Exploring youth engagement in a digital age
Care farm sounds like an interesting project and worth getting its profile raised and the participants learning and engaging with eachother.
I set up an online youth forum for the purposes of my work at a Children's charity which works with Vulnerable YP, the purpose of it is to run online consultations and focus groups and encourage open discussion and integration between regionally based youth participation groups.
I would say main challenges and pitfalls you need to look out for are
1. Safeguarding- Is the platform you are using secure? Is it open to the public and can they contact vulnerable YP through it with ease.
If you are considering using social networks you will need to make sure you look at keeping groups private, vetting members through pre registration questions, varifying email addresses before they join.
Alternatively you can build your own network like 'youth work online' it will look and ooperate as a fully functional online communtiy and you can choose who you invite and how you integrate with social media.
2. Setting up and satisfying everyone will be a challenge- I suggest consulting with your potential members first and find out what they would use the forum for, what they want, what features of FB and Twitter/You Tube do they like and use and see how you can include this in your forum
3. Moderation- An online forum requires moderation and committed people to moderate it. Work out if y ou will pre moderate content before it goes live, how you will empower/promote YP to create UGC and if you have enough time to keep the forum fresh and updated with lots of content. YP get bored quickly and want fast responses so waiting a day to have a photo or blog post approved won't go down well.
4. Ownership and heirarchy- YP want to feel like it is their forum and that their levels of contribution will be recognised and that they could move up the ranks from member to an administrator of the forum- Ask them every step of the way what will motivate them to feel like it is THEIR online community
5. Unactive members- You may get everyone signed up but it can end up being the same people who keep on contributing, you will need to create regular communication- (newsletters) to keep interest up and competitions/games can help too.
Hope that is helpful, our community called N-Spire is a private one on ning and it has helped us run 1000's of online consultations and really get YP voices heard in our organisation. It has also been a place for YP expression and a way for them to provide peer support to eachother, so the successes out weigh the pitfalls!
This is all really useful information. You have provided me with lots of food for thought!