Disability and children’s rights

I'm blogging from the opening plenary at the Civicus World Assembly. (Will try and post some notes and quick reflections as battery allows…)

Speaker Venus Ilagen from Disabled People's International has just put forward a challenge to ask whether the needs of, and accounability to, disabled children features highly enough in talk of Children's Rights, Women's Rights and in other rights dialogues.

Reflecting upon the recent UK draft report on the UN Convetion on the Rights of the Child – it strikes me that Venus has a strong point. An exploration of the rights, and excercise of rights, by young people with disabilities was not a strong thread in the draft. Do we give strong enough attention to the rights of children with disabilities?

Should we be looking at the recent UN Thematic convention on the rights of people with disabilities to see if it speaks to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and helps us draw a stronger focus on the rights of the most excluded of the most excluded?

Tagging the Civicus World Assembly

I'm currently up in Glasgow at the Civicus Youth Assembly, just about to start at the Civicus World Assembly and I've not yet seen much use of digital technologies to share ideas and media, and to build conversations between participants. We've finally just got use of wireless internet here today (after two days of the Youth Assembly disconnected) – and there is a larger 'Net Cafe' space opening up tomorrow when the 900-strong full World Assembly really gets going – and I'm hoping there might be some suggested use of social media.

However, in case there isn't, I've decided to experment with how social media use can be catalysed. Can social bookmarking, photo sharing and back-channels work effectively at non-techie conferences? What is needed to make them work? Is there value in making it work?

I'm starting off by seeking to encourage use of two tags for agregating links and content:

Youth Assembly: civicusya2007

World Assembly: civicuswa2007

The two key places I'm thinking content may emerge are del.icio.us (here and here) or Flickr (here and here) – but then with the international nature of the delegates I'm concious there may well (indeed will be) complete alternate social media communities which delegates from different countries are used to…

I've put together two quick summary documents on tagging / social bookmarking that might help kick start things (if I can find somewhere to get them printed).

Social Bookmarking (2 page HowTo): http://www.practicalparticipation.co.uk/files/Social%20Bookmarking%20the%20World%20Assembly.pdf

Tagging the assembly: (1 page summary) http://www.practicalparticipation.co.uk/files/Tagging%20the%20Civicus%20Assemblies.pdf

Laptop battery and hostel wifi permitting I'll try and post a few updates soon on how the experiment goes….

Open Working and Participation

Over the past few weeks at http://www.innovationexchange.net/ a team led co-ordinated(?)/fascilitated(?) by Simon Berry from ruralnet|UK and including a really diverse and interesting selection of innovators, thinkers and actors have been putting together an £1.2m Open Source bid to the Office of the Third Sector to run an 'Innovation Exchange' (i.e. the bid has been developed in a way that allows anyone to contribute and potentially feed into it's contents…)
I've made a few comments on the website, and reviewed and commented on version 4.2 of the bid document. And it's a real demonstration of the openess of Simon and the core team for the bid that my comments, and those of others, have been very clearly worked into the bid and the workplan it would lead to.
The experience of contributing to a collaborative document with the Open Innovation Exchange has got me thinking again about all the different policies, strategies and documents that organisations write about young people, without young people having the chance to be involved in them. Would an Open Innovation Exchange model work for the creation of these documents? What if every strategy a Children's Trust wrote was created in an online collaborative environment and young people had the chance to comment, edit and shape the document?
I'd like the updated Map and Plan sharing spaces [E.g. 1, 2, 3] on the Hear by Right website (coming soon…) to go someway towards 'open sourcing' the Hear by Right process, and allowing greater space for children and young people affected by a particular Hear by Right process to see and act on the 'documents' it generates – but I also think there are broader needs for us to explore open document creation across the world of youth participation.
Of course – there would be challenges fascilitating access to the technology and the context so that young people could meaningfully input – but providing open strategy creation didn't replace other methods of engagement – it would surely be no bad thing. Not least because if the organisations that are looking to engage young people turn to more open working across the board, then the journey to young people influencing decisions within them is, potentially, a lot more straightforward.

