I've been thinking a lot recently about the role of technology, multimedia and social media in youth participation. How goes a video project really engage young people? What role does the video play? What about an online forum or a twitter-network? How can we make sure multimedia and social media really enhance the voice of young people in decision making? So, on a delayed train yesterday I sat down to sketch out the different ways in which technology and participation can mix.
The result was the 7 Cs of social media for participation.
Multimedia and social media can be used for:
Context setting – well prepared online videos, presentations and serious games can provide young people and adults with insights into an issue.
For example: Creating a common craft style 2 minute video to explain a local area agreement process; Getting the young people from last years youth council to record a training video for next years youth council.
Creative expression – Article 13 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives young people the right to “receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the forma of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.” In other words – young people a right to share their views through rich and creative multimedia presentations rather than long and boring reports. Social media and multimedia tools afford massive opportunities for young people to share their views and their stories authentically and creatively.
By preparing a creative high-impact multimedia presentation for a local authority or management board in advance, a group of young people can be sure their message won't get lost on the day.
For example: Instead of a Q&A session with young people and bosses, recording a podcast interview with them; Exploring different ways for young people to share their stories online and to help decision makers understand how policies and practices affect them;
Consultation – it's not just about online surveys. Multimedia consultation might involve electronic voting at events, text-message questionnaires, choosing between options in an online power league, or responding to context-setting audio and video to express a view. Multimedia platforms massively increase the range of ways in which you can ask a question and get in answers from young people.
For examples: Inviting young people to prioritise an organisations spending using a Power League; Using online maps to consult on where to build new youth provision; Creating dynamic online survey about the local area including pictures and videos to explain each question; Building a 'consultation widget' that can collect ideas from young people across a wide range of websites.
Conversation – in consultation you ask, you listen, you (hopefully) act. In conversation, you ask, you listen, you get into the details, you talk some more, you explore ideas and you come up with creative new solutions. Blogs, online discussion forums, web chats and video conferencing all provide ways to open up the conversation to a wide group of young people and create a great record of the conversation for all to see.
For example: Using an online discussion forum to develop an agenda and campaigns with a youth parliament.
Collaboration – youth participation should involve young people sharing in decision making – or should involve young people developing and leading their own projects (with appropriate support). The involves collaboration. And providing platforms for collaboration is something social media is good at. Whether it's a TakingItGlobal project site used to co-ordinate meetings, a facebook group used to send updates to project members or a Google Apps account used to put together a document or presentation – collaboration tools abound online – and provide new opportunities to transparently and participatively build upon conversations and to build towards action.
Campaigning – social media provides a wealth of ways to communicate a campaign message with a wide audience, and to get people involved in calling for change. Online petitions and pledges, viral videos, online campaigning toolkits, linking with and learning from other campaigners – all are ways in which multimedia and social media can be used in campaigns.
Change – you can't have a list related to participation without having Change. Especially not a list of Cs. Using the latest and greatest tools for youth participation only means something if there is the possibility of, and movement towards, change for the better for young people.
Of course, change is also on this list for another reason. You should certainly make sure you video, blog, podcast and photostream your stories of change as an inspiration to others…
So – what do you think? Would you add any more Cs? Have I got too many? What, for you, is the value of social media and multimedia for participation and engagement?