The eSynergy Blog – Katie Bacon

Katie Bacon works in my council as a youth participation worker. She has done some amazing work using social media tools for youth participation and she has created a website to share her experiences and resources  – check it out.

Society Guardian – People Power

I received a call earlier this morning from Katie Bacon, who informed me that there was a section in today’s Guardian “People Power” which contained an article about using social networking platforms for Youth Participation and Katie was of course mentioned (Well done Katie). However the whole pull out contained a wide range of interesting articles about Social Media,  Engagement, Participation and Social Cohesion.

I have since searched online but have not yet found the online versions. But if you are interested in this area of work and you can get a copy of today’s Guardian or even just get to read the People Power section I’d recommend it.


Social Media – our journey so far…

In some ways I am surprised by the amount of support and enthusiasm my colleagues  and peers in my council have shown in relation to social media and social networking, but at the same time i’m not surprised as i spent the best part of 8 months last year working and promoting the benefits to anyone who would listen and to many more who wouldn’t. But the hard work and determination has allowed other people’s creativity to flourish and i am starting to see lots of great ideas and innovative opportunities crop up within my council now and i am now looking forward to a year in which we will hopefully see some real change and transformation.

So i thought i would take stock and summarise the work and the areas my council has done or has started to work on in the areas of social media.

Corporate stuff

Policy review

Corporately we have taken a significant step forward by reviewing our internal internet usage policy and i have pulled together a draft policy for “social media and online participation”. This will facilitate staff to engage more with these tools and to understand their role and the responsibility whilst online.

Social Media Forum

To enable me to facilitate use of social media and to keep up to date with what was happening it was essential for me to set up an internal forum to share best practice, discuss new opportunities and to learn how to engage with the tools on a practical basis. We have a private facebook group with 18 members and the first meeting was focused on purpose, networking and promotion, the next meeting which will be the 3rd February will have practical demonstrations and how to use – twitter, rss and the IDeA’s Communities of Practice (slides and information provided by Steve Dale) and best practice examples from colleagues on current use. We have over 25 people due to attend the session in February and i am hoping this group will grow throughout the year.

Corporate Twitter Account

I set up a Devon County Council twitter account for the council which is fed by the rss feeds on our website. This is a simple step to take and one which easily demonstrates the publish once, use many concept. This has proved quite popular and as i write this we have 87 followers.

Staff Twitter accounts

To my current knowledge there are 14 staff in the council who have twitter accounts (listed below)I am in the process in researching if there are more, if i found out i will post them here.

DCC Twitterers (not all are constantly active)

  • Me
  • Sue Tylcoat – Solutions Development Manager @suety
  • Pete Morton – Enterprise Architect @podra
  • Sue Bicks – Enterprise Architect @subix
  • Russell Taylor – eComms @russ_t_uk
  • Martin Howitt – Enterprise Architect @mhowitt
  • Emma Jarvis ICT Programmes @emjarvis
  • Pip Tucker – Head of Strategic Intelligence @piptucker (private)
  • Richard Carter – Head of Business Transformation @rcarter (private)
  • Anna Matthews – National Management Trainee @localgovgrad
  • Lynda Bowler – Libraries Web Manager @lmbowler
  • Sarah Evans – Improvement Officer @sarahevans7
  • Katie Bacon – Youth Participation @katie_bacon
  • Shaun Carter  – Strategic Intelligence @Shaun32

In engaging with people either through presentations or just networking, i have promoted twitter, this is a tool which for a while i took a long time to get used to and didn’t really wonder how it could help, but after i started gaining followers and then followed more and more people, it started to prove its value and the networking and contacts i have gained through twitter and my blog are priceless and i look forward to meeting many of them at UKGovBarcamp09 in London and the end of January

Blue Kiwi Pilot

Last year we received a presentation from a company called blue kiwi who offer enterprise wide social software (there are of course others products available a google search will often provide many results). Anyway, once i saw the demo, i was hooked on the potential and was really keen to support a pilot. Fortunately my line manager (Sue Tylcoat – Solutions Development Manager @suety) was also keen and supported the idea. I contributed to a business case developed by a colleague (Sue Bicks – Enterprise Architect @subix) who also made the initial contact with Blue Kiwi and organised the demo, so i am grateful to them both in enabling this to come to the point where we are now in discussions to determine and agree the outcomes and deliverables of the pilot.

