Category Archives: Quick linking

Skills for the job: digital literacy

In the lead up to the Youth Work Online Month of Action I’ve got an article in Children and Young People Now’s ‘skills for the job’ section, talking about digital literacy. Here’s how it starts:

A lot of what we hear about young people and the internet is focused on e-safety. But digital literacy is about a lot more than that. Digital literacy involves being able to navigate the digital world – making the most of the many opportunities it provides for accessing information, creating connections, having a say, being part of communities and developing skills and knowledge for now and for the future.

Developing young people’s digital literacy needs professionals to engage with the online world – supporting young people to move beyond narrow use of a few social networking websites or apps – to discover the full potential of the internet as a global information resource. It also involves the development of critical skills – enabling internet users to choose what information to engage with. One key part of digital literacy is to know when to multi-task, when to focus, when to be connected, and when to disconnect.

You can read the full article over on the CYPN Website.

In the upcoming Month of Action we’ll be focusing a lot more on these themes – working to build broader networks of practitioners focussed on all aspects of the digital world for young people.

P.S. I’m still on the lookout for a venue for the Month of Action’s unConference. We’re looking for somewhere in London, available on Saturday 16th April, with good Wifi, room for 100 people in break-out spaces, and crucially, either free or low-cost. If you know someone who could sponsor the event by sharing their venue/offices/meeting rooms for the day, do get in touch.

CfP: Journal Special Issue on Open Data

[Summary: Abstracts wanted for special issue of Journal of Community Informatics focussing on supply and use of open government data in different contexts across the world]

Michael Gurstein’s blog post last year on Open Data: Empowering the Empowered, or Effective Use for Everyone sparked some interesting discussions about how open data policies and practices impact different groups on the ground. The question of what impacts open data will have in different contexts has been picked up in Daniel Kaplan’s recent post on the OKF blog, and the need for different approaches to open data in different countries is a key theme in the draft Open Government Data in India report. With the discussion on open data impacts growing, I’m really pleased to be able to share the Call for Proposal below for a special issue of the Journal of Community Informatics that I’ll be guest editing along with Zainab Bawa of the CIS in India. So, if you’ve been meaning to write an article on the impacts of open data, or you know of grass roots projects in different places across the world working with the supply or use of open data, take a look at the call below…

Journal of Community Informatics: Call for Papers for Special issue on Open Data

Guest editors:  Tim Davies, Practical Participation and Zainab Bawa, CIS-RAW fellow

Call for Proposals
The Journal of Community Informatics is a focal point for the communication of research that is of interest to a global network of academics, Community Informatics practitioners and national and multi-lateral policy makers.

We invite submission of original, unpublished articles for a forthcoming special edition of the Journal that will focus on Open Data. We welcome research articles, case studies and notes from the field. All research articles will be double blind peer-reviewed. Insights and analytical perspectives from practitioners and policy makers in the form of notes from the field or case studies are also encouraged. These will not be peer-reviewed.

Why a special issue on Open Data
In many countries across the world, discussions, policies and developments are actively emerging around open access to government data. It is believed that opening up government data to citizens is critical for enforcing transparency and accountability within the government. Open data is also seen as holding the potential to bring about greater citizens’ participation, empowering citizens to ask questions of their governments via not only the data that is made openly available but also through the interpretations that different stakeholders make of the open data. Besides advocacy for open data on grounds of democracy, it is also argued that opening government data can have significant economic potential, generating new industries and innovations.

Whilst some open government data initiatives are being led by governments, other open data projects are taking a grassroots approach, collecting and curating government data in reusable digital formats which can be used by specific communities at the grassroots and/or macro datasets that can be used/received/applied in different ways in different local/grassroots contexts. INGOs, NGOs and various civil society and community based organizations are also getting involved with open data activities, from sharing data they hold regarding aid flows, health, education, crime, land records, demographics, etc, to actively sourcing public data through freedom of information and right to information acts. The publishing of open data on the Internet can make it part of a global eco-system of data, and efforts are underway in technology, advocacy and policy-making communities to develop standards, approaches and tools for linking and analysing these new open data resources. At the same time, there are questions surrounding the very notion of ‘openness’, primarily whether openness and open data have negative repercussions for particular groups of citizens in certain social, geographic, political, demographic, cultural and other grassroots contexts.

