An update of sorts

[Summary: I’m heading into full time study, and Practical Participation welcomes Bill Badham as our work continues to grow]

I’ve been informally sharing the news in tweets and conversations for a while now – but I realise I’ve been remiss in keeping readers of this blog up-to-date with a couple of big changes for me. So – here’s the news:

In two weeks I start a full time MSc at the Oxford Internet Institute and St Cross College – studying for a taught course in the ‘Social Science of the Internet’. I’ve been wanting to return to University to spend some quality time studying and building by research skills for a while now – and so I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to spend the next 10 months deepening my understanding of both social scientific methods and contemporary scholarship of the internet (and of course, to get back into student life…)

Practical Participation
When I discovered I was heading back to University I thought that might mean a drop in activity for Practical Participation, the consultancy organisation which has emerged from, and acted as a vehicle for, my work over the last couple of years.

However, it turns out that is not to be – and next week Bill Badham will be joining as a co-director of Practical Participation, as we expand and refocus our work on supporting and catalysing action around youth participation and the ethical, effective use of social technology in participation and work with young people.

Bill is not only a thought and practice leader in his deep commitment to children’s rights and to youth participation, but he has also been my friend, mentor and colleague for the last 10 years – so I’m delighted that Bill is on board shaping the future of Practical Participation.

MSc + Practical Participation
Of course, as I’ll be studying full-time, my work with Practical Participation may take on a slightly different form. Whilst Bill will be out actively supporting organisations in their youth engagement work, I’ll be focussing on catalysing action around digital youth work & participation – working in-between times of study to carry on delivering innovation projects and get involved in developing and delivering training.

So –

  • I may be a bit slower getting back to work related e-mails & less able to make meetings & conferences during term-time;
  • But, look out for exciting new development emerging as we find out how best to use Practical Participation to create and catalyse social change;

Plus, keep an eye out for the new Practical Participation website and blog coming soon.

And Oxford Sing…
And whilst I’m talking of exciting developments, there is one I can’t take credit for, but which I’m still pretty chuffed about. As well as helping out with the work of Practical Participation, making our recent house move work smooth as anything, and taking on tricky task of making me take a full weeks holiday last week – my wife Rachel has been launching her own freelance community enterprise – now running singing for health and community music workshops across and around Oxford.

The journey continues…

After a pause, an update and promise of posts to come

It feels a little ironic that, just before two days where I’ll be concertedly spending most of my time telling people all about the potential of social media, and quite probably including the URL of my blog on the last slide of the different presentations I’m giving – anyone visiting it will find that the last post was almost a month ago!

So – to make amends for that, here’s a (fairly) quick round up of news that might explain why I’ve not had much chance to blog here over the last four weeks – and, woven in, a preview of some of the blog posts that are hopefully to come:

Youth Work and Social Networking
After six months of literature reviews, surveys, focus groups and action research I hope we’ve managed to get to a strong theoretical foundation that makes the case for youth work engagement with online social networks – and a series of practical steps and useful resources for organizations moving forward with their social media strategies and planning how their youth services can engage with social network sites.

The research launch is tomorrow – and the final report will be available soon from here.

Blog posts to expect: Headlines form the final YWSN report & a copy of our launch presentation…

UK Youth Online
Back in January at BarCampUKGovWeb instigated by Jeremy Gould I was struck by how many conversations were about engaging with young people through the web – but how there were not many people there whose core work involves youth engagement. And through the Youth Work and Social Networking research I quickly found I was talking to lots of people who are doing great things with technology in youth work and youth engagement – but who are perhaps not always aware of each other. So – after an early stalled attempt – this Saturday will see the first UK Youth Online unconference/open space event kindly hosted by DIUS.

Plus there has been quite a network building on the Ning website I set up to help organise the event. So much so – that Ning recently included it as one of their featured networks.

Blog posts to expect: reflections on some of the great projects being showcased, notes from the discussion groups & my reflections on organising an national event for 70 people with no budget, no admin support but a lot of help from your friends..