The potential of such a product is huge and is very difficult to measure and quantify making a business case difficult for all the things you know you want to see happen. However it does have real potential to reduce if not eliminate the need for internal email (over time that is) and really connect staff in ways they have never been able to with traditional intranet sites. The opportunity to see the knowledge grow and develop in front of your eyes in very exciting and i will be blogging on our experiences and lessons throughout the year

Youth Service – Youth Participation

This was really the starting point for all of the worek that has happened and will happen and recognition has to go to Katie Bacon – Youth Participation @katie_bacon for her tireless energy and enthusisam to get the social networking pilot off the ground. We had critical support from Tim Davies (who you must know by now). The work we have done in this area has led to us speaking at 2 conferences and i am involved in the LGIU Children’s Services Network – Action Learning Set.

We have also had visible and practical support from our Chief Executive (Phil Norrey) who did a 2 minute video about the importance of new technology in our engagement with young people.

Library Service

I blogged recently about our library service and how much they want to do, and if they achieve only half of what they are planning they will be leading the way in council in terms of innovative use of social media approaches and tools. I gave a presentation to their management team last year and there is now a half day session planned with about 15 key staff in libraries to develop a plan of action. Some of the areas of work i include below, but will blog more after the session.

  1. using Facebook or another Social Networking site to encourage and facilitate people getting folk involved with Exeter’s new library
  2. making better use of Flickr to share images in the Local Studies collection.
  3. subscribing to The Reading Agency’s GroupThing – Social Networking based creative writing/reading site for young people
  4. further developing People’s Network Enquire – by exploring real-time ‘Virtual Libarians’

All of the above has been incredible and the staff who are involved in these projects deserve huge credit themselves.

Progress report – SNS participation

The following update has been produced by Katie Bacon, Youth Participation Worker here at Devon County Council.

Current group established on profile

  • Don’t judge us before you know us!
  • Young Parents Group
  • Get UR Voice Heard – Website development

Young people whom have become friends to Youth Participation Team have been e-mailed with introduction e-mail which explains the terms and conditions of the acceptable behaviour, confidentiality and data protection.

Young people who only in Devon are accept as a friend. Currently we are not accepting friend requests from young people not in ‘live’ contact with Youth Participation Team.

Majority of the young people have joined relevant group, however, their participation/contribution on topics/issues has been low. I consider this due to lack of creativity on my part and the need to utilise visual/audio tools to promote discussion/contribution. There maybe the issue that young people do not consider the issue relevant, this will need to be clarified with the groups.

Future Plans:

  • Review terms of conditions/data protection/confidentiality/safeguarding- DCC regulations?
  • Utilise creative application tools to promote discussion/debate
  • Instigate discussion through different stimulus;
    • e-mail
    • group discussion
    • visual tools
    • live on-line debate (on profile/group wall)
    • vote
    • blogging
    • integration of website-utilising guidance notes
  • Regular up date profile with feedback/news of ‘live’ projects/meetings/events
  • Demonstrate how yp involvement has instigated change – up load videos/e-mails

Friend requests; clarification from management regarding acceptance of friend requests from young people not in contact with team – peer network.

Future group on profile:

Young people group; opportunity for elected young person to meet with local young person.

Evidence practice: record of each e-mail/wall contribution on the profile.

Evaluation: Invite friends to express/rate their views on the approaches/techniques adopted, suggestions on improvement and any criticism for continued learning and development.

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.