10 messages in planning digital engagement with young people

Below are 10 messages to consider in planning any project using digital technology to engage young people and address the key challenges they face. I think most are relevant to any digital engagement process.

The messages have been summarised by Tim Davies from the event we ran last week with Nominet Trust as part of the exploration I reported here. The exploration will help frame a major funding challenge programme. Tim writes at socialreporters.net:

This Thursday we brought together a fantastic crowd of 25 thinkers, social entrepreneurs, funders, youth workers and young people at the RSA in London to explore some of the messages that had been emerging so far in our Young People and Digital Technology exploration.

In a packed two hour session we took some headline challenges faced by young people (youth unemployment; lack of youth influence of local decision making), and dug a bit deeper into them to find underlying challenges and unmet needs. With that as our context, we looked at the messages identified so far, which had been printed out as cards, and discussed them in groups to see how they might be relevant to the challenges.

Here’s the top ten messages, with links to the document where we have been crowdsourcing ideas:

19. Blend online and offline

Digital and online innovations don’t only have to be delivered online. Online tools can support local community building and action – and projects should plan to work both on the web, and in local or face-to-face settings.

6. Use games to engage
Adding an element of gaming to your project can provide the incentives for young people to get engaged. Collecting points, completing challenges and competing with others can all spur young people on to get involved and stay involved.

7. Address the innovation gaps in the back-office
Not all digital innovations have to be about directly using technology with young people. Putting better tools in the hands of frontline workers, and intermediaries who work with young people can create the biggest benefit.

17. Support young people to be creators, not consumers
Digital technology can enable young people to be content creators: “youth can learn video making, digital engagement etc. – and if it aims to be social and community focused – imagine the possibilities!”. Many youth don’t take advantage of digital opportunities for creativity – and action to support them to do so is important. From creating multimedia content, to providing feedback on the good and the bad – young people can be involved in shaping digital resources developed to support them.

3. Encourage co-design/co-design with young people
The only way to create services for young people, is in collaboration with young people. User-centred design, agile and iterative design methods all provide ways for young people to be involved through the process of creating innovative solutions.

4. Consider the livelihoods of the future
Digital technology is not just about easier ways to find a job: it changes the nature of work. Home working, portfolio working, freelancing and co-operative business structures are all enabled by the Internet. Better CVs and job information won’t solve the unemployment crisis: we need to use digital technologies to create and support new ways of working and making a living.

18. Use digital tools to enable peer-to-peer learning
In the Internet age education doesn’t have to be top-down, digital tools allow for peer-to-peer learning: helping people come together to teach, learn and collaborate.

24. Use technology to personalise services
Digital technologies can be used to aggregate content from multiple sources, and customise an individuals experience of online information. Young people out of work or education are not a homogeneous group: and have many different needs.

30. Be network literate and create new connections
Although young people might be using online social networks like Facebook all the time, the connections they have to inspiration, role models and opportunities for volunteering, education or employment can be limited. Think about how digital tools can help you to map out networks, and to make new connections that broaden the horizons and increase the resources accessible to young people.

30. Recognise the diversity of youth
Who are the young people? Although there are many similarities across the 16-24 age group, there are also some key differences in how they use technology.

As Tim says, the next steps are:

  • Iteratively refine the top 10 messages, drawing on ideas from the other messages
  • Identify key questions and issues to explore for the top messages
  • Find social media resources that can provide insights into the content of the messages
  • Pursue other emerging storylines and issues with blog posts, video interviews, shared slides and storifys
  • Start weaving this all together into an online resource and write-up

I’m excited both by the quality of ideas generated so far, and the potential for this sort of exploration that blends online and face-to-face discussion. Fortunately we are following the number one message in our process. If you have further ideas, please do contribute through the crowdsourcing document, or get in touch directly.

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