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?


Exploring Social Network Sites for HIV/AIDS communication: online forum

Communication for Social Change: Future Connect ForumA while back I worked on a report for AIDS2031 with Pete Cranston about the potential for Social Network Sites to play a role in HIV/AIDS education. As a follow up from that, Ann Kao, from the Southeast Asia, Frontier Foundation has been running a number of workshops in Asia on Social Networking and HIV/AIDS education, and today we launched an online forum – running between now and the end of June, to host dialogue around the issue.

You can find more information on the forum and how to take part over on the Communications Initiative site where it is hosted.

If you know anyone specialising in work on HIV/AIDS education or sexual health education who might be interested in taking part, then do pass them the link.

Have you explored open government data?

If you’ve looked at any sites such as Data.gov.uk or the London Datastore website, where you can browse and access datasets recently released by government, then I need your help.

As part of my MSc dissertation research I’m carrying out a survey into the use of open government data.

If you can spare 10 or 15 minutes to respond, then please do take a look here.

(Oh, and there is a draw for one of four £25 Amazon vouchers as a way of thanking contributors to the survey…)

And if you’re interested in the wider research, I’m blogging that over on the Open Data Impacts project blog.

Where is DFID spending money on youth, and other interesting project data mash-ups

I was down in London again on Saturday for the AID Information Challenge – another data-focussed event, but this time looking at International Development Data.

One of the main datasets we had to work with was the DFID Projects Database – a list of all the different development projects the Department for International Development has been funding over recent years, and has funding committed to in the future. Given I’ve recently finished getting the DFID funded ‘Youth Participation in Development‘ guide online, I initially thought I would explore how to link project data to the case studies in that guide. However, I soon found myself joining in with a team of others who were trying to visualise the projects dataset in more general ways.

The result: a faceted browsing mash-up using the fantastic Exhibit framework – turning this into this.

The faceted browser means that you can select different countries (only by their country code at the moment), years, funding types or funding programmes and explore the different project funding DFID has been giving out to these.

Click through to the Map view, and where funding went to a specific country you’ll be able to see a map of where the funds were distributed. (A lot of funding goes to regions or is non-specific geographically – at the moment this just display under the ‘could not be plotted’ above the map).

Even though I didn’t work directly with the Youth Participation in Development Guide, down at the bottom of the list of facets you will find one to help explore youth-related funding: you can pull out all the projects which include ‘Youth’ or ‘Young People’ in their project titles or descriptions.

Thanks to the Publish What You Fund and Open Knowledge Foundation teams for organising the day 🙂

Youth Participation in Development: A Guide for Development Agencies and Policy Makers

Today saw the launch of DFID of ‘Youth Participation in Development: A Guide for Development Agencies and Policy Makers‘ – a new guide created through the work of the DFID Civil Society Organizations Youth Working Group and a young team spanning the UK, Nepal and Uganda, to act as a resource supporting Development focussed organizations and funders to explore how young people can participate as actors in development, rather than just as subjects of development interventions.

You can browse the entire guide online (another little bit of Practical Participation Drupal work) or download a copy from the guides website.

Building things at Rewired State: The Bump Game

[Summary: Documenting the card generators from ‘The Bump Game’ built at Rewired State DotGovLabs]

Update 21/03/10: More details on the project and background now on the Rewired State site.

I often write about youth engagement. My wife, Rachel, works with older people. But the last two days I’ve been part of a team at Rewired State DotGovLabs exploring how digital technologies and local data could be useful for those at a different stage of life, parents-to-be and their babies. This is a brain & link-dump of the two days work.

Rewired State DotGovLabs was a two-day hack-event in which developers and designers started day one with presentations from the teams behind UK Government ‘super sites’ NHS Choices, Directgov and Businesslink, and were then invited to come up with ideas for projects that helped those sites meet some key challenges, or which drew upon data available through those sites. The group I worked with chose to focus on information and data around pregnancy, creating a paper and web-based game (working title ‘The Bump Game’) which provides an engaging way for a mother-to-be and her partner/birth-partner to explore key issues that will arise over the nine months of the pregnancy.

The web-based version of the game should be available at TheBumpGame.com in the near future, but I spent most of my time working on a generator for printable game cards. You can find the final version, as of the end of Saturday, available here.

How does it work
There are two sorts of cards created by the generator.

Game Cards
The cards are created from demonstration questions that were entered into a Google Spreadsheet directly and using Google Forms. The questions are based on content from NHS Choices, particularly a list of content which another team at Rewired State had categorised and meta-data tagged for it’s relevancy to different stages of pregnancy.

The spreadsheet is then pulled into the card generator as a CSV file (Google Spreadsheets can be published to the web as CSV) and a php script works through each question and creates cards.

To add images, we make use of the code developed by Ben Webb for Plings which allows us to tag Creative Commons images on Flickr that will appear in random order on the cards according to the trimester of pregnancy that the question cards relate to.

If a link is provided to back up the information in the question, then we use the bit.ly API to generate a short version of the URL (although members of the team noted that http://nhs.uk is as short as http://bit.ly and an NHS URL Shortener would certainly be a quick-win development for someone to implement). We then include on the card an image tag pointing to the very handy Kawya QR Code generator which means that anyone with a QR Code reader on their phone can simply point the camera of the phone at the square barcode you see on the Answer side of the cards and can get taken direct to extra information.

The game cards are then output with some styling created by Josh and Ivo with the question and answer next to each other, meaning that when printed, you can just cut the page horizontally and fold it to get instant cards.

Unfortunately, most browsers don’t print background images and so-forth used in the cards, and we can’t guarantee how things will format. But, fortunately, another web-service came to the rescue, and right now the ‘Save Page as PDF‘ service from PDFOnline seems to generate two question/answers to a page for easy printing when we point it at the game cards. For example, click here to get it to generate cards for you.

We also wanted the game to have a localisation element to it (imagine GPs or Health Visitors giving a customised local game to newly pregnant women). Some of the questions are set up then to draw upon the NHS Choices API to localise questions and answers to particular postcodes.

To see that in action, press ‘Options and Details’ at the top of the card generator and enter your own postcode, then take a look again at the nearest GP question card.

Local Service Cards
I also made use of the NHS Choices API to allow the tool to generate other card-sets based on local postcodes. So, from ‘Options and Details’ you can generate a set of 10 cards each for nearest GPs, Hospitals, Stop Smoking Services, Parent and Child Services, Alcohol Services and Mental Health Services for any postcode (select type of card first and then enter your postcode).

The cards make use of the Google Static Maps API to print a map of the location of the service on the card, along with QR Codes that take users to details of the service on NHS Choices. The cards also display a count of comments that have been left on the service in question on NHS Choices, although right now only a count of comments is available in the NHS Choices API – meaning giving any further details isn’t easy without scraping the data.

Again, these cards can be printed through the Save Page as PDF service for easy printing.

Playing the Game
The draft rules of the game itself are available here – and as soon as a copy of the game board is available online I’ll put a link to that.

Next steps
I’m not sure where this project goes next – but I’ll update this post when I hear more from other members of the team about future ideas for the project.

I’m most interested in the web->printed cards aspect of the code, and will see what I can do to (a) open that code up (b) improve it and make it more general for creating cards on all sorts of services.

My own learning about the process of how a hack-day happens will also feed into the Open Data Impacts project I’m currently undertaking for dissertation research.