In sum then, what we find in society today is not only various practices relating to open data, but also an active shift in paradigms about access and use of information and data, and notions of “openness” and “information/data”. These emerging/renewed paradigms are also configuring/reconfiguring understandings and practices of “community” and “citizenship”. We therefore find it imperative to engage with crucial questions that are emerging from these paradigm shifts as well as the related policy initiatives, programmatic action and field experiences.

Some of the questions that we hope this special issue will explore are:

  1. How are citizens’ groups, grassroots organizations, NGOs, diverse civil society associations and other public and private entities negotiating with different arms of the state to provide access to government data both in the presence and absence of official open data policies, freedom/right of information legislations and similar commitments on the part of governments?
  2. What are the various models of open data that are operational in practice in different parts of the world? What are the different ways in which open data are being used by and for the grassroots and what are the impacts (positive, negative, paradoxical) of such open data  for communities and groups at the grassroots?
  3. Who/which actors are involved in opening up what kinds of data? What are their stakes in opening up such data and making it available for the public?
  4. What are the different technologies that are being used for publishing, storing and archiving open data? What are the challenges/issues that various grassroots users and the stakeholders, experience with respect to these technologies i.e., design, scale, costs, dissemination of the open data to different publics and realizing the potential of open data?
  5. What notions of openness and publicness are at work in both policies as well as initiatives concerning open data and what impacts do these notions have on grassroots’ practitioners and users?
  6. Following from the above, what are the implications of opening up different kinds of data for privacy, security and local level practices and information systems?

Thematic focus
The following suggested areas of thematic focus (policy, technology, uses, impacts) give a non-exhaustive list of potential topic areas for articles or case studies. The core interest of the special issue is addressing each of these themes from, or taking into account, grassroots, local citizen and community perspectives.

  1. Different policy and practice approaches to open data and open government data
  2. Diverse uses of open data and their impacts
  3. Technologies that are deployed for implementing open data and their implications
  4. Critical assessments of stakeholders and stakes in opening up different kinds of data.
Submission
Abstracts are invited in the first instance, to be submitted by e-mail to jociopendata@gmail.com.

Deadline for abstracts: 31st March 2011
Deadline for complete paper submissions: 15th September 2011
Publication date is forthcoming

Please send abstracts, in the first instance, to jociopendata@gmail.com.

For information about JCI submission requirements, including author guidelines, please visit: http://www.ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions

Guest Editors

Zainab Bawa
Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) RAW fellow bawazainab79@gmail.com

Tim Davies
Director, Practical Participation (http://www.practicalparticipation.co.uk)
tim@practicalparticipation.co.uk | @timdavies | +447834856303

Young Lives Linked Data Demonstrator

[Summary: showcasing linked data for development project]

Over the past month or so I’ve been working for IKM Emergent on a demonstrator project to explore the potential implications of linked data for information management in the development sector – seeking put a small sub-section of the survey micro-data from the Young Lives longitudinal study online in order to explore the process and potential of generating linked data in development-focussed settings.

The results of that project are now live and online for the time being, and accessible here. The most visually interesting part of the demonstrator (thanks to the work or Rupert Redington at NeonTribe) is the Comparator tool which does some pretty clever things to identify ‘Data Cubes’ in the Young Lives linked data dataset we’ve published, and to offer (in the case of the smoking prevalence data) comparisons between the Young Lives dataset, and another comparable dataset we’ve also loaded into our Young Lives datastore.

However, through the demonstrator we’ve also made the Health dataset from the Young Lives data available to browse via OntoWiki interface, and to query via SPARQL – exploring how linked data structures give us the opportunity to annotate the questions from the young lives data – potentially helping future researchers to find questions and data of interest to them,

The presentation below steps through some of the basics of Linked Data, before, from slide 13 onwards, introducing the Young Lives Data Demonstrator.

