel track of academic workshops alongside the open space discussions of the forum.

There is a wealth of academic and industry research into digital campaigning related topics, but this research rarely crosses over into practice discussions at ECF. Our aim is to foster meaningful links between researchers and practitioners, with a view to bringing relevant, informative research to digital campaigners, and connecting academics and researchers with live datasets and experience to draw upon.


Based on feedback from participants in 2011 we are inviting researchers with interests in the following areas to propose short papers to present, for discussion in a series of mixed academic and practitioner seminars throughout the event. Based on the papers submitted, three topics will be chosen.

  • The role of digital tools and communication in enhancing engagement to a cause
  • Demographics of digital mobilisation – Is e-campaigning inclusive? Which different demographics and patterns of technology use should campaigners consider?
  • Cross-country perspectives on digital campaigning – Including political and social issue campaigns. How do different national contexts compare?
  • Research methods for digital campaigners – How to collect research-ready datasets; how to employ innovative methods – including social network analysis and digital ethnography; how to combine qualitative and quantitative research methods;
  • Innovations in mobile and web technology; what do new services and approaches have to offer social change campaigns?
  • Approaches to crowd-sourcing and mobilising digital volunteers;
  • Data, data mining and ethics in digital campaigning.

We are particularly keen to have contributions that provoke debate or point to future directions for practice in digital campaigning. Specifically, we are keen to hear from academics that can provide practical suggestions for e-campaigners in additional to any theoretical or methodological insights. Poster submissions are also welcome.

The Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange will take place in three sessions on the 21st and 22nd March 2012. Each session will consist of 2 – 3 papers, followed by discussion. Knowledge Exchange delegates are invited to particulate fully in the eCampaigning Forum, including the open space sessions. Academic participants without papers are also welcome to apply as delegates to the eCampaigning Forum.

Academics making a presentation in the Knowledge Exchange will be eligible for a reduced fee if required. Accommodation and meals are available on site at an additional cost.

Papers can be submitted for inclusions in a short peer and practitioner-reviewed 2012 eCampaigning Forum proceedings to be produced after the event.

Research connections

E-campaigners also generate a wealth of data from e-mail metrics and campaign response rates, to social network data and supporter profiles. Space will also be dedicated at the 2012 ECF to creating connections between researchers looking for data to draw upon, and practitioners with live datasets. Discussions will explore how practice data can be made available for research, and how practitioners can draw upon research data and findings more effectively.

Call for Papers

Abstracts of between approximately 200 and 300 words should be submitted to academic@ecampaigningforum.com by the 16th September 2011. Accepted presentations will be notified during October.

Programme Committee

  • Anastasia Kavada, Senior Lecturer, Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster
  • Janelle Ward, Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Duane Raymond, Founder and Director, FairSay and eCampaigning Forum
  • Jess Day, eCampaigning writer and consultant
  • Tim Davies, Independent Researcher & Web Science PhD Student, University of Southampton