The Digital Youth Forum – an inspiring event for young people
- Polish Safer Internet Centre
The Digital Youth Forum (DYF) is an event designed for youth, by youth and about youth. Hosted in Warsaw, Poland, it takes the form of a conference that focusses on online safety and creative and innovative uses of new technologies as an alternative to risky online behaviours. It is organised as a one-day event, consisting of three 90-minute sessions (each with five presentations), each followed by 50-minute breaks for exploring the exhibition area. Three editions have been already been organised by the Empowering Children Foundation in the framework of the Polish Safer Internet Centre (SIC). Last year, a total of 450 participants attended the event, 400 of which were teenagers aged 14–17.
The organisation of such an event helps to empower the participating youth by giving them an opportunity to meet with interesting new media influencers. It also allows them to meet with peers with an interest in similar topics. One of the main aims of the Digital Youth Forum is to inspire young people to create their own positive online initiatives.
The aims of Digital Youth Forum are:
- to promote creative use of new technologies and online safety.
- to foster creativity, innovation, and efficacy in the field of new technologies and the internet.
- to empower, inspire and motivate.
- to introduce role models and mentors.
- to provide an opportunity for collaboration and networking.
- to support youth activism that incorporates online tools and new technologies.
The following examples, taken directly from the Polish Safer Internet Centre's experience, outline some good practices in developing youth participation scenarios:
1. Invite inspiring young people
The most important element in organising an event such as this is to invite inspiring speakers that can share their personal stories. At the DYF, speakers are young people who use new technologies in creative and inspirational ways. They introduce new ideas, new ways of thinking, and share models for overcoming challenges. Past speakers have included programmers, startuppers, activists, bloggers and YouTubers. Exceptional adult speakers are also invited, such as leaders and influencers whose experiences and career paths can be stimulating for young people. This year, for the first time, international speakers were also invited, with one such example being Ciara Judge, the first placed winner in the 2013 edition of the EU Young Scientist of the Year contest.
Ciara Judge on stage speaking at DYF 2018, photo: M. Kruger
2. Create space for integration and experimenting
The Digital Youth Forum is not only about listening. There are two 50-minute breaks during which participants can take part in mini-workshops and mentoring sessions with experts, or have an opportunity to play with new technologies in the exhibition area (such as Occulus Rift, 3D printers, programming robots, and so on). Breaks are organised so as to facilitate networking, interaction and exchange of experiences. It also gives participants time to recharge their batteries (refreshments are provided) and listen to music mixed by a live DJ.
Playing with drones in the exhibition area during a break, DYF 2018, photo: M. Kruger
3. Foster participation
Apart from inspirational speakers and an attractive exhibition space, additional steps are taken to foster participation in the event. Each edition is accompanied by many contests for participants - for example, they are encouraged to record a mini-documentary from the event with the most interesting ones awarded prizes. Tools such as Kahoot (a free online platform that enables interactive quizzes to be operated with a smartphone) are also used to stimulate the audience, while remote participation is also encouraged (see below).
4. Enable remote access
The reach of the Forum is not limited to the audience gathered on site: the provision of a live stream online allows schools all over the country to organise a local DYF event within their own facilities. Organisers of local events can register via an online form and receive event scenarios and materials for the participants (posters, stickers and so on). During the breaks, the live stream continues with interviews and additional materials. Thanks to this element, the 2018 edition of the Digital Youth Forum reached more than 6,000 students in around 60 schools across Poland.
Interviews with speakers, conducted by young moderators, were also streamed online during the breaks in Forum sessions, photo: M. Kruger
5. Share the content
All of the Forum's presentations are recorded and later shared online via the digitalyouth.pl website, YouTube and Facebook channels. Each year, the scope and number of video clips provided is broadened to serve more and more users. The clips are also recommended as an ongoing resource for teachers in schools, and a dedicated lesson scenario has been developed for that purpose. The most popular clip has received over 70,000 views on YouTube to date. All videos recorded over the course of the three editions of the Forum are available on the Digital Youth YouTube channel.
What young people are saying about the Digital Youth Forum
When asked what they liked most about the DYF, the young participants responded as follows:
"learning new things" (girl, 14)
"interactions between speakers and the audience" (girl, 16)
"networking and meeting new people" (boy, 17)
"feeling inspired to try new things" (girl, 15)
"learning practical tactics to start and develop initiatives" (boy, 16)
"personal experience of the speakers" (girl, 16)
"attractions during breaks" (boy, 14)
"diverse topics and stories" (girl, 14)
"behind the scenes insights on speakers' wins and losses" (girl, 16)
A Digital Youth Forum Manifesto was also prepared:
"We are here. The trendsetters. The influencers. The entrepreneurs. We do not wait for change, we are the change. Our dreams are our reality. We extend and transcend. We fail and move on. We are empowered. Join us."
Pointers for other organisations on setting up a similar scheme
Organising a similar event is possible in every country: it can be easily scaled, and organised in a more concise or extended version with a different number of speakers.
The following points may help organisations wishing to set up a similar scheme.
- Find national examples of young people or young adults achieving success online in a positive and creative way. This may be challenging to start with, but good prior research and brainstorming will enable you to identify suitable individuals.
- Find an attractive conference venue that also has space for the integration of an exhibition and other interactive elements. Consider including attractions such as VR (virtual reality), robotics and other gadgets which help to build interest and promote a positive attitude in participants.
- Collaboration with your youth panel is very important. Youth panellists can help to shape the agenda and bring fresh ideas, and may also be assigned tasks during the event itself. The event is also a great opportunity to recruit new youth panel members.
- A youth conference of this nature presents a great opportunity to cooperate with various partners. In Poland, for example, cooperation with industry partners such as Facebook and Google was possible. The event may be also interesting for start-ups or educational facilities.
Find out more about the work of the Polish Safer Internet Centre (SIC), including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.
- Polish Safer Internet Centre
The Empowering Children Foundation (Polish Safer Internet Centre (SIC)) is looking for young inspiring speakers for its annual Digital Youth Forum event.