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.

Trying to explain network effects & motivations for using social media tools

picture-101I’m putting together a series of short guides for different clients on how to use social media tools in shared learning and online outreach. These will be a mash-up of my existing practical One Page Guides with a bit more theory on effective use of social tools.

One of the important bits of theory I want to try and get across is around network effects. Often the reasons given for using a given social media tool focus on the ways they are used once a network effect has kicked in: once, for example, lots of people have started following a Twitter account, or once a network of residents has grown big. However, when you start using a social media tool – particularly if your interests are in sectors other than technology (community music for example) – there is often a slow lead in before the network effect starts generating dividends from the time spent using the tool. Thus, it can be important to offer a different motivations model for using new social media tools.

You will probably notice, from the paragraph above, that I’ve not found a great way to communicate this point.. and I would really value your input.

Below is what I’ve written for one of the guides so far, but it’s much in need of a re-write. How could this be better said? Or should I be saying something else entirely?

Being open to the network effect

Many social media tools have a network effect. For each extra person who starts using them they become more useful (for example, the first telephone landlines had a big network effect – when only one person had a fixed line, it wasn’t all that useful a thing to own!). When you start using a new tools you may not have a ready-made network to join in on. If you focus on making new social media tools work well for you in your existing day-to-day work, then when the network effect kicks in it’s an added bonus.

For example, with social bookmarking, you can switch from saving your favourite links on your own computer (or scribbling down websites you must go back to look at on little scraps of paper), to using delicious to save them in a public online space. This is useful to you – as it means you can find your favourite links from any computer.

But it also brings a possible network effect. You might find people with shared interests who have bookmarked the same links as you. Or you may start to find a shared ‘tag’ to add to your bookmarks which helps you share information with an informal network of other users of the service.

If you start using a new tool only for the network effect, and you expect to get instant benefit from it – you may be disappointed. Networks are like communities, they take time to develop and grow. However, if you use a new social tool and weave it into your day-to-day practice, then you are sure to find a new connections, ideas and opportunities emerge over time.

Safe and effective social network site applications

[Summary: Inviting feedback on first public draft of working paper about developing social network site applications for young people that can be effective and engaging, whilst also promoting safety and limiting risk to young people (PDF)]

Update 18th May 2009: Version 1.0 of the paper posted here.

For the Plings project – concerned with promoting positive activities to young people – Social Network Sites (SNS) offer amazing opportunities. One of the main ways people find out about positive activities (the football club, dance group or arts society for example) is through word of mouth. So if you can feed information about positive activities into SNS, and increase the flows of information about positive activities through the networks of young people already active there, you could potentially have a big impact on young people’s awareness of activities they could take part in.

Take a look at the slidecast below to get an idea of how a Social Network Site application could work:

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: sns)

Of course, local authorities and professionals working with young people have a duty not only to make sure young people are aware of the positive activities available to them, but also a duty to keep young people safe from harm – and Social Network Sites can be places of risk as well as of opportunity. Which is why public and third-sector organisations engaging with SNS shouldn’t just copy the ‘viral marketting’ and often aggressive tactics of commercial SNS application builders – but need to develop a clear ethical and risk assessment framework for engaging with Social Network Sites.

I hope that this working paper which I’ve put together for the ISP/Plings project can go some way to starting off that development.

‘Safe and effective SNS applications for young people: considerations in building social networking
applications for under 19s’
aims to build a coherent foundation to support public and third-sector engagement with SNS through application building by:

  1. Unpacking the reasons why we need to treat young people differently;
  2. Exploring the features of Social Network Sites which lead to both amazing opportunities, and potential risks;
  3. Clearly identifying the risks to young people within the Social Network Site space;
  4. Proposing three levels of response that should lead to safe and effective application building;

The document also includes an outline risk assessment framework.

The three responses proposed are:

  • Abiding by ethical principles – and designing applications on the basis of principles derived from law, a respect for young people’s rights, and existing principles from professional practice;
  • Having a clear risk assessment in place for all projects – to make sure potential risks are identified and design decisions or resources put in place to limit potential harm to young people;
  • Building safety in – and creating applications which empower young people and encourage general safe online behavior.

So, if you’re exploring the use of Social Network Sites to engage young people, whether in positive activities or participation opportunities – or if you’ve got experience of e-safety or Social Network Site applications please do take a look at the ‘Safe and Effective SNS for young people’ working paper and share your reflections, questions and feedback.

Exploring further
This first public draft of the paper is hopefully just a starting point of a deeper exploration on building positive SNS applications. In particular:

  • The ISP/Plings project will be seeking to operationalise some of the learning in this paper, so it’s proposals, and the feedback and comments on it should have an opportunitity to be explored in practice over the first half of next year…
  • I’ll be leading an exploration of using applications for youth participation as part of the Local Government Information Unit Action Learning Set on SNS and Youth Participation. (N.B. Application deadline extended until 9th Jan 2009 in case you wanted to come along… but have not yet had chance to register…)
  • If there is enough interest – then I’d love to host a seminar on SNS applications and youth engagement early in 2009 – exploring both this paper, and emerging practice from the field. If you would be interested in taking part do drop me a line (tim at practicalparticipation dot org dot uk) or leave a comment on this blog post.
  • All comments and feedback on the paper are most welcome. Again, e-mail or comment below…

Consulting on the Local Offer, useful resources

A local community map developed using tools for consulting on the Local OfferI recently co-designed and fascilitated a series of dialogue events for The National Youth Agency (NYA) between young people, officials from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and Parmjit Dhanda MP (then Minister for Children and Families). We focussed the dialogues, which were part of a broader UK tour by Parmjit Dhanda, on the Local Offer.

