Archive for the ‘Talking topics & opinion’ Category
It would be (quite literally) the understatement of the century to say that digital technology has come a long way since 1988, when teaching of ICT in schools first became compulsory.
Yes, the “there’s an app for that” culture of present day is a far cry from the basic computer usage for word processing twenty years ago. So you might expect that schools have been keeping up and altering tech teaching to ensure its relevance to the modern world. Right?
Wrong. Ofsted delivered a damning verdict of ICT teaching in schools last week. Its conclusion: schools simply aren’t doing enough to make technology lessons current and engaging enough for young people.
We now live in a world where everything from the way we shop, to how we socialise or listen to music has been (mostly) enhanced by a combination of the internet’s ubiquity and the astonishing ingenuity of the latest app or gadget. Yet schools’ teaching of the subject seems to have done the equivalent of sitting in a darkened room, feeling a bit miserable.
But going forward there is hope. From calls for coding skills to “become the new Latin”, to a brilliant scheme run by Apps for Good, where pupils in south London are taking part in a competition to design their own smartphone apps, the penny seems to finally be dropping that it’s time for ICT teaching to get up to speed with the 21st century.
In light of the present tough economic situation, schools and businesses alike should realise that investment now in the development of these kinds of skills among young people will ultimately reap rewards in the future.
At vinspired, the use of technology is at the heart of everything we do to assist young people. Our website helps young people find meaningful volunteering opportunities and our own smartphone app is the result of our belief in constantly innovating to help young people realise their potential in the easiest possible way.
If you’ve studied ICT at school in recent years, what’s your verdict? Would app-building or blogging lessons make you more likely to take up the subject? Share your thoughts here.
As we reach the end of the year the Government is attempting to bring some festive cheer to young people. And let’s face it, they need it. It’s been a tough year and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better anytime soon.
After months of talking to the youth sector, local authorities, businesses and young people, the Government has set out its vision for a society that is positive about young people. But it’s going to be challenging. Ministers have been very clear that this has to be delivered with little investment from the public purse. The National Citizen Service aside, central government investment in out-of-school services for young people is about as scarce as good stuff on the telly over Christmas.
So what do we make of it? The fact that the policies of at least nine government departments are presented in the statement is to be applauded – but there is little in the way of clear, decisive action to improve the hand that young people have been dealt.
That’s why vinspired has joined NCVYS and some of its members to call on the Government to make sure every department and every local authority that is Positive for Youth publishes its own ‘youth action plan’. We’d like to see action that leads to real support for young people to reach their true potential and we want to see decision-makers be bold in setting out how their vision is going to be delivered.
Like many voluntary youth organisations, we at vinspired are working hard to lever in all the resources we can to deliver our own plan of action to support young people. All that we ask is that Government departments and local authorities commit to doing the same.
It seems like everywhere you look these days, there are endless examples of society’s fixation on either denying or augmenting reality.
Magazines are full of celebs who have been airbrushed beyond recognition. X Factor puts contestants’ voices through auto-tune to address suspect intonation (or “singing flat” as we peasants call it). Our only real experience of suffering comes from watching it all on our smartphones, sat on the sofa drinking coffee. Yes, from Saddam Hussein’s death to Johnny Knoxville’s latest goolie-crunching exploit, it’s all there. Reality from a safe distance.
That’s why volunteering has been an important part of my life. It keeps me grounded. It takes me out of my clean, tidy* everyday life and gives me first-hand experience and understanding of the problems faced by the more vulnerable members of society. I’ve helped people tackle issues, often not as an expert, but just as someone who is independent and imbued with a modicum of common sense and a strong work ethic.
*with the obvious exception of my desk, which is an absolute disgrace.
I was a Samaritan for four years. Sometimes I would support a one-off caller who had reached a short term crisis point in their lives – who was even suicidal – and play a pivotal part in helping them through that crisis.
But what I remember most clearly is the unremitting everyday grind of the single mum struggling to feed her kids, who had no-one to turn to for emotional support and encouragement; and the isolated pensioner who would go days without seeing another human being or receiving a call from an over-busy relative. Their suffocating isolation really brought home how trivial some of my every day challenges really were, and what a lifeline the Samaritans provided.
So… take a moment to think about those you know. Is there a family member you haven’t caught up with for a while? Do you have a friend who is feeling lonely or isolated? Pick up your phone. Give them a call or send them a text to let them know they are in your thoughts. It will make their day.
And don’t just do it because it is Christmas – put a few dates in your diary for 2012 and reconnect with them properly. It’s the best New Year’s resolution you could make.
