Donegal workshop – rather long action research note!!

I was in Ireland this week helping to run a Citizenscape workshop in Donegal (one of the pilot sites). We are looking to involve Youth Councillors and other young people as community moderators (Just as an aside – I really struggle with what to call these folks as a group – “young people” makes me feel like we are talking about them as an alien race but what else do you use? For now I will call them the folks at Donegal and you’ll have to remember that they are all under 25!). It was a really enjoyable session and I am looking forward to working with this lot as they campaign around getting government buildings using sustainable energy and getting more cycling lanes in Donegal.

Anyway – this post is really an action research note on the workshop to help improve the format etc for next time and then highlight points for future research so brace yourselves – its long.

The aim of the workshop was threefold:

  • Identify a topic that they wanted to work with

  • Make sure they were all comfortable using all the technology involved – including filming short pieces to camera

  • Get to a common agreement around how the site would be moderated and agree some immediate actions to get things moving

Overall the workshop was run very loosely as its difficult to know in advance where the participants would like to focus it. Next time I do this I will try and spend more time on the actual topic – we got rather carried away with the technology stuff which was fine with this group as they were interested but I will try and bring the balance back on the content. I think it would also be good to have a stand campaign template that people could start to complete in the workshop as a takeaway.

The first section of the day however was a discussion of current web tools that the team already use – so that we could then relate them to a citizenscape context. We organised the data in these catagories:

  • 1 to 1 tools where you know the person (or people) you are communicating with well. These tools include: SMS / MMS / Email / Skype

  • 1 to Many tools where you are is a shared space of people that you may not know in person. These broke down further into two groups: Social and Themed

  • The internet out in the wild with no really social aspect. General sites and services included:  Google,Music Download, Yahoo

I am doing a more detailed analysis on this as the catagorisation fits in with my wider theoretical framework that I am using for evaluation. However there are a few particular themes I wanted to pull out of this session which I will pick up on in my focus groups for the project evaluation:

  • Privacy / Safety – the group were reassuring aware of online safety and were careful about what details they revealed online.

  • Identity – they were also sophisticated about the need to have different personae online and were comfortable with the idea that you might have a specific persona for a specific purpose.

  • Space and place – in discussing the way in which we were catagorising the sites/services they had all listed there was clear agreement about the different social spheres that these worked for. There was a sense of appropriate spaces for different activities and when we started talking about campaigning we were able to talk about how we can use these different social spheres to contact different people.

  • This is stating the obvious perhaps but there was a huge difference in the level of online skills when compared to an older group. I would like to explore this more and look at doing more mixed age groups.

  • Also stating the obvious there was a big skills gap between the participants and the youth workers which would need to be addressed in future iterations. Happily the officers for this group were also really enthusiastic and used the event as a real chance to learn – but this could be a barrier with other sites and needs to be looked at

  • There were no gamers in this group – but they said this was not typical and we should keep an eye out on other groups.

The other thing to note is that the two of the main propositions around citizenscape – that you can use the Social Web to find people who are interested in stuff and that you need a specific place to talk about ‘civic’ issues both stood up to scrutiny here which is reassuring.

If anyone is interested I can share the workshop plan etc.

PS If anyone from the workshop is reading then I am very concious that I have not met the interesting blog criteria of having photos and I know this is too long – I promise I will try harder next time you you know know how I like to talk!!

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