Allsorts youth project featured as case study in RCA Creative Citizens’ Variety Pack

I’m thrilled to be holding in my hands the beautifully designed Creative Citizens’ Variety pack featuring twelve very different community projects which all make use of digital tools and social media in creative ways for for the benefit of the community.

Creative Citizens' Variety pack front cover

Creative Citizens’ Variety pack front cover

One of the case studies tells the story of how the Brighton based LGBTU (Lesbian Gay Bi Trans* and Unsure) youth project Allsorts not only uses social media in creative ways in their outreach work but has also produced a social media tool kit for the benefit of small size charities and community organisations that want to get started with building a social media profile across existing well known platforms or get to grips with using twitter, Facebook, flickr or other forms of social media in their work. I feel privileged to have been able to work with some of the young people at Allsorts to put together this case study that showcases and further contributes to the many forms of grassroots knowledge exchange they are involved in and their contribution to community organisations of many different kinds and flavours supporting each other in their local area.

We collaborated on the writing – pulling together insights from the research I and Irmi Karl have done with the organisation combined with a youth volunteer perspective, and we had fun together selecting the pictures. Then the Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design worked their magic and the Social Media@Allsorts brochure looks beautiful!

The Social Media@Allsorts case study

The Social Media@Allsorts case study

Like many of the community projects featured in the variety pack, staff and volunteers at Allsorts are pragmatic in their use of digital technology and social media, aiming to ‘get the job done’, often in the face of scarce resources. For example, instead of creating a purpose-built website to deliver online mental wellbeing support, the project makes the most of available mainstream social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube, which are already popular amongst the group of young people they aim to reach. However, social media is not designed with the purpose of doing outreach work in mind, nor does it typically allow for much diversity in terms of gender and sexuality in its set up. Therefore, as our research demonstrates, this approach requires creative solutions to overcome the limitations and drawbacks built in to the DNA of the commercial, mainstream social media platforms, including sometimes dissident usages to fit the needs of marginalized youth. Nevertheless, as the Creative Citizens design team points out:

Social media and web tools could offer new opportunities for community-led designs enabling new forms of civic engagement, participation and expression.

A good example of dissident use of the social media site format is this DIY style widget that Allsorts youth have designed for supporters of their anti-bullying campaign to post in their Facebook status update. It’s like the Facebook equivalent of protest stickers in the street.

Allsorts anti-bullying widget for allies to post in their Facebook status.

Allsorts anti-bullying widget for allies to post in their Facebook status.

To learn more about social media strategies for LGBT youth work and mental health support go to the ‘Queer feminist media praxis’ special issue of of the journal Ada: Journal of Gender New Media and Technology to read our full length article Make, share, care: Social media and LGBTQ youth engagement.

A special thank you to Sam Thomas and Lucas Abedecain at Allsorts for their invaluable input on the case study.

Publication details: Jenzen, O. and Allsorts (2014), Social Media @ Allsorts in Lockton, D., Greene, C., Casey, A., Raby, E., & Vickress, A. (eds) Creative Citizens’ Variety Pack: Inspiring digital ideas from community projects, London: Royal College of Art. ISBN 978-1-907342-97-4.