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Case study Savvy Chavvy

According to the GRTHM, there are approximately 300,000 Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the UK and the population has been established for over 500 years. The Children’s Society reports that nearly 90% of children and young people from a Gypsy background have suffered racial abuse at some point, and nearly 70% have suffered from bullying or have been physically attacked because of their background...

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Case study Savvy Chavvy

  1. 1. CASE STUDY Savvy Chavvy by Joe CullenThis document is part of the overall European project LINKS-UP - Learning 2.0 for an InclusiveKnowledge Society – Understanding the Picture. Further case studies and project results can bedownloaded from the project website http://www.linksup.eu.Copyright This work has been licensed under a Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author(s), and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
  2. 2. According to the GRTHM, there are approximately 300,000 Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the UK and the population has been established for over 500 years. The Children’s So- ciety reports that nearly 90% of children and young people from a Gypsy background have suffered racial abuse at some point, and nearly 70% have suffered from bullying or have been physically attacked because of their background. The Department for Chil- dren Schools and Families recognises that the educational achievement of Gypsy Roma and Traveller youth is the worst in the country1. ‘Chavvy’ is the old Romany word for youth and the Savvy Chavvy project is attempting to reclaim the word ‘chav’, which has acquired negative connotations in UK society, by providing young Gypsies and Travellers with a positive social networking space to com- municate online. Other social networking sites, such as Facebook, provide no protection from racial abuse for Gypsies and Travellers, and there are even Gypsy hate groups. The Savvy Chavvy network addresses this oversight and goes someway to translating the strength of community existent on Gypsy sites to the web. Case profile – Savvy Chavvy in a nutshell Savvy Chavvy A social networking platform for young Gypsies and Travellers www.savvychavvy.ning.com) Website http://savvychavvy.blip.tv) (http://www.onroadmedia.org.uk/) Status Active/running (2008 – 2010) Interviewed person Nathalie McDermott, Co-ordinator, Programme Delivery Funded and promoted by… On Road Media, UnLtd Location of the Learning Activities Online, informal setting (e.g. home), community setting Young Gypsies and Travellers: young people from the Gypsy com- Target group(s) munity who experience racial abuse on other social networks. Number of users 3800 users Educational Sector(s) Primary school, secondary school Category of the Learning Activities Combination of non-formal, informal Web 2.0 technologies used... Social networking, media sharing (Blip.tv), blogs, podcasts Users ‘own’ the site, and leaders from the online community are Methods to support inclusion trained to administrate and moderate the site.1 Figures and information from Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month (http://www.grthm.- co.uk/) 2
  3. 3. Short description and key characteristicsSavvy Chavvy began in 2008 as a training programme for young people from the Travel-ler and Gypsy communities in citizen journalism and social media, to enable them to telltheir own stories. Its main function now is to provide young Travellers with their ownspace to network, as previously there was nowhere for them to do this safely.Savvy Chavvy encourages members to use media as a democratic means of self-expres-sion through which they can control how their community is perceived by others. Com-bining social media with web 2.0 technology, Savvy Chavvy gives young members of anoften misrepresented and marginalised community the opportunity to take control ofhow they are portrayed. Supporting social life as much as social purpose, with much ofthe gypsy traveller community no longer able to move around, social networking isviewed as a way to counter declining community cohesion.Initially, the citizen journalism training initiative was funded by Mediabox (a governmentfunding programme for initiatives for young people), Unltd and Media for Development.Unltd provided funding for On Road Media to train five different Gypsy groups in citizenjournalism, enabling them to direct, shoot and edit their own short films. Five groupswere selected by On Road media and given one-week training courses to produce tenfilms each. Both Unltd and Mediabox provided £1000 each per group for media training,with additional funding for equipment (Gibson, 2009). Up to the end of 2009, the initiat-ive has been provided with £82,000 funding. Even though external funding for the pro-ject has now ended, the online community has become self-sustaining, with trainedmembers passing on knowledge and skills to new users.In the first phase of the project, On Road Media worked with groups in Kent, Cambridge-shire and Surrey, and 50 young people were trained in citizen journalism. At first it wasdifficult to reach young people and engage them to participate in the project, as manywere wary of involvement of ‘outsiders’. Consequently, On Road Media recruited a Trav-eller journalist who was able to garner interest in the project amongst young people.The project was advertised in ‘Traveller Times’ and was subsequently covered by theBBC. As the focus of the initiative shifted towards social networking, Savvy Chavvy ex-panded into a national online community, which had registered 2200 members by theend of 2008. It now has over 3,800 users, mainly recruited through ‘viral communica-tion’ (i.e spreading word online).Dimension of learning and inclusionIn the first phase, the learning and inclusion aims of the project were to train youngTravellers in citizen journalism and social media, and 50 young people participated in in-formal workshops to gain skills in these areas. Access to media equipment is still avail-able for young people who wish to continue to make films about their community, butthe main emphasis of Savvy Chavvy is to allow young Traveller voices to be heard andprovide a space online where the user group as a whole learns it can collaboratewithout fear of victimisation. This enables young travellers to socialise online and shareculturally relevant information.Innovative elements and key success factorsOn Road media provided users with social media training, setting up a social network foryoung Gypsies and Travellers, and teaching them how to create video blogs and pod- 3
