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Posts tagged ‘youth work’

Social Media and Gender

Image

This picture is taken from the latest research report Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives from Common Sense Media’s Program for the Study of Children and Media. They surveryed over 1,000 13- to 17-year-olds nationally to understand how they perceive social media (like Facebook and Twitter) affects their relationships and feelings about themselves.

I have just read the headline areas which cover a number of different topics, from wanting time ‘unplugged’ to preferring face to face conversations however the area that particularly struck me from a youthworkers perspective was the bit I’ve highlighted in relation to young womens feelings / thoughts concerning social media.

I hadn’t really thought about social media in the context of gender and this info graphic I think is essential for Youthworkers. (along with the others produced on the website).

I think there can be an assumption by youth workers that social networking and online relationships are happening ‘elsewhere’ (as in not in reality, not on the ground) and therefore aren’t important compared to the actual face to face activity or work that is happening. However so much of a young persons life now (including parents)  is online that it is essential Youth Workers understand what is happening in this area and include it in their curriculum. And the point raised for me by the first picture is what are we doing for young women in this area? How are we supporting them with their thoughts and feelings in relation to what is posted, especially photographs. I’d be interested to hear about youthworkers who are exploring this in their local youth groups, and what they / you are doing to support young people in managing and living ‘online’?

Positive Images, Positive Young People

In the governments recent Positive for Youth discussion paper one of the areas under discussion is the negative perception of young people and what can be done about it.  How can we and young people work together to counteract negative media portrayal?

This is a key aim of  West Sussex Youth Service and West Sussex Council of Voluntary Youth Services  who joined together in partnership at the South of England Show to show young people in a different light. Working with young people we developed a main stand, “Teen Square” where young people showed their wide range of talents, and then a number of differing stands and activities to promote the services available to young people. We feel that this both successfully engaged young people giving them an opportunity to perform and showed the wider public what amazing talent we have here in West Sussex! See what you think!

The Big Society in Practice

With further reductions in Youth Services I continue to be intrigued by the concept of Big Society and how this is portrayed by some as the panacea to all the financial reductions. Now – don’t get me wrong, I’m all for contributing and volunteering in your local community and believe voluntary youth services are particularly strong.  It’s just that basing policy and services on the assumption that people who volunteer will want to do more, with little to no funding and do what we would like them to do has the potential to be either the most amazing idea ever or one that is fundamentally flawed. I tend to err towards the later.

As we move to Targeted Services due to funding reductions we are withdrawing from the universal delivery of generic youth clubs in the more affluent areas of the county. This affects many of our rural villages.  With this in mind I am one of probably many who is working with volunteers within local villages to see how they can take on the running of the local youth club. The meeting the other evening was a great example of what individuals are prepared and not prepared to do. The group are really keen to ensure that the club in their village remains open. They want to do as much as they can to do this and want us to work with them to find youth workers. However they are also really clear that they can’t do this without support and involvement from ‘professionals’ who know about systems, policies and how to work with young people.  We are able (at the moment) to offer advice, guidance and support and have also pointed them in the direction of voluntary organisations working in this field. However whilst they are happy to volunteer they don’t want to have to take on responsibility for employing staff, health and safety both on and off site….and the list goes on. Members however are equally clear that we can no longer employ staff to undertake youth work in these areas and that all the work is the responsibility of the volunteer groups. Impasse!

In some of the areas under discussion there are small groups of young people who have quite challenging behaviors. The group are aware of their limitations and can’t understand why we are looking to them as volunteers to deliver what they believe is an essential service for young people that should be delivered by those qualified to do so. This resonates for me with what Nick Wilkie wrote last September:-

“Nobody has suggested that our banks, for example, should be led into recovery by armies of well-intentioned volunteers. So surely we don’t think that equally complex social ills can be remedied entirely without professional expertise and full-time commitment?” (See full post here)

Local communities know this, volunteers know this, we know this and yet still we march towards the dismantling of universal services regardless of the potential damage this may cause. In the meantime the local communities and I are still meeting to see what we can create in spite of policy, the Big Society, and other good (?) intentions because we all know that at the end of the day the ones who are going to miss out are those most in need of support, encouragement and opportunities – young people!

Apps and Youth Work

I’ve posted before about my interest in Apps for youth work here. Due to the changes happening within the Service I haven’t been able to pursue my interest as much as I’d like however it’s still brewing there in the back of my mind, especially when we continue to have conversations about social and digital media.

A while back Tim Davies  pointed me in the direction of Apps for Good . I’ve come across them again more recently. Have a look at this interesting app that some young people developed through their school.