The challenge of change and network building

I'm currently involved in establishing a network of consultants and practitioners working on embedding youth participation (called The Enfusion Network).

For the network to function at its best, we need to encourage practioners and consultants to engage with an open working style that allows the benefits of a network to emerge.

But as Seth Godin's post on bananas suggests… (and as our experience working to encourage organisations to embed young peoples engagement backs up…) 'selling' and encouraging change is tough.

But if we're serious about the need for Enfusion (which we are). And if we're serious about avoiding 'organisation building' and making sure that we have a responsive network that really serves to aid improved practice and impact in youth engagement (which we are), then we need to stick at it.

We've just had a working weekend to explore the next steps for the network, and from that I think our core challenges are:

  • To keep our vision focussed on creating connections between practioners and consultants focussed on embedding youth engagement in organisations and communities – and to find ways of clearly keeping that focus while being open to allow interdisciplinary connections to emerge…
  • To find creative ways of engaging potential network members in Enfusion – both showing the value of making small changes to working patterns in order to be able to engage through the network, and through creating positive opportunities for connections to be made (developing on from our conference calls and coffee house chats…)
  • To find sources of funding and ways of becoming sustainable that don't rely on 'organisation building' and allow the network to remain agile and effective, responding to the needs in the field for critical discussion space, networking space and reflection space.

We're going to be working on meeting these challenges over the coming months, so all pointers and suggestions most welcome…

What I’m working on…

As I'm intending to use this space to try and blog some useful reflective content arising from the different things I'm currently working on – and as those things are mostly what are preventing me timewise from blogging about them – I thought a quick post just introducing them might be in order (and would help me post on them without extra introduction in future…):

In Action

  • Actions Speak Louder dissemination A celebration of youth-led grantmaking and projects. After supporting young people in the run-up to the awards ceremony I'm now working to share stories from the 15 winning projects online with the main aim of increasing awareness of the Youth Opportunity Fund and Youth Capital Fund.
  • Hear by Right website -first developed three years ago – I'm revamping the Hear by Right website on top of a Drupal framework. The site is a shared learning resource for users of the Hear by Right organisational mapping and planning tool for young peoples involvement in decision making – and includes a database of shared examples of mapping and planning from organisations using the tool. I've almost got the technical back-end in place… and I'm aiming to have it online by July.
  • Enfusion Network – a developing network for Youth Participation Consultants. I've build version 1 of the website here and we're meeting this weekend to review how the network will continue to develop. We're contrained on resource at the moment (so far we've built everything without funding…) but the potential for the network is really exciting, and there seems to be strong demand for a space connecting

In Development

  • GrantMaker – last year I delivered a national management information system for the YouthBank grant making network – and I'm working now on a more general version 2. It's designed to support small grant-making panels in capturing the information they need for effective operation and evaluation – and to help provide management information to funders. Mike (aka. Lionfish) is mostly working on the code – and we're going to be ready to start some user-testing soon… (if you're involved in a grantmaking panel, youth opportunity fund/youth capital fund etc. and would like to be part of the beta… get in touch…)
  • Social Media & Productivity Tool Training -I'm developing a training programme designed to help organisations update their online skill-sets and explore different social media and online productivity tools. More information soon…
  • University Applications – I'll be going to my (belated) graduation next week – and so it seems about the right time to think about further study. I'm currently thinking about something focussed on global ethics and applied moral/political philosophy – but I'm also interested in exploring the possiblity of a research masters around youth-led microfinance and grant making…

Not an exhaustive list… but a start…

A lurker no longer…

I've been holding off on starting a personal blog – preferring to contribute to particular discussions that are already out there online… but more and more I find ideas, resources and bits and bobs worth sharing that fall through the gaps of the other spaces I participate in.

There may not neccessarily be any prior coherent guiding theme for what ends up here, other than these posts being linked to thinks I'm personally thinking about or working on. Hopefully that will be enough of a rational for this space to be useful as an log of goings on, and an archive of generally useful things.

I've also been holding of getting a personal blog because I've not had time to get the design right, or get it all tidied up and looking how I want it… and – I've still not had the time yet… but here it is.