I’ll be sharing some more learning notes from the Young Lives Linked Data Demonstrator over on the open data impacts blog soon.

(Data week on Tim’s blog)

Just a quick note for all of you who follow this blog for the youth participation & digital youth work related bits… the next week of posting is going to be quite a lot on the other topic I spend lots of time thinking about/working on of open data (and I realise that past months have had a lot of open data stuff to).

But please don’t re-adjust your blog-reader/subscription just yet… some exciting digital youth work, children’s rights and youth participation posts to come soon – right after this week of data-related postings.


Youth Participation in the Big Society…

[Summary: explore & add your thoughts to this paper from North West Regional Youth Work Unit on youth participation in the Big Society]

Last week a new paper from the North West Regional Youth Work Unit (NWRYWU) crossed my radar – exploring how a wide range of approaches to youth participation may fare under current government policies and priorities – particularly those framed by ideas of the big society.

It looks at approaches including:

  • Youth led grant giving
  • Youth inspectors
  • Shadow boards and youth panels
  • Youth councils and fora
  • Campaigning work
  • Regional youth fora & youth parliaments
  • Peer education
  • Short-term projects
  • Rights and advocacy work
  • Health service participation
    and
  • Youth-led organisations

Partly to aid my own note-taking on the document – but also to open it up to wider discussion (and with kind permission from NWRYWU) I’ve put the document up as a commentable doc over here where it can be read paragraph-by-paragraph and you can leave your comments on any section.

Whilst I’m not convinced that those supporting young people should immediately bend their language and focus to the priorities and language of a ‘big society’ agenda (and Kevin Harris’s critiques on the naivety of much big society thinking are worth reading), exploring and understanding what big society ideas might mean for youth engagement and getting more dialogue on the future of youth engagement can only be a good thing.

Resources for exploring social media participation

[Summary: a quick linking list of social media & youth engagement resources, cross-posted from Youth Work Online]

I’ve just been running a short session at a meeting of the South East Participation Project around how different social media and social network sites can be used in youth participation. The session gave me an opportunity to put together some new slides and a list of resources capturing learning from recent projects about the need to look at more than just Social Network Sites – but to think about how a wide repertoire of tools and online facilitation approaches are brought together to support engagement and inclusion. You can view the slides below (may not make massive sense without the speaking with them – but hopefully give some insights) or scroll on for a list of links and resources.

We discussed a wide range of resources in the session, some of which I’ve tried to capture links to below.

Online tools


Video-making tools: powerful for ‘context-setting’ (explaining a participation opportunity); promoting projects; and as a way of capturing young people’s views and getting voices heard.

Useful links: Shared Practice Through Video guide; Example of video to promote projects; Discussion on using video; Suggested kit-list with cameras;


Survey tools: you can link people to online surveys – or some surveys can be embedded within Facebook and blogs to get structured input from young people. Think carefully about the design of online surveys.

Useful links: SurveyMonkey for online polls; Look for Poll and Voting applications to add to a Facebook page; SMSPoll for text-message surveys; Practical Participation can offer support designing and hosting online surveys; Google Forms also offers a free and effective way to create quick survey forms.


Online mapping tools: to communicate information, or for campaigning.

Useful links: the MyMaps feature on Google Maps (see the one page guide here) can be used for collaborative map making; Google Sketch Up can be used to make 3D models for Google earth; OpenStreetMap can generate free maps of your area for printing & working with; TacticalTech on Maptivism


Collaboration tools: for group work across distance.

Useful links: iEtherPad offers a quick-to-set-up places to collaborative write a document in real-time. Google Documents allows a group to all share and collaborate on spreadsheet(e.g. Budgets) or other documents. Zoho collaborative docs and Huddle collaboration space both have Facebook applications that let you create a ‘virtual office’ within Facebook for a project.