  4. 4. casts. Providing young people with the skills to produce their own videos enables themto find a voice for the stories that are unique to the Traveller community. Young peoplehave made videos addressing serious topics such as migration, bullying and racism, aswell as topics of interest, such as Romany history, boxing and Slovakian hip-hop. Thesevideos can be viewed on the Media for Development YouTube channel and are search-able by the public, although comments have been disabled. Figure 1: Videos made by young Travellers about their interests, posted on YouTubeWhilst the first members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities were engaged in theproject through the citizen journalism workshops, the popularity of the Ning site withother members of the Gypsy community dictated the new direction for the project, andsocial networking became the main focus of the initiative. On the Ning site, users areable to share photos, post videos, find out about local or national events (e.g. horsefairs) and start or sign up to campaigns. Some users have emerged as natural leaders inthe online community, and these are often young people who are not necessarily ‘real-world’ community leaders. These members are identified by On Road media andprovided with training to help them become administrators of the site and moderatecontent. This allows the site to become self-sustaining. In this way, the learning providedby Savvy Chavvy is indirect, functioning predominantly as a space for young Travellers toexchange ideas. The majority of content is user-generated and user-directed, althoughlearning providers can use site to advertise courses. For the most part, content on thesite focuses on linking up with family; exchanging information on events; moderated dis-cussions on Roma issues; language; hobbies; uploading of photos. 4
  5. 5. Figure 2: The Savvy Chavvy Ning platformThe initiative has been hugely successful since it started out in 2008. By the end of itsfirst year, membership to the Ning site had reached 2200 users and now has over 3,800users, which is representative of a large proportion of the young Traveller community inthe UK. In July 2008, the project was received the Catalyst Community Award for innov-ative use of social technology to support communities and it was also nominated for theCommunity Activism category in the New Statesman New Media Awards 2008.The real benefits are enabling young travellers to communicate with each other and topromote themselves and share their culture. They can now have discussions they could-n’t have had before without incurring racist abuse. The online community also allowsusers to stay in touch with other Travellers who have relocated or who have stoppedtravelling altogether. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the site has increased network-ing and has reinforced social ties.One of the key success factors of the initiative is its ownership by the users. After thefirst phase, where users were trained in citizen journalism activities, the initiativeevolved into a private social networking space for young Travellers, and it was the userswho determined this new direction. Their ownership and investment in the site allowedit to flourish and become a credible space for young travellers.The project co-ordinators believe that whilst the initiative is not technologically innovat-ive, Web 2.0 tools help to support the inclusion of marginalised Gypsy and Travellercommunities in the space of social media, which would otherwise be another area fromwhich they are excluded. It provides the only social networking space for young travel-lers and uses a ‘listening and responding’ approach to young travellers’ needs. However,On Road Media take the view that ‘individual’ skills are a minor aspect of the inclusion 5
  6. 6. outcomes of the programme. The bigger picture is that marginalised groups are able toaccess the same ICTs as mainstream groups so that the web doesn’t become ‘ghet-toised’ and colonised by the mainstream.Problems encountered and lessons learnedIn the early stages of the project a Facebook group was set up to encourage young trav-ellers to communicate online. Unfortunately, members of the group experienced racismand On Road media therefore set up a dedicated network using Ning. However, therewere similar problems with racism at the start due to open registration on the site,which allowed non-Gypsies to register. There is now a more complex registration systemwhich means that only young Gypsies and Travellers are permitted to register and usethe site, and leaders of the online community have been trained how to moderate thesite and deal with any problems which may arise. As the site gained in popularity, therewere some issues with hard-line travellers trying to take over site for their own politicalor ideological purposes. Again, these problems were dealt with within the community it-self by the newly skilled administrators.The co-ordinators also had to address an initial lack of interest in the project andstruggled to create a substantial user base at first. They encountered user resistance to‘another worthy project’ and had to work hard to get buy-in from the community itselfto make it credible. There was also a degree of ‘culture clash’ between project co-ordin-ators and target users which caused further differences. These issues were overcome byinvolving a ‘champion’ (the Traveller journalist) and building on the initial focus groupsof young travellers who participated in the citizen journalism workshops. 6
  7. 7. Collaborating institutions in LINKS-UP Institute for Innovation in Learning, Friedrich-Alex- ander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany www.fim.uni-erlangen.de Arcola Research LLP, London, United Kingdom www.arcola-research.co.uk eSociety Institute, The Hague University of Applied Sciences, The Hague, The Netherlands www.esocietyinstituut.nl Servizi Didattici e Scientifici per l’Università di Firen- ze, Prato, Italy www.pin.unifi.it Salzburg Research Forschungsgesellschaft, Salzburg, Austria www.salzburgresearch.at European Distance and E-Learning Network (EDEN), Milton Keynes, United Kingdom www.eden-online.org 7

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According to the GRTHM, there are approximately 300,000 Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the UK and the population has been established for over 500 years. The Children’s Society reports that nearly 90% of children and young people from a Gypsy background have suffered racial abuse at some point, and nearly 70% have suffered from bullying or have been physically attacked because of their background...

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