I think that projects developing apps could work really well in a youth work setting, especially with those groups of young people who are disengaged from schoool. I also think that it brings a different focus to digital / social media work which can work alongside the (what I feel to be) dominance of social networks and facebook. 

Unfortunately as I am not techie so I still need to work out how I can make this happen!!! Any thoughts?

Social Media & Identity in the Public Sector

Yesterday I went to an internal event about Social Media for staff from a cross section of departments within the local authority organised by marketing and communications and facilitated by Public -i . Within the Youth Service, as many readers of this blog will know, we’ve been looking at how we can use social / digital media for some time to engage and work with young people so I was very interested to see our organisational approach and understand what more we need to do.

I have been mulling over the various discussions and trying to make sense of what I was hearing.

I think I was surprised (although I’m not sure why) by the basics that we were discussing re Social Media. The first part of the session was spent ensuring that people had a level of understanding around Blogs, Social Networking sites, the internet space, forums, etc which I had assumed people would already know. Time was also spent looking at the potential of developing and enlarging the networks available on the net to reach a wider audience and engage others in our debates and service developments. One of the local sites mentioned was Jon Jollys blog as an example of reaching a wide range of people involved in a particular area of work. Another was Adur Voluntary Action. The day progressed with quizzes that supported peoples’ understanding of how wide ranging social networks are and why we should be involved in them as an organisation.

There followed some interesting discussions about brand / identity and how much you can or can’t control the space. I was particularly interested in Catherine Howe’s   take on online and offline identity which she has blogged about here. This has given me food for thought and is quite pertinent to some of the discussions we have had at Youth Work Online where there are various discussions about professional boundaries, identity and working with young people. Whilst I understand what Catherine is saying about some of the issues of identity I feel that her discussions don’t go broad enough and tackle the issues of identity in the context of service delivery and engaging with young people and other vulnerable groups online. In my opinion the need for safety and safeguarding should be as paramount in online spaces as offline. This in itself will require separation between professional and personal identities which I think is something that can be difficult to understand. Consequently any developing training for youth workers should consider and deliver on this subject.

Sticking with the theme of identity we looked at branding and what this actually meant in online spaces. At the moment we have (as I am sure so most local authorities) a large number of policies and procedures for publishing and creating press releases and other marketing material. The majority of these are designed to protect the brand, reputation, professionalism and view of our organisation. These policies seem to come adrift in the world of Social Media which by its very nature is about others developing and sharing content with little control over where it goes. A draft policy for servivces developing work using social media sites was then issued for discussion. I was, and still am, surprised that this perpetuated the idea of marketing being about broadcasting and sending out info with little about how to enagage and involve our clients. A corporate approach was also being promoted with little understanding and guidance about using social media for professional development and networking.

At the end of the day I think I gained a better understanding of where we stand corporately with regards to Social Media. The Youth Service has already been tackling some of the issues re identity, co-design, participation and delivering services online. Whilst no means there I think we are clearer about what we need to think about and ways in which we might achieve this. And finally, although we already have links with our Marketing and Communications services I feel that now the time is ripe to work with them even closer in order to really move forward in the modernisation of our services.

Developing Apps for Charity and Youth Work

I’m intrigued by the possibility of developing apps for working with young people through supporting, advising and educating them in all aspects of personal development. Recently I came across iHobo from Depaul, a youth homelessness charity. The free app is designed to challenge perceptions around homelessness and is the work of charity Depaul UK and advertising agency Publicis London. The Charity  identified that it needs to attract new donors to support it’s work, and promote itself to a younger audience, hence the app. According to Depaul:

“A young homeless person lives on your iPhone for three days. Take care of him, or his life could spiral out of control. You’ll need to be there for him, day and night, providing food, money, warmth and support. He’ll alert you when he gets into trouble or needs your help, and the speed of your response could be the difference between him making it through in one piece, or becoming addicted to drugs. Can you keep him on the straight and narrow?”

I haven’t downloaded the app yet to see it in action however I really like the way in which Depaul have identified where it needs to develop. They’re using a range of social media tools to do this, including youtube and mobile technology. Information available states that the app is designed to make you pay attention, and think about how you can make a difference. It uses Apple’s latest “Push Notification” technology to send alerts to you when iHobo needs help. With live interactive footage it is trying to make this  virtual experience as real as possible. In all sorts of ways it is reaching its target audience through the very medium that they are using daily. How many of us are doing that in our youth work, or childrens services? What sort of things could we do with this if we put our minds to it? Not being technical minded I’m not sure how it all works however I’m sure that there can and will be more public service apps in the future.

iHobo is free to download so why not have a look and give it a try? Let me know your thoughts!

