About the pilot in Aberdeen, UK

Station House Media Unit (SHMU) works across six regeneration areas of north and central Aberdeen: neighbourhoods identified as being amongst the most disadvantaged communities in Scotland. Residents in our target communities experience various barriers to social inclusion. Young people who live in our areas face particular challenges in gaining employment, accessing education, housing, health and suffer from digital exclusion. SHMU has evolved to meet the needs of the young people in these communities and to engage in a process of community empowerment led from within the communities it serves.

SHMU’s work is grouped into four main strands:

  • SHMU.org.uk/radio/radofrm.shtml">SHMUFM – a full-time community radio station, broadcasting 24/7 across a twenty mile radius, offering radio production, presentation and broadcasting training;
  • SHMU.org.uk/video/video.shtml">SHMUTV – support and training in community film-making, production and editing, with the aim of developing a Community TV service;
  • SHMU.org.uk/print/print.shtml">SHMUPublications – support and training in publication design and production, supporting the production and distribution of free quarterly community magazines in each of our target areas;
  • SHMU.org.uk/wi-fi/wi-fi.shtml">SHMUOnline - web design, hosting and on-line applications, including the development of a wireless community project that offers free internet, intranet and PC’s to one of our target communities.

YoungstersSHMU activities." style="float: right;" />SHMU’s INCLUSO pilot project will link closely to the SHMUOnline strand of the project's work, making use of the free wireless network that the organisation has established in one of our target communities. This network offers free internet access in addition to access to a community intranet. In order to access these services, community members will be directed through a community portal (also designed and managed by SHMU). In addition to access to news, information and local services, we plan to incorporate a range of social networking tools to the community portal and actively encourage young people within our target communities to participate.

We imagine that the community portal, and the social networking tools specifically, will add significant value to the process of community engagement, active citizenship and community cohesion, which in turn will contribute towards an increase in community capacity (specifically with young people) and enhance social capital.

These tools will create a new and improved platform for communication that will encourage young people to express themselves about issues that are important to them – and just as importantly it will create a platform for these views to be posted and heard directly by, and acted upon by support workers, community leaders and decision makers. The tools will also be useful in breaking down barriers where they exist within and between communities (both communities of interest and geographical).

The social networking site will be freely available and prominently positioned on the community portal. We aim for the software to be simple, intuitive and to offer the services that the young people (and organisations) want and need (video upload, radio, messaging, blogs, etc).

We plan to offer young people who sign up to the service access to the training that we offer in community media production to enhance their experience (e.g. how to shoot and edit their film, how to record their band, how to use Photoshop to improve images etc). The same service will also be available to organisations to improve their presence (and credibility) on the site. It is also our intention that the young people who are actively involved in the project will inform and guide the development of the content of the portal and play a lead role in the management of the project.

We are in the final phase of building the infrastructure for the wi-fi network, and plan to have the Community Portal fully functional by the end of March 2009. Our aim over the next two months is to continue to consult with young people, community organisations and software developers to ensure that the social software tools are developed and are also ready to go live in early April.