“Here I am, brain the size of a Planet, and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper” is my favourite quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it inspired my thoughts this week. Because, here in my pocket, is a device more powerful than the technology used to send a rocket to the moon. No – I’m not carrying a thermonuclear device capable of destroying what’s left of London after this summer’s riots: it’s my BlackBerry.
Very humbling thought, isn’t it, that our smartphones have more raw power than the computers that powered the Apollo space programme. If an alien landed in Westminster tomorrow (c’mon – you’re thinking John Redwood, aren’t you?), it could be forgiven for assuming that we’re all using this power to design skyscrapers and find the cure for cancer. Yet what do we do when we get our hands on the latest all-singing all-dancing muscle-beast of a phone? We text. We flirt. What we want to do more than anything else is to share our thoughts (of not more than 140 characters) with our closest friends and complete strangers. What we crave, beyond even talking to people, is to write. The same thing that drove the ancient Egyptians to invent papyrus.
I think said alien would return to its planet with a rather bemused smile on its face.
With unemployment amongst young people reaching 1 million last month, the government and the third sector are scratching their heads trying to think of ways to save this ‘lost generation’.
Introducing training to all NEETs and more apprenticeships for the jobless are just a couple of the ideas being bandied about. But as with all things in today’s society, the real issue, and indeed the missing link, is money. It’s all well and good to have ideas but who’s going to pay for them?
The common answer, it seems, is the over 60s.
Fuel our Youth is a new charity set up by three affluent over 60s. They suggest that the ‘very well off’ people of their generation donate their winter fuel allowance (WFA) to youth projects.
The suggestion that the older generation give their WFA to young people hasn’t gone down well with everyone. On Gransnet, an online forum for grandparents, glassortwo, summed up the feelings of some of his peers:
‘ I am spitting feathers here on behalf of all the people who receive Winter Fuel Allowance being asked from a charity to donate their allowance to the young unemployed!…When are the big fat bankers going to be asked to donate some of their big fat bonus to the young unemployed?’ glassortwo
It has also been suggested that older people in large houses should sell up and give their homes to the young so they have enough space to raise their families.
Does glassortwo have a point? Are we asking too much of the older generation and not enough of anyone else?
Sunday. I attend a second audition as a potential volunteer performer at the 2012 opening ceremony. About 14,000 of us started on this particular journey, and there is an extraordinary buzz of excitement. We are under strict instructions to reveal nothing about what we do at the auditions. “Tell people you’ve been wrestling anacondas” says the director.
Monday. My role encompasses IT as well as finance, and we are just about to commission a new contacts and grant management database. I spend a couple of hours planning the rationalisation and deduplication of our contacts and historic data. We have about 12,000 records on our old grants management database, plus another 4,000-odd on spreadsheets used for various events including our vInspired National Awards ceremony. All contact data will need to be cleaned and structured in Excel before we upload it into the new system.
Tuesday. I meet with my Commercial Director to discuss the Government’s new £1 billion package to get 400,000 young people into work. We were one of the delivery partners for the Future Jobs Fund and have been eagerly awaiting its replacement. The funding of the new programme is just 35% of that of its predecessor per placement: but with over 1 million young people out of work, we conclude that the scheme has potential to succeed if it can be administered inexpensively on a “light touch” basis. In the evening, I have a Rock Choir rehearsal. We have recently performed at the O2 and Wembley Arena, and tonight we learn about an amazing show we will be doing in March … which is top secret at the moment.
Wednesday. I attend a seminar on cloud computing. vInspired is rightsized at the moment in terms of servers, and we use Citrix for all our remote access. In the medium term, we will need to look at server virtualisation and cloud computing, and I want to keep abreast of these technologies as they develop. In the evening, I have a rehearsal for Beauty & The Beast – a local production in which I am playing Cogsworth. The costume is huge, and I can barely squeeze into the wings. I know I’ll be word perfect in a month … we open in a fortnight!
Thursday. I attend an investment conference. It is useful to benchmark our investment policy against the latest thinking, which confirms that equities are ideal for long term investment, but unsuitable for a horizon of less than twenty years. Most startling statistic is that half of all SMEs are financed on their owners’ credit cards.
Friday. We have a meeting of the Blog Group, led by our Head of Digital. We are trying to get a steady stream of interesting bite-sized entries on the vInspired blog which are well-written; express individuality; and cover a diverse range of issues and opinions. We agree on the next week’s entries, which are written by staff, directors and volunteers including a number of first timers – myself included. I hurriedly Google “Blogging for Dummies” …
This blog is based on an article which was published in Third Sector on 6 December
Google pays website owners to display Google advertisements through its AdSense programme. Might Facebook do the same for brands that run Facebook pages and could this be a potential funding stream for charities?
AdSense on Facebook?