Video Change
The Video Change project was an pilot I ran with Oxfam exploring how online training can be used to equip activists to use online video in their campaigning. The last weekly module in the course came in August – and I’ve just finished the project evaluation.

Blog posts to expect: tips for using online video in campaigning, reflections on running online training 

Substance Views
The lovely team at Substance are driving some fantastic innovations not only with their successful bid to roll out and expand their Plings project (collating information about places to go and things to do for young people), but with a series of events they are hosting called ‘The Great Monitoring and Evaluation Debate’. Because Substance seem to like things ending in ‘ing’ (Plings etc.) I’ve been helping them set up and facilitate a Ning network to continue the discussions from their events.

Could new online and open source tools that enable ongoing monitoring and evaluation bring about the end of the Annual report? Feel free to join the discussions.
Blog posts to expect: A one page guide to using Ning, exploring the future of monitoring and evaluation,

APYCO Interactive

The Association of Principle Youth and Community Officers are heading for constitutional change. And they’re also embracing new technology – with an online consultation for their members about the proposed changes. I’ve been setting up and moderating the consultation blog, and will be at their upcoming conference to do some live reporting.

Blog posts to expect: A follow up to 7 Reasons Why Youth Workers Should be Blogging with ‘n reasons for the heads of integrated youth services to set up their blogs’

Building Democracy
I’ve pitched a few ideas into the Building Democracy pool – and over the last 72 hours have working with Justin Kerr-Stevens trying to turn this one – about participation through social network sites and across different platforms – into a fully fledged application to the competition.

Blog posts to expect: using mobile phones as the start of a pathway to participation

Moving House
It happened a while back – but I’m not sure I mentioned it on the blog. After a two year stint in the Midlands, I’m now based back in Oxford. And based near a lot of good coffee shops if you are ever interested in meeting for a cuppa. 

Blog posts to expect: (see below)

Oxford City Fairtrade Coalition
And in moving back to Oxford I’ve got back in touch with the great folk of the Oxford City Fairtrade Coalition. We’re just in the process of re-applying for Fairtrade City status – so if you’re Oxford based any know any where in the city using Fairtrade (specifically community groups and businesses using Fairtrade products in company canteens etc) please do drop me a line.

Blog posts to expect: something about fairtrade in Oxford

Sex Sense Website
Years ago I designed this. You can see it’s from an earlier age. Well – time has come to revamp the website of Portsmouth’s sexual health advice service for young people – and this time instead of a web strategy I’m exploring the idea of a content strategy – creating widgets, video clips and advertising copy to get the message about free support and advice for young people out beyond the confines of the single site.

Blog posts to expect: more on the idea of a content strategy, 

New Blog
If you’re a regular reader you might notice I’ve revamped the blog. After a good few hours of hacking I’ve finally transferred from Drupal to WordPress (Drupal 5 to WordPress 2.6) and I’ll be doing more to tidy it all up soon.

Blog posts to expect: quick reflections on a hacky way to move from Drupal to WordPress.

That’s it for now….
I can’t promise all those blog posts will be here next time you look – nor that I won’t hit another short blogging hiatus – but, if any those topics interest you and you’re not already subscribed – please do look for the subscribe links around the blog.

And if you are a regular reader – do please feel welcome (nay, feel positively invited!) to let me know what posts you might like to see here in the future? Are the posts previewed about the sort you subscribed for? What sort of learning do you want to see shared here?

More soon – and I promise there won’t be a month’s wait this time…

Online forums and hacks (of the journalist variety)

In a presentation about a local Finnish youth website:

In research conversations with journalists in the local area where the website is based – it was found that all the journalists interviewed used the site as a source for stories. In the case of young people calling for a skating hall in the town – it sounds like journalists were taking young peoples discussions and views from the online forum and putting them to decision makers to get answers on their behalf – and to keep the campaign going in a way that led to a skating hall being built… (!)

That raises some interesting questions:

How many local journalists are picking up positive stories from your local youth website? Is there anything for them to pick up? How can a local youth discussion forum provide positive space for young peoples' voice to cross over into the mainstream media? Or are we going to need some Finnish journalists before we can see the same happening here?