Connected Generation 2010: Social Media and Work with young people

As promised here goes the start of a new series of posts! I’m currently on the train heading down to Bristol for this event which I’m hoping will reinvigorate our endeavours in the world of social media and young people. I have been technically literate !!! (on a WSCC laptop but not the usual one!) and managed to get a dongle to connect and set me up with access to the internet as I journey down. (A new experience but oh how it opens up the world!)

This is a timely conference as we, as other youth services, are in the midst of service cuts and transformation. At the moment there are a series of consultations happening (both online and through stakeholder events) to try to gain more information and interest in the shape of future services. Som of these have raised how much / if services can be delivered online. I am therefore looking forward to ths event and on meeting with colleagues to discuss how they are working and what they have been able to acheive online.

I will keep you posted!

Celebrating Young Peoples’ Achievements

Last Saturday evening I went to the first Young Peoples’ celebration event for those young people involved with West Sussex Youth Service in Worthing. It was a great evening with over 100 young people coming together to enjoy and celebrate their work, play and involvement. The staff hadn’t anticipated quite such a big turn out (after all it was a Saturday!!!) which meant a last minute shuffle for chairs and finding space for the latecomers. As a ‘first’ it was a great step forward and hopefully next year more young people will be involved in planning and delivering the event now that they’ve got a taste for it. Here’s a brief look – :)

Virtual International Youth Work?!?

I was having a wander around the internet and checking on my Google Reader feeds this morning (gosh, I am getting technical with my speak!) when I came across this post from Vicki Davis on the Cool Cat Teacher Blog. I’ve followed the Flat Classroom project a little and also the Flat Classroom Conference.  and love the idea of this work. I suppose I’m now wondering how we might use this in youth work? Or perhaps someone already is and I don’t know about it?!

When I look online it always feels as though schools and education in some ways are so much more advanced in how they use social media then informal education (or maybe that should be the statutory youth sector?) I think there is a lot we can learn from here. thinkingAt the moment I’m reflecting on the West Sussex China Exchange last year and wondering if we have another visit next year how could we link ‘virtually’ to others here in the UK…or before we do that perhaps there is someone interested in how we join up virtually across the country and work on a subject together? Hmm……definately food for thought!

Mobile Phones and the impact on young people

Courtesy of Milica Sekulic

Courtesy of Milica Sekulic

One of my key learning points from the weekend that we have just run is the impact that mobile technology now has on young people and how different this is to my own experience, not only as a young person but also as a youthworker. When I was younger you either arranged to meet up with your mates when you saw them, rang them over the weekend to make arrangements (or to chat) or popped over to theirs if you hadn’t organised anything. If you didn’t do any of these you didn’t see them and had no communication until the Monday back at school, college, uni or whatever. To some extent this gave you an independence from the relationships you formed and meant that you had to just ‘get on with it’. It also meant that you had to forward plan to some extent or live with ‘chance’ and luck more.(Maybe they would be up the park, in the high street etc)

This weekend we were giving young people a taste of what it might be like when they go to India. On the Saturday morning when they arrived (mostly not knowing anyone) they were asked if they would hand over their mobile phones and mp3 players. I was amazed at the furore this caused. They were shocked that they weren’t going to be able to communicate with anyone! (Although there were another 37 young people on the weekend!! :) )  Many of them wanted to keep their phones to keep in touch with parents as well as friends and also found this difficult. However, hand them over they did and they were amazed at the results.

Feedback at the end of the weekend from the young people was how hard (but good) it had been not to have their mobile phone. That they had had to make friends all the more because they couldn’t rely on their usual network of ‘mobile’ friends and the support they got from there, instead they had to rely on the people they were with. They had had to have face to face conversations and depend on the group.

Now, I know I should know and realise, (after all I’ve seen DKs Mediasnackers presentation) but I hadn’t really put together the impact mobile phones have on delivering youth work until this weekend. Given my involvement in Social Media and awareness of tools like Twitter I’m surprised how I hadn’t really thought about its impact. That is the impact on youth workers and how it must affect the delivery on group work sessions, and even how you plan sessions, deliver residentials etc. What you do and how you’re doing can be reported in real time to a much wider audience via the texts etc that young people are sending during your session. This can have its downsides as well as its upsides and I guess that, surprisingly, I hdan’t really thought about it. I had thought about its use in terms of the upsides but not on how it could and probably does impact on youth work colleagues delivering face to face work. I think that I’ll definately be chatting to colleagues during our upcoming conference to find out more about this.

How about you? Are you of the generation who has always known mobile technology and therefore its just a part of life and youth work? Does it affect your delivery? What do you think?

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