Blogging for and about Youth Work and Young People

Archive for June, 2011

Carers and the internet (via CarersBlog)

I stumbled across this post having been signposted to it by Paige the young person referenced in the post. I think that it demonstrates really well how much more we can do with online services and how much we need to be thinking of this as we move forward in restructuring and developing our own services. Thank you to Michele and Paige for raising the issue.

 Carers and the internetNote: The following blog post has been contributed by Michele Lambert, Web Manager at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

Working day in and out on the internet, I can veer from an incessant curiousity and excitement about new technology and its applications to an occassional urge to throw my computer out of the window and make a break for freedom, to a place where the world wide web can’t reach me. It can sometimes feel like communication overlo … Read More

via CarersBlog

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!

Digital Media in the Youth Work Curriculum

Courtesy of Mosman Library

I am currently looking at the programmes that we will be delivering and developing for the Targeted Youth Support part of our new service. In doing this I have been reflecting on how we ensure that we embraceDigital & Social Media and make sure that they are an inclusive part of what we are doing.

For instance when we are looking at risk taking behaviour, are we making sure that we include online risk? When delivering courses on Independent Living do we include advice and information about identity on line, online gaming, healthy lifestyles and the impact of social media as well as other areas of digital media. Do we support young people in how they can use the internet to find information and check whether this information is correct? What digital literacy are we including in our programmes?

These reflections have been prompted by a number of people and reports, that I have recently heard or read. For example:-

In Munch, Poke, Ping  Stephen Carrick-Davies considers the risks which vulnerable young people, excluded from schools and being taught in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), encounter online and through their mobile phones.

Sangeet Bhullar  is the Founder and Executive Director of WISE KIDS, a non-profit organisation providing innovative training programmes and consultancy in New Media, Internet and Mobile Technologies, Internet Proficiency, Literacy and Safety. A key aspect of their work is founded on the belief that individuals and communities need the knowledge, skills and tools to understand and harness the power of the Internet and Mobile technologies.

Risks and Safety for Children on the internet: the UK Report by Sonia Livingstone, Leslie Haddon, Anke Görzig and Kjartan Ólafsson presents initial findings from a UK survey of children and their parents designed to provide a unique insight into the balance of opportunities and risks experienced by UK children on the internet

Reading these articles and browsing other articles on line have made me wonder how we start to ensure a systemic approach to ensuring that young people, particularly those not in school settings, gain the skills to make informed choices around their use of the internet.

I’d be keen to know if you’re doing anything around this and how you are making sure that digital literacy gets covered in informal education.

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?

Youth e-panel and QR Codes

The Youth Participation Team here in West Sussex has continued to look at how we can maximise Social Media. To this end we are researching whether using Quick Response (QR) codes encourages young people to sign up and get involved in our youth e-panels.

West Sussex Youth Support and Development Service (YSDS)  recently worked with the voluntary sector publicising youth services at the South of England Show . They had a very good response and you can see Prince Edward chatting to a group of the young people here.

We seem to be getting a good response to the codes and are currently exploring how else we might use these to publicise our services. I was wondering if anyone else out there had any experience of using QR Codes or suggestions / thoughts on how else we might maximise this sort of technology?

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.

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