Dialogue 6: Roz Hall of Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) meets Noel Goodwin from Connexions / The Park. 12 October 2006
I met with Noel Goodwin who works for Connexions and is a key worker in Knowle West and more widely, for example in Brislington. Noel told me that he has been seconded to Watershed where he is delivering digital story telling for Bristol Stories and is helping to develop a website called E-Shed. Noel explained to me that E-Shed is a website for signposting young people who are interested in new media to find out what projects and other opportunities they can get involved in. He told me that the website is being designed and the content is being defined through consultation with young people. The young people involved have decided to also have a gallery as part of the website where they can show work that they have made. There will also be form for writing reviews of people’s work on the site. Noel told me that one of the ways in which he hoped the web site would work would be to have impact in terms of addressing the geographical barriers that often prevent young people from different areas of Bristol from having meaningful contact.
Noel said that the main rationale for the website is in response to the lack of sustained opportunities there are for young people to be meaningfully involved in projects involving new media. There are plenty of introductory or beginners type opportunities for young people but very few opportunities for more advanced engagement. We talked about how such project opportunities tend to be limited by time and funding and how young people often are engaged in short term projects that really don’t support them to develop their practice beyond an initial exploration. The aim of the website is therefore to be a signposting space through which young people might identify and pursue further opportunities that would act to sustain their engagement and involvement. The ongoing work to develop the web site is also highlighting the gaps there are in provision, for example there are less opportunities in some geographic areas of Bristol, such as in the north. Another thing that has been highlighted is the need for greater provisions for technical support.
Noel also talked about the need to connect up people who work with young people and digital media, in order to support those young people to access more opportunities. He said that he thinks it is worth thinking about ways of doing this with new media. Noel added that multi-agency approaches are important for people who work with young people. As an example he said that if James Edwards, who is a football coach at The Park and involved in Positive Futures, wants to develop creative uses of new media as part of his work with young people he could work with other people who use new media, such as staff at Knowle West Media Centre. As further example Noel cited Project X which is based at The Park and is a multi-agency locality team made up of individuals and organisations, such as; Positive Futures, Connexions, staff from schools, police, parent-line plus, etc.. He explained that if a young person needs support they will be referred to the Project X panel in order for there to be a multi-agency discussion that leads to a key worked being allocated to that young person. The key worker then pulls together opportunities and services for that young person that can be provided through the multi-agency team. Noel told me that there are similar teams in other areas of the city, such as ‘Better Together’.
Noel then talked about how most organisations and agencies work with young people who are difficult to engage and that sometimes he thinks that there could be more opportunities for young people who do engage more easily and who get on okay at school. We talked about how there is work targeted at ‘gifted and talented’ young people, but very little for those young people who just get on with things. Noel said he thinks that there should be more opportunities for young people who work hard at school as they would surely benefit from such opportunities. He said that it is harder to get funding for project working with such young people but that they deserve as much recognition and as many opportunities as the next person.
Noel then highlighted how many agencies and organisations do work that is about the engagement of young people and he suggested that through working together better such agencies and organisations might be able to stimulate the best opportunities possible.
Noel also said that he thought that digital technology could be used much more efficiently than it is for admin type tasks. He said that key workers are often out and about with no digital way of recording what they do when they are out of the office. Furthermore, when working as Noel does for more than one organisation there are often different databases and systems for each organisation and that these don’t match up. This often means a duplication of tasks, whereby staff have to complete more than one set of records in different formats. He commented that it seems strange that many managers and people who are office passed have PDAs, when they spend most of their time in a room with a computer. He said that if staff such as key workers had PDAs they could use them to keep notes as they went about their work, rather than trying to remember and update records at the end of the day, or when that isn’t possible, at the end of the week or fortnight. He said that writing notes for a few minutes after the end of any one engagement would make things much easier and more efficient. If staff could do this using PDAs they could then simply download the information to the database when they return to the office. He said that people involved in work such as his are increasingly bogged down with paper work and that there is a ton of admin to do, and that there are far more efficient ways in which such admin could be attended to.
Noel then told me more about E-Shed and how the steering group membership includes some young people who have worked with Noel for two or three years. He told me that one of the aims of the E-Shed project is for it to be owned, directed and managed by young people. To this end funding is being sought for young people to work with media professionals to learn how to update the website so that they can do it for themselves. Young people will be supported by Noel when they request his input. Whilst Noel will have a role in ensuring the safety of those involved the aim is for young people to be encourages to make decisions for themselves about the development of the website.
We talked about the different extent to which young people are involved in projects and how there is, at one end of the scale a fleeting involvement and at the other end scenarios where young people have control of a project and its outputs. Noel told me about Matt Dowse’s work at connexions. Matt has been looking into young peoples involvement in connexions and has devised categories regarding the extent of engagement. This helps to establish whether young people participating have done so fleetingly or in sustained ways whereby they have eventually had ownership or control of (an element of) a project.