Friday, 19 June 2009

Social networking and positive engagement

TYPECAST - a positive example of public sector social networking
In my blog entry of 25th May 2009 I wrote about a couple of the problems with social networking, but concluded that Councils still needed to engage within this medium, partly to counter some of the misuse. I gave the example of Cyber Mentors as one illustration of how to do this, and today I want to highlight another in order to illustrate the following points:
  • that public sector bodies can do this successfully;
  • how the principles of Groundswell, which I've previously written about, can be applied;
  • and to publicise and celebrate that good work.

The site I'm referring to is called TYPECAST and has been created by the Lancashire Police Authority working with a range of partners including the local radio station Rock FM and organisations like Government Office North West, local NHS trusts and councils. And, most importantly, working directly with the target audience for the site: young people. [20/10/10 Note: since my orginal post the site has moved onto FaceBook]

The idea was to challenge public perceptions about young people (anti-social behaviour, knives and guns, drugs and alcohol), and to engage the young people themselves to help fight these behaviours when and where they do occur.

The project leader recognised early on that young people are media savvy. They love social networking sites, viral marketing, instant messaging and blogs. So she set about creating a bespoke social network site aimed at 11-19 year olds. It would have:
  • A Young People's Educational programme
  • An Awards scheme
  • A Schools Survey
  • Media activities
The educational programme would include tools for teachers in the form of downloadable resources for teachers designed by young people for use in classroom debate.
Working with young people, she identified the four key areas of greatest challenge for young people face in terms of negative stereotyping and misconceptions:
  • Knives and guns
  • Anti social behaviour and Criminal Damage
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Gangs
The schools survey is to find out more about the causes of youth behaviour and linkages to crime and anti social behaviour so that more can be done to prevent it. It is about the neighbourhood and communities that they live in, the friends they socialize with as well as finding out individual young people's views and opinions about themselves. It's completed online once a year by all year groups, is fully confidential and has reports available to all partners, enabling highlighting of trends.

The media activities are delivered by radio station Rock FM and include a media bus to run free sessions over the summer holidays across Lancashire where young people can make videos, podcasts, take pictures, create a piece of music and then upload direct to the site.

The awards scheme is one that recognises and celebrates the positive contributions of young people (i.e. their films and other media creations). These results are shared on the TYPECAST website, and crucially, also on major social networking websites: YouTube, Facebook and Bebo. The films are also available through MTV Boom.
So how does this work fit the Groundswell methodology? In my blog post of 9th September 2008 I summarised the approach. Here's how I think TYPECAST maps on.

The process: 

What Groundswell approach What TYPECAST did
People get a profile of the people you want to engage / target, to show how they are likely to engage and what they are ready for Young people aged 11-19; use of school surveys for profiling
Objectives define your goals - do we want tap into the community to find out what they're thinking, or do we want to engage with them in some way? Connect with young people to design services that are relevant for them and address issues of knife crime, anti-social behaviour & criminal damage, gang culture, drugs & alcohol, and guns
Strategy then decide what you want to do about it - what's going to change, e.g. will the community build more self-help as a result and free the council from some of the provision? Young People's Educational programme
Awards scheme
Schools Survey
Media activities
Technology comes last! Only after going through the previous steps do you look at what technology solution(s) you want to use. Social networking site
Media bus
Links to Bebo, MTV, etc.

Meeting objectives:

What Groundswell approach What TYPECAST did
Listening to better understand your communities Schools Survey
Consulted with young people
Talking to spread messages Links to other social networking sites
Energising to engage your most enthusiastic people and allow them to spread the message even more Use the young people to create the messages
Supporting providing tools for people to support each other: self-help Media bus, social networking, awards scheme
Embracing integrating people into the way you work, e.g. getting them to help design and change your services TYPECAST site designed by young people

And it really works! I'll leave the closing remarks to quotes from some of those who were involved with TYPECAST:

Suzanne Holroyd - PSHE & Offsite Learning Consultant, Blackpool Borough Council:
"Blackpool Children's Trust is very pleased to have been given the opportunity to become involved with the Typecast project. The concept is excellent and the abundant resources have been greeted with enthusiasm by PSHE staff in our secondary schools and other educational settings. We look forward to seeing the fruits of the young people's labour as the project develops."

Caroline aged 14, a member of Preston Youth Council and group facilitated by the Young People' Service in Preston (LCC):
"Typecast is a great way to join a really important debate on things that really matter to young people and express my own views in a really fun way.  What's more, they'll be heard."

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