Engagement requires blended facilitation: many methods, co-design, and time

Katie Bacon, director of Online Youth Outreach, has been delivering social media training for over four years across the UK, and responded to a request for a contribution to our exploration into how digital technologies can support young people to engage socially and economically with their communities. Katie advocates co-designing any processes, and a blend of methods. One size doesn’t fit all.
Each person attending the meeting has been invited to pre-pare a blog or questions to share. I wanted to blog about – Blended facilitation: Participative engagement of target audience (young people, colleagues, stakeholders, or community members) in highly productive conversations, whether face-to-face and remote, by applying the right facilitation technology and tools at the right time.
So in simple words – involve people who you want to talk to in the planning, development and delivery stages. Offer training and TIME to allow people to gain, rehearse and feel confident in co-facilitating. Be creative and realistic about what appeals and engages your audience i.e. music, drama, quiet space to talk, art, blogs, reports. online forums. voting, sharing comments under pictures, capturing film content. Again you need to offer training, guidance in bite size portions to allow people to ‘play’ and then express themselves. Need clear boundaries to keep everyone safe physically and psychologically.
In my view, blended facilitation is a continuous process. It starts at the point of an idea and or conversation taking place during a youth work session, staff meeting, conversation in a coffee room or in a work car park. Capturing the offline dialogue and translating that online (tweet, audio or mobile recording , facebook status update, photo or scribbled notes, sharing a web-link of an article that sparked the idea) to share with other people who may be interested or know someone else or an organisation who may have information, contacts, funding or training opportunities to help the idea flourish and grow.
Being consistent in uploading and sharing content along the journey to the end goal. Supporting people to micro-blog, create a photos storyboard, capture a discussion on camera and/or posting extracts from tweet #tag feeds. Throughout this process ‘reaching out’ to the people who can make change in local communities ie. Parent(s), community members, local MPs, District council members, senior managers of local educational boards, head teachers. Again, you need to share, show and support people how to access, use and be creative with digital tools i.e. parent(s) may not know how to tweet, a MP may have never logged onto a forum and posted a response, a head teacher may not know what a popcast is.
The key element in my view is not to impose new ideas or change but to understand the ‘starting point’ to the situation/challenge for the young person, young people, community members, colleagues, managers, council members, funders etc. Currently we are facing huge challenges that we as a collective need to deconstruct, understand and collaboratively form responses to high unemployment rates, sexual abuse of children and young people (NSPCC), isolation and negative portray of young people by main stream media, escalation of self harm & poor mental health in young people.
Blended facilitation requires me, you, us to ask:

  • What questions are they asking?
  • What is value base/boundaries for each person? Group? Community?
  • What conflict, misunderstanding have or could take place?
  • Are they interested?
  • What does success look like for each person? Group? Community?
  • What elements are capturing their interest?
  • What are their concerns/worst case scenarios going around their head?
  • What training/resources do they need?
  • Who do they trust?
  • How do they want to express their views?

I have been delivering social media training for over 4 years across the UK and typically organisations and practitioners are seeking a ‘one-fit-for-all’ solution to using social media. That is unrealistic and is discriminative to those who need different digital communication models, support or information. As practitioners we need to reflect and critically analyses our interpretation(s) and understanding of young peoples views and aspirations to build inclusive healthier and economically viable society. The challenge is have any of us lived or experienced that society. What is nirvana to a young person?
I am excited about the upcoming meeting and spending time listening and hearing various ideas that will bounce around the room to tackle the complexities that young people across the UK are experiencing.

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