On the right hand column of Facebook, you’ll be familiar with the sight of small text ads. Facebook makes money by people viewing or clicking on these ads. The owners of a Facebook page could, in theory, share the revenue generated from the Facebook ads shown on their page. They could also earn revenue by users interacting with their page (liking, commenting and sharing) as this creates newsfeed items that, in turn, create impressions.
Why on earth would Facebook want to share revenue?
It is in Facebook’s interests to encourage page owners to update their pages as this leads to more advertising revenue. By incentivising activity, page owners are likely to update more often, drive more traffic to their pages and ultimately pay more attention to their page.
How could charities use this to raise money ?
Charities could earn money in the same way as a business might. In fact, causes and charities have some of the most popular pages on Facebook. This could potentially become a funding stream. As there are already adverts on Facebook pages, users would be none the wiser that charities were making money from their page, as opposed to hosting AdSense adverts which are more obvious and jarring.
Do you use Google AdSense on your website? Would you consider making money from Facebook?
The chances I have had since I started the YAB board are amazing. Everything from meeting ministers at events such as the NCVYS conference to interviewing people to be commercial development manager at vinspired. There are even chances unrelated to YAB that have come from vinspired.com
The biggest one of these is the Young Games Makers Selection Events that have been created through the LOCOG organisation. It is amazing that I get the chance to have involvement even in an indirect way with a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The selection events see a group of volunteers interviewing and assessing teams of potential young games makers to be involved with events at the Olympic Games. We also have to judge their team leaders to make sure that they are able to keep their young people going in the run up, throughout and after the Olympic Games to create a legacy in the young people’s lives.
LOCOG have been great in my life and in the lives of the Young Games Makers. They have been assessing the core values of the YGM’s. These are openness, distinctiveness, delivery, teamwork, respectfulness and being inspirational. Seeing these young games makers and their team leaders demonstrate these roles makes them rub off on us and see the importance of the Olympic Games.
From LOCOG, I have learned all about the importance of the Olympic Games for now and the foreseeable future, in the lives of everyone, including the Young and Old. Maintaining the Games legacy is important in my eyes as it makes sport accessible for everyone and may help conquer the obesity epidemic. I also believe that the Games are important as they give young people the opportunity to volunteer for now, see the importance and this will hopefully inspire the next generation of young volunteers. This is the core value and aim of vinspired as an organisation.
I am thankful to YAB for opening the door to vinspired and its other opportunities. I hope these chances continue from now, until I leave vinspired and beyond. vinspired should become a legacy in my life, much like the Olympic Games.
The Finance Director is thinking on his feet
Monday. I attend a brainstorming session with colleagues and vinspired’s Youth Advisory Board – 12 young volunteers who are at the heart of our decision-making process. Today, we’re looking at ways of framing “asks” within our fundraising strategy. With a million young people out of work, and substantially reduced government funding available for youth volunteering, private sector fundraising is becoming a major focus. We are running programmes funded by OCS, DfE, Coca Cola and BP, but need to continue to diversify our sources of income.
Tuesday. My role encompasses IT as well as finance, and today we need to switch a few phone extensions around. A few small glitches emerge. The phone system isn’t quite in sync with Greenwich Mean Time (about 2½ minutes out) and a “five minute job” to fix it ends up taking rather longer. I really want everything sorted as Remembrance Day is looming and it will be disrespectful if we’re not all observing the minute’s silence the same time.
Wednesday. I am guest of our auditors, Crowe Clark Whitehill, at the CFDG’s Annual Fundraising Dinner. This year, CFDG Chief Executive Caron Bradshaw has decided to add a big sense of fun to the event, and has booked a live band and Couch Impro … an improvisation group in which I perform. We do a thirty minute set (a shortened version of our Edinburgh Fringe show) entirely based on suggestions from the audience, immediately after Nick Hurd’s speech. The audience of 600 is about the size of our entire Edinburgh run, and Nick Hurd announces he is to be followed by Britain’s Funniest Accountant (I won a competition a couple of years ago). So no pressure!
Thursday. I attend the “An Enterprising Future” conference. The speakers at the opening plenary are most engaging, and very fired up. I attend a particularly good afternoon session where we debate why some government departments seem to accept that commercial organisations may make a profit for their shareholders, but find it difficult to allow charities to make a surplus to fund their charitable activities.
Friday. I am working on revised costings for Teamv, a programme we’re running in partnership with Rank Foundation, CAF and NIACE. Several of my colleagues are off-site, inducting the new intake of Young Leaders, who will be running a series of activations during the next twelve months. Their first activation will be complemented by a terrific short film about Food Poverty. Received a call from the auditors – the Couch Impro show is the talk of the office, and they loved our naughty reference to last minute changes to the accounts.