Thoughts on Social Networking and Youth Participation event

On Friday I attended with some colleagues from Youth Service and Youth participation here in Devon, a great event hosted by the Children’s Services Network in London entitled “Social Networking Sites and Youth Participation”

We were going because we were also invited to speak at the event which was actually a very enjoyable experience.

The programme was actually quite short as it was to be followed by the launch of the National Youth Agency research project where Tim Davies and Pete Cranston went through the findings.

The day started well, we had already begun to network with people, what was great about the event, was that the topic was specific enough to encourage good networking with people from all over the public sector.

Here are my thoughts and notes – they may not reflect accurately what people said, this is my interpretation along with additional thoughts that occurred at the time.

Andy Sawford – Chief Executive of the LGIU welcomed everyone.

  • Highlighted key challenges
  • Breadth – can we use such tools to reach far enough out to also include the vulnerable and those who might be excluded
  • Depth – can we engage deep enough that we are affecting change and contributing and participating on real issues.
  • What works – we need to continually evaluate and learn from what people are doing.

Ian Johnson – Secretariat of the Youth Citizenship Commission

  • Gave some personal experiences of dealing and interacting with Social Networking
  • Posed some questions to stimulate debate and discussion throughout the day
  • Tried to get everyone to think differently and outside of their normal “box” by not assuming what we know is correct in these online spaces

Tim DaviesPractical Participation and convenor of

  • Tim gave a great “intro to Social networking sites” for anyone who hadn’t actually seen or understood what they can do
  • asked people what words came into their minds when he said the word “participation”
    • change
    • dialogue
    • influence
    • involvement
  • SNS and participation, what can it do?
    • messenging
    • rating services or consultation – developing a continual feedback cycle
    • embed other media and quick to publish functions
    • spread activities through networks, viral nature of SNS
  • Transformation
    • traditional structures still exist, but this is a direct challenge to that approach
    • moving towards a networked structure organisation

Liam Webber and Therri Brown – Young Advisors to the Young Mayor of Lewisham

  • It was great to hear directly from young people and there talk was perhaps quite controversial because they stated “we don’t think engaging with facebook etc will work because they are personal spaces”
  • This caused a great Q&A session and stimulated some great thought and responses from Liam and Therri.
  • the main reason for there views was that in my opinion, they didn’t want “the government” or even “the council” to become a friend as it would find out a lot more about them and they were not happy with that.
  • They did raise issues of exclusion which were valid
  • My view is that Social networking sites are only an additional method in the toolbox and if youth workers can use it then they can. The key is to build on existing contacts to manage the participation and not open up SNS to all staff to engage with anyone.
  • A young person still has a choice to refuse contact just like they would in face to face youth work.

Dr Julia Glidden – Managing Director 21c Consultancy

  • This was a great presentation and although it was by far broader than the previous speakers for me it gave an excellent overview and context to what we are all trying to do which is “try and keep up with society as best possible”
  • She raised some excellent points about we are on the edge, pushing boundaries. We need to be supported to enable this initial work to succeed for others to follow.
  • on the whole a very inspiring presentation.

Tom Gaskin – Norfolk BlurbNorfolk County Council

  • Tom was accompanied by a young person from Norfolk but i didn’t seem to make a note of her name.
  • A practical demo of how they use social networking with some deliberate mistakes for audience participation. this was good and made the points perfectly about not using personal profiles when engaging
  • Some Q&A which was great and followed the days questions perfectly.
  • Finished with some do’s and don’ts

Then came our presentation.

  • here is our presentation via slideshow – the video clip will be included as a separate post to follow this one.

Jasmine Ali – Head of Children’s Services Network

  • feedback from a survey on “how many local authorities are using SNS? – why and why not?
  • launched a facebook group to develop the ideas and work done through the day and to facilitate collaboration.

This was in effect the end of the main day. There was a short break, which was taken up with some great conversations with people who are keen to do similar things but need some extra support.

Then came the NYA research launch…… But that is another post.

On the Saturday there was a unconference called “UK Youth Online -= Towards Youth Work 2.0“, if you get a chance to read about it i recommend it, i was unable to attend but kept up to speed via twitter and the various comments/blogs.

We also did some post event networking, whilst enjoying a refreshment in a local pub, I always find this is where the best connection are made after events and some of the best conversations.

One particular conversation focused on the benefits of Youth Workers in SNS and i suggested that the presence of Youth Workers in SNS may actually reassure some parents about the perceived dangers that are reported. Youth Work could make a real positive contribution to the way in which SNS is looked upon. How this will be received by young people will be interesting, however there is no difference between a youth worker trying to make contact on a street or in a SNS.

Finally I do hope that we can start to hear some really positive stories about SNS and in particular youth work being done successfully in these new spaces as well. It is a valuable service and one which i have developed more respect for since doing this project.


6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Social Networking and Youth Participation event

  1. thanks for posting this – I couldn’t attend so helpful to get a feel for the event.

    On your own slideshow it concludes with ‘workers were using it successfully, informally” – can you explain what you mean by this? How was it successful? and what do you think the strengths of using social networks are?

    I ask because it builds on some stuff we did on the Saturday at the UKYouthOnline event

  2. The quote you refer to indictaes that youth workers were already using SNS for enagagement for youth centre/club activities or news. However this was done without any formal recognition or structure to ensure that they were protected or safeguarded against anything happening – disclosures, inappropriate behaviour etc.

    What i think the strengths of SNS, i will post on this separately.


  3. thanks Carl – I think I made the link from the film on UKYouthOnline moving to putting info online instead of traditional flyers – it would be interesting for new groups thinking of using SNS to keep some sort of records to compare how effective it is compared to traditional recruitment/promotion. Maybe also to do a cost analysis comparing the time required to set up & maintain an SNS profile compared to print runs – I imagine that would gain some interest from those holding the purse strings!

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