Difference between revisions of "Youth e-consultations at NIYF"

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== Percieved Benefits ==
== Percieved Benefits ==
A number of percieved benefits have also been observed to date;
A number of percieved benefits have also been observed to date;
Young people participating have expressed their enthusiasm for the discussion forum environment.
Young people participating have expressed their enthusiasm for the discussion forum environment.
==  ==

Revision as of 16:11, 14 July 2006

Exploring Capacity for E- Enabled Youth Participation in Public Consultation

Throughout the course of the ECRG Project, sponsorship has been provided for a student; Michele Smyth to undertake research contributing to the degree award of PhD in the field of e-consultation. The chosen topic for this research is Exploring capacity for youth participation in online public consultation.

The Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) is a key agency in current youth participation activity. For over 25 years the forum has been a central force in developing mechanisms for enabling youth participation across Northern Ireland. Working with the 14 – 25 age group, they currently deliver a number of programmes that characteristically incorporate innovative techniques and a high level of interactivity among the young people involved. These programmes are delivered in various ‘real world’ settings such as youth clubs.

Through discussions with NIYF, a shared research interest in e-enabled approaches to consultation and their potential capacity to enrich current youth consultation activities has been established and access has been negotiated to conduct a programme of research. The research proposed aims to explore the capacity for E-enabling appropriate aspects of youth participation in public consultation within existing structures in Northern Ireland. Various stakeholder perspectives will be interpreted with a view to developing an online resource that has the potential to offer experiential learning opportunities of citizenship and its related themes within the classroom setting.

Adopting an action research approach, this work has involved the shadowing of a youth worker directly involved in engaging young people in public consultation processes. In keeping with the action research approach, cycles of research activity have been undertaken that observe practice, then identify and implement appropriate interventions in the form of e-enabled mechanisms The impact of the intervention and emerging issues are observed and these observations subsequently inform the next cycle.

The purpose of the cyclical enquiry is to iteratively inform the design of appropriate online mechanisms that may be used by NIYF to compliment their existing consultation work. During the consultation processes, where appropriate, an intervention in the form of an e-enabled component has been introduced. To date, a website using wiki technology has been set up to act as a platform for the complimentary e-consultation activity The youth e-consultation website

Over the last 12 months a number of online technology interventions have been introduced to compliment NIYFs consultation activities. These interventions have utilised discussion forum software and online survey software in a number of forms. The table below serves as a guide for consulting bodies approaching NIYF to undertake a consultation on their behalf, illustrating the opportunities and constraints of the methods listed.


The table illustrates the e-consultation methods NIYF can currently offer, however we are continually developing methods and trying different technologies. Any of the methods can be tailored and combined to fit the requirements of the consultation.


PROMOTION: Any method to be used will require appropriate promotion

TIMEFRAMES: As a general rule of thumb, an ‘activity’ period of 6-8 weeks should be accommodated within the planned timeframe. Please note this does not include recruitment, setting up & reporting after the event.

INCENTIVES: You may wish to provide incentives for participating, depending on budgetary constraints. These can encourage participation

Throughout the course of this work a number of issues have emerged;


Recruiting respondents for a consultation process and maintaining interest throughout the process is a key issue. Participants need to know why it is important for them to take part...what is at stake? In what way will their impact count?

As young people are giving up their free time NIYF offer incentives to participate in their face to face activity when resources permit, although no incentives for participating online have been offered to date, the possibilities for offering music downloads or other such gratuities may be explored.

Child Protection

The nature of NIYFs work with children and young people carries with it a legal and ethical responsibility in terms of providing a safe and secure enviroment free from the threat of harm. Upon introducing these online methods it became quickly apparent that a tenative approach would be necessary in order to ensure that these requirements were met. During observations of the face to face consultation processes, it became apparent that the online mediums capactiy to facilitate anonymity could prove beneficial, particularly when discussing sensitive issues.

Therefore, the discussion forum software in particular posed a threat as in it's generic form it allowed anyone to register and post messages. It was paramount that those registered must be young people and that they must adhere to a code of conduct. Hence the registration process was customised to ensure that only young people could register and that they agreed to the code of conduct established. Whilst this process caused a slight delay between registration and participation, the safety of participants was considered the more important issue.

Another generic aspect of the discussion forum also posed a threat..the fact that the forum was available 24-7 meant that it required particularly vigilant moderation. A facility was set up to alert the moderator via e-mail when a post to the forum had been made and it became necessary for the moderator to check for posts at regular intervals including evenings and weekends in case any appropriate material was posted.

Despite a desire on the part of the researcher and NIYF to roll out the online consultation activity to as wide an audience as possible child protection considerations have hindered this development. It is believed that adequate safeguards have now been developed which incorporate verifiable registration, vigilant moderation and any generic loopholes allowing access having been closed.

Percieved Benefits

A number of percieved benefits have also been observed to date; Young people participating have expressed their enthusiasm for the discussion forum environment.