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Posts tagged ‘identity’

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.

China Update – 2

Wow! We’ve just had a great weekend at Cobnor Outdoor Actvities Centre with the group of young people heading to China. It was a pretty packed weekend with lots of laughs, and serious discussions. We started off getting to know each other and working out how we wanted to work and live together both on the weekend and while away. It was a busy Friday evening as everyone chatted, learnt how to use the cameras, had the opportunity to diary their early thoughts about the project and chill out playing some old favorites.

It’s been some time since I’ve worked directly with a group so I was a bit nervous and wondered if I could still do it.  It didn’t take long to ‘warm up’ and soon we were all getting that buzz of working together, discovering new people, their hopes, interests and passions!

Saturday morning saw us out in the rain canoeing and climbing (well, I canoed but didnt climb as I had to prepare for the next session). It was an early start and the damp seeped through the skin as we paddled up towards the end of the spit. Most of the group I was with had paddled before so it was a good chance to mix, altough a couple of young people did spend some time going round in circles. Throughout the weekend we’ve been experimenting with a FLIP camera and, having got all our consents, here is a bit of a taster of what the weekend was like!

Saturday afternoon saw us all playing pictionary (!) with a twist of course! The game was fast and furious and was a great opportunity to start raising the question of stereotypes and assumptions (and how these were developed) as ‘old’ was pictured most consistently as an elderly person with a cane and glasses, ‘disabled’ through an individual in a wheelchair, and French with the eiffel tower. It was interesting to see how difficult it was for the group to draw a picture of somewhere they had never heard of, in this instance Bhutan. This was our start of exploring Culture and Identity.

With a chance to explore the papers to see how both China and great Britain were being portrayed headlines abounded and promoted an interesting discussion about where we got our information from about what was happening in the world and how the papers influcences our thoughts. As you can see, with the evening rapidly approaching we got ready to go out for a chinese meal, I know, it’s not the same as in China but the main objective was to encourage the group to use chopsticks and also to try food that they hadn’t tried before. There were a lot of new taste experiences!!!!!

Unfortunately I had to leave later that evening. The group were brilliant and worked really hard as well as having a lot of fun. I’m keen to get an update to see how everyone got on with raft building and putting together a youth opportunity fund bid. I’m sure we’ll have more news to follow soon…..

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