Social Network Sites can be the hub for many engagement projects. They provide a space to connect with young people; to share media from other tools; to promote opportunities to engage; to campaign for change and more.

Some local areas will have private ‘social networking spaces’ within the local authority or schools – such as SuperClubsPlus or RadioWaves which practitioners may wish to explore as environments to work with. If exploring engagement in the wider environment of existing social network sites then more links are below.

Working with social network sites:
There are many resources to help practitioners explore the use of social network sites such as Facebook. The following were mentioned in the workshop:

On e-safety issues take a look at The Byron Review for the wider context, and resources from ChildNet such as Digizen.
For those exploring the development of applications Safe and Effective Social Network Site Applications might also be of interest.
If you have young people interested in Internet governance issues – check out the HuWY project.

Taking it further
The Youth Work Online network and the Network Participation networks are places to explore these issues more.

Political Innovation Essays: Towards Interactive Government

A few months back Paul Evans asked me to write a short essay/blog post for the Political Innovation project – taking a series of posts about how politics could be done better – and cross-posting them on political blogs from different places on the political spectrum. I managed to escape dissertation writing long enough to draft the below, which has been posted today as the first post in the series and is featured on the Political Innovation site; Left Foot Forward and Local Democracy blog so far. Comments, if any, should all go to the main Political Innovation site…

Here’s the post:

The communication revolution that we’ve undergone in recent years has two big impacts:

  • It changes what’s possible. It makes creating networks between people across organisations easier; it opens new ways for communication between citizens and state; it gives everyone who wants it a platform for global communication; and it makes it possible to discover local online dialogue.
  • It changes citizen expectations of government. When I can follow news from my neighbour’s blog on my phone, why can’t I get updates on local services on the mobile-web? When I can e-mail someone across the world and be collaborating on a document in minutes, why is it so hard to have a conversation with the council down the road? And when brands and mainstream media are doing interactivity and engagement – why are government departments struggling with it so much?

Right now, government is missing out on significant cost saving and service-enhancing benefits from new forms of communication and collaboration. But the answers are not simply about introducing new technology – they are to be found in intentional culture change: in creating the will and the opportunity for interactive government.

There are three things we need to focus on:

  • Culture change. Although there are pockets of interactivity breaking out across the public sector, it’s often counter-cultural and ‘underground’. Most staff feel constrained to work with tools given to them by IT departments, and to focus on official lines more than open conversations. Creating a culture of interactivity needs leadership from the top, and values that everyone can sign up to.
  • Removing the barriers. There are literally hundreds of small daily frustrations and barriers that can get in the way of interactive government. It might be the inability of upload a photo to an online forum (interactive government has human faces…), or consent and moderation policies that cover everyone’s backs but don’t allow real voices to be heard. Instead of ignoring these barriers, we need to overcome them – to rethink them within an interactive culture that can make dialogue and change a top priority.
  • Solving tough problems. Public service is tough: it has to deal with political, democratic and social pressures that would make most social media start-ups struggle. We need to think hard about how interactive technology and interactive ways of working play out in the tough cases that the public sector deals in every day.

The Interactive Charter is a project to explore how exactly we go about making government into interactive government. It’s got three parts:

  • Creating a pledge – The ‘Interactive Charter’ will be a clear statement that any organization (or senior manager within an organization) can sign up to say something along the lines of “I want my organization to get interactivity; and I’ll commit to overcoming the barriers to interactive ways of working”. With a promise and commitment from the top removing the barriers should get a lot easierOf course to just hand down a pledge wouldn’t be very interactive, so we’re drafting it on Mixed Ink.
  • Naming the problems…and overcoming them – We’ve already made a start over on the Interactive Charter wiki, but we would love you to join in suggesting practical challenges, and practical solutions, to interactive and digital working in government.
  • Putting it into practice – We want to pilot the approach: getting top-level support, and removing the barriers to interactivity from the ground up. Could your organization be part of that?