The Local Offer is a guarantee introduced through Section 6 of the Education and Inspections Act that gives young people the right to:

  • Two hours recreational leisure activity a week
  • Two hour education leisure activity a week

This should be out of school, and local authorities are responsible for making sure there is provision, it is well publicised, and that young people can access it. Young people should also be involved in influencing what is provided under the Local Offer.

As we had three-hours for the dialogues, the first two with mainly young people – and the third with extra DfES officials and the Minister, we designed a process that:

  • Introduces the local offer
  • Creates a map of current provision under the local offer
  • Opens up discussions about how young people want to influence the activities that are provided, and how they think local authorities should be held to account for ensuring provision
  • Explores some of those methods of influence and accountability in more depth – exploring how potential barriers might be overcome.

The resources we developed for the session are fairly flexible – and so I thought I would share them here – as they may well be useful to local areas exploring the local offer, or others running consultation processes related to activity provision for young people.

I’ve included a bit of description about how we used the resources – but you are free to take them and adapt them as you wish. If you do make use of them, I’d be really grateful if you could drop me a line or leave a comment to share news of how… (

I’ve also suggested possible modifications to the resources… if you do make any of these, please do share your updated resources as well…

Local Offer Bingo: a name game

Local Offer Bingo CardWe used this set of 10 ‘Local Offer Bingo’ cards as our ice-breaker name-game.

Simply give everyone a card, and ask them to talk to each other and to write down someones name against an activity if that person enjoys that particular activity. Each name can only be used once, and you need to find someone for each of the 16 squares on the card. The first person to fill their card (i.e. to find 16 people’s names) shouts Bingo!

After you’ve completed the name game – you can use it to take about the sort of activities people enjoy – and how they now have a right to positive activities in their areas because of the local offer.

The list of activities came from young peoples suggestions in an earlier NYA consultation on Youth Matters.

You can download the cards for printing as a PDF, or for modification as a Word Document.

Possible modifications: Add images to the bingo cards like in the local offer cards below…

Local Offer Cards

Local Offer CardsThese cards add a bit of colour, and list all 47 of the activities used in Local Offer Bingo along with a suitable clip-art image.

We used the cards for a community mapping excercise during which:

  • We asked groups to draw out key landmarks in their communities
  • We then asked the group to draw places where they did stuff
  • We then asked groups to pick up Local Offer Cards that represented things they enjoyed doing, and to place them on the map if there were places where they could carry out that activity.
  • We used the picture that built up to shape discussions around what was and wasn’t available in the local areas members of the group came from.

We also had some stickers with icons and words relating to different barriers that might stop young people accessing activities. Things like ‘cost’, ‘transport’, ‘time’, ‘traffic’ and ‘attitudes of adults’. For some groups we asked them to add these on top of the map to show where barriers to accessing activities existed.

The cards and mapping excercise were really useful in starting discussions and making sure that everyone could have a say, regardless of whether they were comfortable with the written word and verbal expression or not. I’m sure there are many other uses for the cards as well as in mapping; for example, using them to prioritise the different sorts of activities a group would be interested in having provided, or adding ‘costs’ to them and getting a group to try a budgeting excercise thinking about how they would ensure provision of a wide range of activities.

You can download the cards for printing as a PDF for printing, or for modification as a Word Document.

Possible modifications: Give each card a ‘cost’ score according to how expensive or resource intensive that activity is to provide (like in David Wilcox’s Social Media Game) and encourage a group to try an budgeting excercise to work out where their activity priorities lie.

Problem solving chart

Problem solving chart - designing for changeThis is a really simple tool – and I was suprised by how well it worked.

In our sessions we held an idea-storm with the group to ask:

  • How could you influence local authority decisions about provision under the local offer?
  • How could you hold responsible decision makers to account for provision under the local offer?

(we used different ‘translations’ of the questions depending on the focus that had emerged earlier in the dialogues… but these are the overarching questions we were getting at).

With the results of the idea storm, we picked out key themes for further exploration and then held an ‘open space’ style series of conversations around these themes. We ended up with conversations on themes like:

  • Holding meetings with a wide range of local offer stakeholders and young people invited
  • Using the law to hold decision makers to account
  • Creating a bond between young people and councillors so neither can spend money on activities without the others say so

We wrote the themes in the header box of these problem solving charts that we’d had printed on A1 before the event (rather than just scribbling them up on flip-chats) and, after introducing the charts, asked members of the dialogue to select which theme they wanted to discuss and to go over and have a conversation around it. As fascilitators, we just stepped back.

The charts appeared to really help most groups self-fascilitate and to record some really good points. In particular, encouraging the group to answer the question “What would this look like in practise?” with a narrative about how their ideas would work really helped them to work through the other boxes on the chart.

The charts could easily be used in other contexts and could be adapted with different questions – although I think that:

  • Having the charts properly printed up on large paper
  • Having the first question invite a narrative

were important elements of the charts working as well as they did. They cost us just £1 each to get printed on A1, which was well worth it.

You can download the chart as a PDF here, or as a Word document for modifying.

Recording the dialogues

OK – so this isn’t a tool we created – but it was a tool we used. At each dialogue we took digital photos of all the flip-charts, community maps and recording charts and posted them on the photo-sharing website Flickr. That way we could easily share with others the authentic input given through the dialogues – with a clear accountable record of what went on…

Plus, if we were feeling really fancy, we could annotate all the photos, ‘geo-tag’ them to add them to a map to show the areas they represent, and could easily create a slideshow of them ideal for presenting to local authority officers or councillors with next-to-no extra work…

Attachment: Local Offer Activity Cards.pdf
Attachment: Designing for change.pdf
Attachment: Local Offer Bingo Cards.pdf
Attachment: Designing for change.doc
Attachment: Local Offer Bingo Cards.doc
Attachment: Local Offer Activity Cards.doc