I know that youth workers are busy, pulled in many different directions; group work, one to ones, management meetings, fundraising, project planning, debriefs, fire fighting, and much more. So when I tell youth workers that they should also be blogging I often get sighs and dismissive looks, followed by:
“I don’t really have time”
“It’s not really my thing”
“I’m not a very good writer”
“I wouldn’t know what to write”
But this response seems to display a basic misunderstanding of what it means to blog, and the reasons for doing it.
What is and isn’t a blog?
A blog needn’t be a lengthy polemic or think piece, it doesn’t need to be a detailed examination of a successful programme, it doesn’t need to be campaigning or championing a cause, it doesn’t even need to be a fully formed opinion, although it may be all of those things at times.
A blog can simply be a thought process, an expression of interest, a recent learning, the sharing of an initiative, the telling of a story, an exchange of ideas, an opportunity to think about past successes and failures. A blog can be short, I mean it can be really short, maybe just a video you’ve come across with some of your own insights added, or a quote that has recently impacted on you and why, or a paragraph or two on an issue that you’re struggling with.
It shouldn’t be an intimidating or pressured activity. It should be genuine and honest, in your natural voice, and not some ‘professional’ or ‘academic’ version of yourself. A recent convert to blogging told me that she had been worried about blogging for ages, but when she finally committed to writing her first one it took her about 10 minutes, and now she’s got loads of ideas for more.
The education sector turned to this medium in the mid 2000’s, with the birth of Edublogs in 2005. At the time there was a similar skepticism from that sector, with exactly the same defense for not doing it. But 8 years later and Edublogs has had 1.7 million blog posts added, and is one of the main international go to sites for educators to communicate and collaborate.
The youth sector could equally benefit from such a rich resource, a space to come together, to share, explore, reflect and link up. With the sector under serious threat, funding depleted and services closing down every week it is vital that we share our expertise, our experiences and our thoughts about youth work and the sector more widely. Through this we can encourage an open dialogue, collaboration, sharing, transparency, replication not duplication, and a national sense of community and a shared agenda.
In January 2008 Tim Davies, ahead of the curve as usual, wrote on this very subject, outlining 7 reasons for youth workers to blog. Although it was written over 5 years ago, and there are clearly now many more youth workers online than there where at the time, it is still extremely relevant, which is why I’ve decided to re-create his original article here, with the original links intact. (With thanks to Tim).
Reason #1: Sharing resources
How many different resources have you used in the last month? How many have you put together? How many would others benefit from knowing about and being able to use?
With a blog you can share links to useful resources, or, if you’ve created your own, you can easily upload digital copies and make them available for others to download and use.
You don’t only have to share the resource, you can also share the story of how you used it to give context to the tools, and you can invite feedback from others through the comments feature of a blog.
Try, for example, these resources from a consultation I ran on promoting the local offer…
Reason #2: Reflective practice
A blog can be your professional reflective journal. It is a space to ‘think aloud’ about the successes and challenges of day-to-day work with young people. And you can invite others to join you in your reflections through the comments on your blog, or making postings on their own blogs.
Blogging has a real role to play in lifelong learning and professional development. Michelle Martin provides some great pointers on blogging for reflection and learning over here…
Reason #3: Building networks
The chances are that your professional interests are not just in ‘youth work’. You might be interested in ‘youth work’ and ‘health’, or ‘youth work’ and ‘activism’.
You have a network of interests, and there are networks of bloggers out there with interests that overlap with yours. You can use a blog to join in those critical conversations, find and share ideas and to build dynamic and evolving interdisciplinary networks.
Plus, your blog doesn’t just sit there on the internet linking you to ‘virtual people’. You can use it to carry on the conversation after a conference, or to keep in touch with a growing network of colleagues across the country.
Reason #4: Innovating and raising the bar
Good ideas should spread. If you’ve had a good idea – share it.
Stories of good practice should inspire and challenge us. If you’ve seen a great example of youth work doing what youth work should – share it.
When I say ‘share it’ – I mean, ‘blog it’. A blog gives you a platform to make sure everyone can hear the new ideas, and can see what good youth work can achieve.
Reason #5: Sharing positive stories about young people
We all know there are too few positive stories in the media about young people. But with a blog you can be the media. What are the positive stories you have to share?
Readers of your blog can subscribe to get updates using an RSS reader, or sometimes be e-mail as well. What if your local paper was reading your blog of positive stories? And your local councillors?
You might even want to experiment with audio and video and create a vodCast or podCast.
Reason #6: Linking with the local community
The guardian recently ran a story on the evolution of local ‘blogospheres’. Blogging isn’t just about talking to people the other side of the country – it can be an effective tool for sharing information locally.
Take for example Andrew K Brown’s overview of the blogosphere in Lewisham. Does your area have a vibrant community of local bloggers? Could being part of it help you develop links and social capital, and promote a positive local voice for young people?
Reason #7: Enhancing your youth work
All the reasons above are about why youth workers should have personal blogs. But there are many more opportunities to use blogs in your work with young people. Does your youth forum have a blog? How could a blog be used to showcase young people’s work? What role does a blog have to play as a portfolio of informal learning? If this group of 9 and 10 year olds can do it, so can you…
Youth workers encourage young people to take risk, to try new experiences, to step beyond their comfort zone, and we must lead by example. So whether you’re a volunteer within the sector that’s never blogged before or a CEO of a national youth work charity, your views, opinions and experiences will be valued and appreciated on this site.
Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to become a contributor and submit a blog post.