So, if you’ve got a vision for more interactive government, you can share it by redrafting the current pledge. And if you’ve faced or solved problems around interactive government, help shape the body of knowledge around each of the barriers and their solutions on the wiki. Of course, you could also just drop in comments over on the Political Innovation blog…

Young Rewired State at Oxfam

Update: Postponedwe weren’t quite quick off the blocks enough to recruit young people to take part in an Oxfam hack-day during the main Youth Rewired State week: so the Oxfam YRS has been postponed. We’ll hopefully work out a new date / plan in the next few weeks. However, other Young Rewired State centres are still on the go…

What happens when you take 5 or 10 young coders and designers aged between 15 and 18; give them a room at the heart of Oxfam HQ; link them up with designers, campaigners and digital experts; and give them a week to create things with government data?

I’m not sure yet. But in few weeks hopefully we’ll find out.

I’m helping to organise a Young Rewired State event at Oxfam HQ in Oxford to do just that – and right now we’re looking for young people from the local area to apply to take part.

You can download a flyer with lots more information to share with any young people you think might be interested, and a sign-up form is here. Deadline for applications is 25th July – but the sooner applications come in the more chance they have. Young Rewired State events are also taking place across the UK, so if you know young people who might be interested but can’t make it to Oxfam HQ in Oxford every day during the first week of August, point them in the direction of the national Rewired State Website.

Shared Practice Through Video

[Summary: Handy guide to all the stages of creating a video of a youth project; from selecting equipment and sorting out consent; to planning, shooting and editing your film]

The Open University have been working on developing a new space in their  Practice Based Professional Learning (PBPL) environment for youth workers; and I was asked to put together a short guide on how youth practitioners can create video content to share insights into their own practice.

The result is ‘Shared Practice Through Video‘, which, in the spirit of sharing, is under a Creative Commons license and available for download as a PDF here.

You can also browse through it on Scribd over here. The guide won’t win any design awards (in fact, if anyone fancies taking advantage of the Creative Commons nature to remix it into a slightly more stylish design I’ll happily send you all the original material), but it does take you through all the stages of creating a video in the context of a youth project (or other project contexts for that matter).

Guest post: Using data to highlight poverty and social justice issues in the World Cup

Today brings two firsts for this blog. The first ever guest post on the blog. And the first (and possibly only) instance of a post here dedicated to football. So, please welcome Pontus Westerberg from the World Development Movement, introducing this summer’s most essential data driven website…

Pontus WesterbergWho are you going to cheer for in the World Cup? Most people in the UK will probably support England, but what if you’re from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and your team didn’t qualify?

Even if your team did qualify, who do you cheer for when they’re not playing? Perhaps a team that plays attractive football, like Brazil or a team that contains players from the club team that you support.

At the World Development Movement we wanted to take this idea a bit further and get people to discuss issues of social injustice, poverty and unfairness that we care a lot about.

The result is the site www.whoshouldicheerfor.com which ranks the countries playing in the World Cup based on a range of development and social justice indicators such as maternal maternity rate, carbon emissions per capita and income inequality.

The statistics for the indicators have mostly been taken from the UN’s Human Development Report and place Ghana as the most supportable team. To get the ‘league table we ranked each team for each indicator, then worked out a mean position for each one.

We’ve had some questions about the rankings. ‘Why is Nigeria so high up?’, has been a common one. The answer is that Nigeria has comparatively low carbon emissions and military spending, but also that it is the poorest country playing in the world cup.

That’s right – to highlight the gross inequalities that exist in the world we’ve ranked teams with low GDP per capita higher than teams with high GDP per capita. In our view, the underdogs – teams such as Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria – from the poorest countries in the World Cup deserve our support more than richer countries.

Of course, the ranking does not represent the official view of WDM on the countries themselves. It’s meant to be a fun and interested way to think hard about serious issues. How come Nigeria is the poorest country in the World Cup, yet has one of the world’s largest oil reserves? Why does the United States – the richest country – give so little money in aid?

So, go ahead, get involved. Who are you going to cheer for?