Engaging the youth of Darwin and leveraging social networking were key to Darwin City Council's youth initiative win at the recent Australia and New Zealand Internet Best Practice Awards.
Speaking to Computerworld Australia, award recipient and youth services trainee, Cassandra Fraser-Bell, said a variety of social networking platforms have been used by the GRIND team.
“GRIND is connected to a number of social networking sites and these are integrated into its basic design,” she said. “Our image gallery is powered by Flickr, our vodcasts are uploaded and linked through our YouTube channel and our events page is used to link users to Facebook events pages.”
GRIND, the council's "for youth, by youth" magazine, presents opportunities for the community's youth to collaborate on promoting events, exhibitions and fundraisers.
Meeting once a week, Fraser-Bell said GRIND’s youth-driven design and content was key to its success, with team members from the community being given remote access to the site.
“The design of GRIND, as it is with the content, is completely driven by the young people wanting to use it,” she said. “Our GRINDers also have access to the back-end of the website which allows them to help maintain it as well as directly contribute articles, video and images when they aren’t even in GRIND HQ.”
After the site’s design was completed, local IT company Captovate worked with the youth services team to move GRIND from a 32-page full colour magazine to an online community.
“GRIND started as an opportunity to provide young people with an outlet to tell their own stories,” she said. “It is now a multifaceted project that uses the website as a central focus for young people.”
With the Commonwealth Bank earlier this year revealing that its Web 2.0 strategy included rolling out blogs and podcasts to its staff members, Fraser-Bell said having a variety of ways to connect with its audience was important.
“We link everything we do with social networking sites such as Facebook, which we use every day,” she said. “GRIND allows for young people to post art, stories, opinions, podcasts and vodcasts; keeping it relevant, contemporary and accessible to all young people.”
Maintaining interest in the site has been both an online and offline task, with Fraser-Bell saying the youth team have distributed stickers, bookmarks and visited schools in the local area to raise awareness about the website.
“Unlike our former hard copy magazine, you can’t just find a website on a coffee table and pick it up and have a read - it’s a conscious decision to log on and see what’s happening,” she said. “We get involved with the local music and arts scene which allows us to keep the GRIND name and the URL in the public eye.”
The popularity of GRIND has increased since its win at the Best Practice Awards, where the site was recognised alongside Terabyte, AusCERT and Canteen. The awards were presented by the Australian Domain Name Administration.