Case study: Practical Participation

by Kine Nordstokka on Tue, 2010-12-07 17:43
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Name: Practical Participation
Location: UK
Date Founded: 2005
Mission: Promote social justice through participation, community building, campaigning, organisational change, and the effective use of social technologies

Background and aims

Practical Participation was created in 2005 by Tim Davies to support youth sector organisations in using new technologies for youth grant making and youth involvement. Tim got the inspiration to set up Practical Participation after reading about how the web is allowing participation in shared learning experiences. He started publishing content on the internet which in turn lead to opportunities to work with and train others. From this a network were developed which Tim now work with and learn from everyday. The idea of bringing people together using new technology was developed from being part of this network.

The Innovation

Practical Participation offers a wide range of services and support to organisations interested in social technology, social change, and young engagement – with a focus on building capacity, skills and sustainability in the voluntary and statutory sector.

New technology offers great potential in involving unengaged young people in leading change and developing leadership skills. Practical Participation supports organisations to use these tools to help young people engage and develop skills. It is also helping organisations working with young people to avoid socialising them into a model whereby leadership is only done to them rather than something young people can take part in.

Many of the barriers to engagement, whether it is for a local community campaign or a national climate change campaign, disappear when the campaign is held online. Time and place constraints are not relevant in the online space. In terms ofknowledge young people do not have to feel intimidated coming into a conversation. Everyone has got the power to create content and build communities online. It allows the creation of feedback communities and can help get people excited and engaged in campaigns. It also lets you scale something that might have otherwise just been face to face.

ICTs can empower and encourage young people to get engaged. Young people are sharing ideas with one another and feeling far more empowered to go and speak up because they know they have support, which might not be geographically near them, but who they can reach. The internet has in this way changed young people’s perceptions of their ability to be leaders.ICTs and social media have made new forms of collaboration possible. To set up an online group, coalesce and then go on and create a campaign is a very low-cost form of intervention. This allows many more people to set up networks and platforms of engagement which historically has been the role of a leader.


There are challenges when using ICTs to engage young people in leading change. ICTs are for example not the best tools to develop face-to-face soft skills in young people. The expectations young people get through online activism, in an environment which is not hierarchal, can conflict with norms and values in the workplace. Also, fewer people in deprived contexts have the resources to engage in the same way as more privileged young people. This creates a resource gap between privileged and more educated young people.


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