Diversity: Process and planning

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Planning: Timing and Method

Following a number of meetings, the research team decided:

  1. The trial would be developed within the parameters of a six week time-frame and with the use of e-technologies tools only. A comparatively short set time would be adhered to.
  2. During the trial, no traditional methods would be engaged. This was in order that we expressly assess the validity of using electronic technologies, without the backup of traditional methods, to engender discussion.
Participant Profile

The target participants were young people between 12-14 years old. However, most importantly, these people were to be targeted though the formal education system’s electronic infrastructure and the youth service’s electronic infrastructure only. This was in order to test the openness of the electronic infrastructure for future consultation via these formalised e-mail networks.

Process: Inviting Participants

The team set out to make an electronic call for participation. The objectives in developing the invitation to participate were:

  • The language is as direct and simple as possible.
  • The language to be cheerful and inviting.
  • A form of direct address be used which would be all-inclusive in its remit
  • That the poster be colourful and artistically engaging the youthful eye
  • That a non-competitive reward be offered to encourage participation.
  • That a wide variety of modes of participation were offered, so that everyone regardless of their literacy abilities could choose a mode that suited them, providing it was electronic.

See Figure 9.2.1 for the invitation to participate.

Invvitation to participants

Tools Used

The trial tools consisted of:

  • An on-line survey
  • An on-line exhibition of true stories of encounters with diversity
  • An on-line discussion forum

An on-line survey

The diversity objectives of the on-line survey were to measure the perceptions of young people living in the North and South of Ireland on:

  • Their education and/or training on diversity;
  • Their interest in other cultures
  • Their interest in politics
  • Their participation in human rights based activities
  • Their feelings on encountering diversity
  • Their actions in relation to diversity

An on-line exhibition of true stories of encounters with diversity

The diversity objectives of the on-line exhibition were to:

  • To gather stories of real encounters with diversity and exhibit them to the general public
  • To discover what had been learned by the young person in that situation.
  • To offer the young person the opportunity to tell of their experience
  • To offer the young person the opportunity to share their experience
  • To offer the young person the opportunity to read of others experiences
  • To offer the participant the opportunity to reflect and evaluate their experience and understanding of diversity
  • To offer the young person the opportunity to creatively account from their everyday life experiences on issues
  • And time allowing

An on-line discussion forum

This would invite participation from teachers and/or policy-makers on the findings of the survey and on the true stories generated.

The team designed the on-line survey using free software called PHPSurveyor, now called LimeSurvey. They designed the poster exhibition using Wordpress blog software. The relevant bodies addressing diversity such as Integrating Ireland, Northern Ireland Youth Forum, and National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) etc. were e-mailed.

We asked for feedback on the content and help with the process of disseminating the call through their electronic channels. All agreed to support the process and to e-advertise the invitation. On receipt of comments on the call to participate we then sent out the letters of invitation to participate through the registered e-mail school and youth service addresses. These were sent to the schools and youth centre’s registered e-mail addresses and a reminder was sent out one week later to maximise numbers going on-line.

Some problems emerged within the first two days:

  1. While the relevant government departments North and South had lists of e-mail addresses for all schools, we quickly found that not all of these were live addresses. Statistics indicated that almost one third of the Southern school’s registered e-mail addresses are not satisfactorily e-workable. In the Northern constituency the set of addresses worked much better.
  2. It became clear that, of the disappointing number that did arrive at an e-mail destination, not all of the schools used their e-mail addresses as the regular mode of communication. This meant that many of the e-mails were not received or read.
  3. The trial was being carried out in the run-up to Easter holidays and the school schedule was most likely filled up with examination work for all years; therefore, participating in such an exercise may not have been possible.
  4. From a technical perspective, teachers in the Southern constituency could not go on line to fill in surveys because of Fortinet security protocols on school addresses. Fortinet’s web filtering software, used by the Department of Education and Science on their free broadband service to schools, was blocking our web page. Fortinet had not classified our web page as an unacceptable address and the team had to have the site reclassified. We had to apply to become an accredited website.