Want a bit of exercise? Fancy being a bit more digitally agile?

Liz Green

Liz Green

Digitally Agile National Principles

I’m Liz Green, Senior Development Officer at YouthLink Scotland. I’m not a tech expert, but I use computers, smartphones, the internet and social media in my daily life. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of potential for using social media in my youth work, but faced various challenges to this. I know colleagues who have been in similar positions and have looked for support to develop the digital aspects of their work.

The last thing people want is a set of prescriptive rules, especially in an environment that is changing so quickly. However a value-based set of principles about how we make the most of technology in line with the ethics and approaches of our work, that’s something I could buy in to!

dacld logoWhat are they then?

A national framework of guiding principles for the use of digital technology and social media in community learning and development. The Community Learning and Development sector comprises community based learning in the broadest sense including youth work, adult learning and community development, family learning, community health and arts activities, practitioners, volunteers and organisations.

The Principles have been developed with key stakeholders across CLD and are intended to drive forward effective and safe use of digital technology and social media in CLD practice.

Digitally Agile is a partnership project between YouthLink Scotland, Learning Link Scotland and the Scottish Community Development Centre and has been supported by Education Scotland.

Who are they for?

The Principles could be used and adapted by anyone. However they are designed primarily for CLD organisations and services from the statutory, voluntary and community sectors to sign up to. Organisations don’t need to be meeting all the principles already – signing up is a commitment to aspire to the principles and to try out building them into your policy and practice.

Why do we need them?

CLD is well placed to be at the forefront of digital participation initiatives. We work with some of the most disadvantaged young people, adult learners and communities in society. The way we work, our values and ethics mean that through our practice we can help people to increase their digital literacy and improve their lives, relationships and voice.

digital cover imageWe have the flexibility around learning and development opportunities to use technology for exciting and innovative practice. There are already some fantastic examples, see our case studies.

However, there are many practitioners and organisations in CLD who are not yet utilising digital technology and social media in their practice. Throughout the Digitally Agile project, including our research report, we have had consistent requests from practitioners to develop relevant guidance to support them to develop this area of work.

The Digitally Agile National Principles are designed to encourage organisations to empower their staff to use these tools in their practice, whether this is through; building digital considerations into policy, creating robust professional guidelines, providing appropriate resources or training staff to make best use of digital technology and social media.

What can I do?

Check out the Digitally Agile National Principles! Have a look at the website, discuss them with your colleagues, think about ways they could help you address challenges. Get your organisation to sign up and do let us know how you are putting them into practice.




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Young voters and the referendum – a legacy

Engaging young people with politics: Trusting schools and enfranchising 16-year olds

Jan Eichhorn

Dr Jan Eichhorn, University of Edinburgh, School of Social and Political Science (Social Policy)

The referendum on Scottish independence was remarkable in many ways. But one key feature had little to do with the relationship of Scotland and the UK, however it may have far-reaching consequences. For the first time 16- and 17-year olds were allowed to take part in a national vote. This decision was greeted with some applause, but also a lot of caution. Many suspicions were raised about young people being disinterested in politics, not informed about any of the issues, mainly just voting like their parents or inappropriately influenced by teachers in school. While these concerns may be considered genuine, there was a major problem: We did not have empirical data to properly verify these claims.

We did know that young people have been much less likely to vote in previous elections compared to older members of the electorate. But equating this with political apathy would be a stretch – as we know from many strands of research, young people may feel a strong distance to party politics, but they have increasingly taken up other forms of political engagement. Secondly, most studies have analysed those 18 and above – so drawing conclusions for under 18-year olds may be inappropriate, as they largely spend their days in a rather distinct context compared to their slightly older counterparts: school education. To address this lack of representative data on under-18 year olds we conducted two representative surveys of 14-17 year olds in Scotland in April and May 2013 and 2014. We interviewed them and one of their parents separately on their referendum and general political attitudes. SYP 2

With this unique set of data we were able to engage with the claims made about young people. Many of them did not represent their actual attitudes and engagement. Their levels of general political interest were very similar to those of adults, their likelihood to vote increased substantially throughout the campaign to unprecedented levels and they mostly had talked to different people about the referendum and sought out information about it from multiple sources. They could hardly be described as politically apathetic, but they were substantially less likely to associate themselves with a political party than adults.

Crucially however, young people showed that they made up their minds in more complex ways than we often portray them as doing. Over 40% had a different voting intention than the parent we interviewed, for example. Even more crucially, while those who had talked to parents were more likely to vote in the referendum, they were no more or less likely to have greater self-perceived political confidence or understanding. Parents were not seen as a source of trustworthy political information and young people did not simply follow their views.

Those who had discussed the referendum in school, however, tended to have greater levels of political confidence and understanding. School played a distinctive role. Crucially, it was not enough to simply take a class in Modern Studies. Those who had taken the class, but not discussed the referendum actively in it did not experience the same positive effect. So while a class like Modern Studies provided a good space for many to engage with a political issue, the important aspect was that active discussion. At the same time, young people were not biased in their views because of their class engagement, so fears about inappropriate ideological influences were not confirmed.SYP 1

What we could observe that young people who were enfranchised to vote in the referendum engaged with politics beyond what we would normally expect for this age group. But this engagement was facilitated substantially through schools providing a space for active and informed discussion in the classroom. At no later stage in life do we have effectively all members of a generation in the same institution were their first voting experience could be accompanied by qualified teachers. A lowered voting age itself is not necessarily a key driver to engage young people with representative politics. But through schools there is an opportunity to achieve this our data suggests (and confirms research from Austria where the voting age was lowered to 16 for all elections in 2007). We need more research to analyse how young people engage with normal elections in Scotland as well – however, even in the special case of the referendum we saw a greater number associating themselves again with political parties in 2014 compared to 2013, suggesting that through engaging actively with politics in schools when enfranchised early young people may even see more relevance in political parties again.

The project was carried out by a team from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science (Jan Eichhorn, Lindsay Paterson, John MacInnes and Michael Rosie) with input from researchers from the think tank d|part. The project was funded through the ESRC’s Future of the UK and Scotland programme and managed under the auspices of the Applied Quantitative Methods Network (AQMeN).

Details about the survey, its methodology and an overview of key results can be obtained from: http://www.aqmen.ac.uk/youngscotsurvey2results

Details on these findings can be obtained from: http://www.aqmen.ac.uk/sites/default/files/YoungScotsBriefing060614.pdf

For a detailed analysis please see the following briefing: http://www.politischepartizipation.de/index.php/en/homepage/item/279-how-lowering-the-voting-age-to-16-can-be-an-opportunity-to-improve-youth-political-engagement