Part 3: Get your organisation ready

There is a lot to do in this stage - it's when things start moving. Research was carried out in Part 1, then goals and outcomes were set in Part 2 (provided a decision to proceed was taken!). The clearer you were in setting goals and outcomes, the easier the following stages will be.

This is a key development stage, in which you will mostly be focusing on staff and their beliefs, needs and abilities. While the goal of a social media project is to benefit young people, the majority of your preparatory work, prior to launching your project, will focus on staff. Throughout the course of the INCLUSO project, pilot teams reported that the needs of staff were more and more important. The recommendations here reflect that importance. 

Identify the most motivated staff members and build a social media team around them. In the long term it will be important that everyone is supportive of your social media project, but at the start gather the enthusiastic together. Expect people’s attitude to be more important than skills when it comes to adopting new tools. If people are really keen they will find a way to learn what they need. 'Normalise' your social media activities by making the project just another part of the work your organisation does.

Clear communication must be a central pillar of your work with staff. But don't forget to keep management, young people and stakeholders up to date on developments. Try to encourage broad ownership of this project through consultation and communication.

A key issue to communicate is that the project is focused on benefitting young people. Starting from this basis, develop their understanding of how young people can benefit (show them real examples in the INCLUSO manual), then explain that staff are integral to achieving these goals. Do this by using the findings from the INCLUSO project: if staff don't engage, activity by young people will probably dwindle to nothing.

Be realistic and admit that the work will involve change (don’t try to hide it), but support staff with training and the opportunity to feed back on their progress. Don’t threaten to launch too soon, but give them time to come to terms with this new way of working. Make it clear to them that the aim is to move as many of their existing engagement tasks online as possible. This way the social media work should not be seen as extra, but as another way of doing the same tasks. Change will come, but mostly in platform (eg. from paper to online) rather than in volume of work.

Create a realistic timetable of training, with feedback opportunities and proper support built into it. Demonstrate that you are listening to staff concerns and issues, and show that you are addressing them in your push to integrate social media. Don’t try to hide the change in work pattern that a social media project will result in. Staff will spot it and lose trust in the project and management. Be realistic about the support you can give and the time it will take. Admit that this is new territory and you don’t know all the answers – no-one does! Don’t promise that social media is the answer to all young people and youth work problems. It’s not. But it offers new ways of communication which many are using to good effect.

While staff are crucial to the success of a social media project there are other groups which must be consulted: stakeholders and of course young people. Stakeholders (such as boards, partners, committees etc) may need to be convinced of the value of the investment which is required. Use the examples from INCLUSO and elsewhere to show what has and can be achieved. If you can show that their concerns are reflected in the strategy, detail and design of your social media project then that will go a long way to getting their support.

Young people: it sounds simple, but don’t forget to sound out the young people you work with. If they say they’re not interested then consider what that means. Are they being obstructive, or can you see through such responses, and determine that they would engage and would benefit. Just because they are disinterested doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit or engage. Keep abreast of the online activities of young people and this should help spot new opportunities for engagement or trends for where they are going online or what they are doing.

Ensure that that ICT arrangements (software, hardware and infrastructure) are adequate for the project. It's crucial to think about the detail here, things like: will users be able to get enough time on computers, who will maintain them, are there even computers available in the first place, and so on. And don't forget internet access. Some local authorities have blocked social media sites (such as Bebo, Facebook, You Tube, Netlog and so on). It can take many weeks to lift these kinds of block, so look into it as early as you can.

There is a lot to do at this stage, so get organised.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Ensure you have buy-in from the full staff team
    • Buy-in with full understanding and committment from everyone is essential to success
    • Communicate throughout the whole organisation
    • Get organised: introduce follow-up procedures, measure success and organise feedback
    • Identify the particular interests of various staff members and try to focus activities or tasks around these interests
    • Encourage and support staff in order for them to be fully motivated
    • Recognise and reward the contribution staff make in the social media project
    • Add the new tasks to staff job descriptions
    • Introduce staff ownership of your site/application as early as you possibly can in order to get staff to prioritise its use
  • Be realistic (don’t create unrealistic expectations within the organisation, the team, or with young people)
    • Unrealistic expectations can create disappointment which can lead to disinteterest
    • Simplify the project as much as you can and explain it as often as is required
  • Establish clear and transparent communication channels with all stakeholders
    • Clear communication lines should be established between management, staff, young people and other stakeholders
    • Negative signals, non participation and resistance should be noted and taken seriously
  • Ensure that all stakeholders are engaged as the process develops
    • Keep stakeholders informed and supportive
    • Involve the young people in the project at all early stage
    • Involve your stakeholders in the design of your projects to encourage ownership
    • Young people must be the co-architects of the project