Community Mapping: A tool for youth engagement around digital literacy

Summer 2012 in Athens, the first meeting of cultural organizations, informal groups and creatives around the topic of digital literacy and youth engagement took place. The discussion was hosted by SNF and Future Library, led by Hive NYC and its goal was to research how a Hive Pop-Up event could be structured in Athens, and if there is potential for a future Hive Learning Network in Athens.

Local Communities Around The World

Fact is, a large number οf cultural organizations in Greece are not experimenting with digital media nor developing programs especially designed for young people/teenagers. Thoughts on how to reach out to young people and how to engage organizations to collaborate with informal groups and with each other were main issues raised. While the prospective Hive Athens team participated in Mozilla Festival, we learned that those points were shared by many Hives, and most community-based structures.

In order to establish a long-term strategy with tangible results, we started a dialogue with direct and indirect stakeholders in Athens. We started meeting with organizations and informal groups and let them explain to us how they are operating and what they are working on. This is a process that needs time, but personal contact, even if it is just a phone call, engages in a very different way rather than just an email, which is a more constructive communication tool after the first meeting is set up.

What we knew from the start is that our target audience, young people, are very selective and they do not use the channels we grown-ups might use, and that there is a need to get an overview of what happens around us in the area we are tapping in, meaning digital literacy. So where should we start?

Practical steps

1. Collect and structure the material you already have (e.g. contacts, references, work examples, etc.)
Leveraging the networks of the one of European Cultural Institutions, EUNIQUE, and informal groups like PlaythonTutorpool and hackerspaces  is one of our major tools, as they already have significant outreach covering the areas we have to dive in: digital literacy, youth, education.

We learn also how to engage them and contribute to what they are working on rather than sourcing their knowledge.

Tip 1: There are also communities that are from organizational interest and could contribute to what Hive is doing and therefore even if we do not have immediate access we need a clear and straight message to engage their peers and reach out to them through their community and their channels.

2. Decide what form of map fits you best
e.g. Google maps, Excel sheets, collaboration tools

3. Identify
Set your framework e.g. in our case digital literacy-youth-education and use tags

4. Design
Structure your online and offline communication when you speak about Hive Pop-Up, Hive Learning Network in order to achieve goals and get the information you need

Tip 2: Communicate one task at the time and do not overload people with information.

5. Engage
Mapping should not be considered as a tool to support and interconnect the community. It is an interactive process and should not be based on just collecting contact details or naming specific action points, but includes also community building, building up creative social capital which will unveil its potential step by step. It is also a crucial asset for how you communicate with specific targets. Remember the purpose of community mapping and communicate it as a tool for communities’ needs, then take a step back in order to listen.

Community mapping is one of the tools that helps us to gain knowledge of the surrounding organizational structures, formal and informal, as activities, and is also a first step towards community and relationship building, as we are aiming to establish a network including various stakeholders.

This is a guest post originally published on Explore + Create + Share/ Hive Learning Network NYC’s blog, a Mozilla project that was founded through The MacArthur Foundation’s digital media and learning initiative to fuel collaborations between cultural organizations to create new learning pathways and innovative education practices together.

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