New does not always mean better

This month PDC’s Director Dan Moxon was invited to be an “inspirational speaker” at the Erasmus+ National Agencies annual European TCA meeting coordinated by Salto Training and Co-operation, on the topic of new and alternative forms of participation. (You can watch the full keynote in the video below)

The term “new and alternative” is rapidly becoming a  buzzword. After the publication of the European Commission's new youth strategy proposal which had the term featured all the way through it, we certainly noticed in increase in downloads of the research Dan and Anne Crowley conducted on the topic.
But as the research argued, new does not automatically mean better…..it simply means...new. Sometimes new ideas are an improvement on the old ones,  sometimes new ideas are worth testing but ultimately don’t offer improvements (Google Glasses anyone?). Sometimes it’s somewhere in between, and we can pull out the learning and move on to the next idea.

So whilst new forms of participation such as online approaches certainly offer a lot of potential for improving participation, it’s time we got serious about identifying and evaluating what we hope to achieve by adopting new methods. We need to move beyond abstract claims about how some forms are better or worse than others. Instead we should define what we are hoping to improve and evaluate both old and new methods alike, moving towards the more successful ones. This is how we can make sure we improve the opportunities young people have to influence and engage with the world around them, rather than simply just doing something different for the sake of it.

So instead of talking about new and alternative forms of participation let's start talking about 
  • New and more inclusive forms of participation,
  • New and more influential forms of participation,
  • New and larger scale forms of participation.