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THU: How open is open: exploring the boundaries of openness in setting up a safeguarding learning network (Jude Toasland)
A case study exploring setting up a safeguarding learning network for sport
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6 January 2017
In a culture where Wikipedia is commonly used as a source for information and Twitter leads to consultation with colleagues in the development of projects, open networking and learning is growing across every industry. However, Weller (2014) describes the ‘the central tension of openness’ (p.15) to outline the strain between the principles of shared learning and development, and the pressures of commercial interest and financial viability. This project explores an additional tension between utilising the benefits of open learning within a safeguarding context and managing issues of confidentiality and risk, and asks the question “how open is open?”
Within the sport sector, safeguarding officers are supported by the Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) to make sport a fun and safe community for children and young people. To enhance the knowledge and skills of sport safeguarding officers, the Unit provides training and learning opportunities, as well as making resources available on it’s website. In an environment where there are increasing pressure upon time, limited resources and developing technologies, the Unit is now developing more opportunities for learning and sharing in an open space, through webinars and online toolkits. However, this has brought challenges, including ensuring the appropriate use of openly available resources and information and managing resistance by some safeguarding officers around accessing online materials or engaging in safeguarding discussions in an open environment.
This presentation will describe a consultation with the sector followed by the initial piloting of the sport safeguarding learning network. The consultation was conducted through online surveys and discussions, followed by a presentation to the host organisation. This raised issues of enthusiasm for an opportunity to share and learn, alongside concerns around confidentiality and organisational risk. The question of openness led to interesting discussions and developments in the project's direction and the early signs of the development of an online community of proactice. This has drawn on the work of Wenger et al (2002) around the establishment of an online community of practice and was inspired by the lessons of Salmon (2011) to establish this effectively.
This presentation will explore the boundaries of openness within a safeguarding learning network and identify recommendations to take this innovative network forward at a pace and with the necessary support to engage the audience effectively.
- All images used are from the CPSU website and as this presentation is related to a CPSU project there is no need for additional permission to use them.
- Alt-Text has been added to all images in the presentation
12:18 on 4 February 2017
Welcome to my presentation entitled "How open is open: exploring the boundaries of openness in setting up a safeguarding learning network"
My name is Jude Toasland and this presentation forms part of the H818 Open University module.
I am a senior consultant for the Child Protection in Sport Unit. We work with sports organisations to keep children safe in sport. I will be talking to you about a project to enhance the advice, training and support of those people who take a lead safeguarding role in sports organisations.
At present we provide resources and webinars openly through the CPSU website and webinars. However we would like to extend this to more online services to train and support safeguarding leads.
Initially the vision of this “sport safeguarding network” was influenced by Wenger’s concept of the community of practice, with the key domain being safeguarding in sport, the community moving from offline support to more online and a practice of shared learning and development. It was initially envisioned that this would be one network consisting of a forum which would also be the place for development, learning and discussion. This was thought to require some boundaries and therefore not to be entirely open.
- Jim Groom defines openness on 'at its best … an ethos not a license. It’s an approach to teaching and learning that builds a community of learners online and offline.'
But in the world of safeguarding, how open is open? With safeguarding including a variety of aspects from child protection concerns through guidance and resource development.
It was therefore decided to consult with the safeguarding lead officers to inform this plan, along with internal discussions and consultations. The plan had several stages:1.Consultation – this was primarily through a survey on Survey Monkey and this was enhanced with face to face and online discussions, both internal and external2.Following clear feedback in the consultation that Yammer was a known and popular forum platform, the pilot was established here, starting with a selected group of interested safeguarding officers. Alongside this a webinar and teleconference discussion was held for a wider group.3.The pilot was then evaluated again through Yammer, webinar and teleconference as well as email and face to face discussion4.The Yammer group has now expanded and is forming part of a multi level network.
The complexity of the question “how open is open” can be explained by exploring the diversity of safeguarding topics, which a safeguarding network could potentially address. Child protection concerns are generally the most sensitive area, but only form part of the picture. Organisational dynamics can affect safeguarding and safeguarding officers frequently require the space to discuss these issues. Training developments can be across organisations before publication. Learning opportunities include the less formal sharing of knowledge and experience between practitioners. Resources include procedures, guidance and templates.
The survey therefore posed the question how open should each element be? They could be entirely open to the public, within a gated, password protected environment or in a closed, confidential setting.
The majority of respondents stated that child protection concerns should only be shared if anonymised, and then preferably in a gated environment.
There was considerable sensitivity around organisational dynamics and organisational risk. Some members would welcome the opportunity to explore these in a password protected environment but others were more cautious around organisational risk.
There was some disagreement with this statement with some participants wanting more open sharing of developments but this was in the minority.
The opportunity to learn from others was welcomed. However a gated environment was still preferred and some expressed some vulnerability about sharing information and feeling exposed.
There was a strong request for open access to resources, including training and guidance, extending that which is currently available on the CPSU website.
Over the course of this project there were some challenges. The primary one has been the increased interest from the media following recent concerns about abuse in sport. This has led to more reticence around sharing information and more concern about organisational risk. The limitations of some organisations'’ technology has been a challenge and required adaptations such as the use of both webinar and teleconference platforms for discussions. For many safeguarding officers there are considerable demands upon their time, so providing a time efficient network that they could justify using was key. There was also considerable diversity across the safeguarding officers, with some becoming administrators for the forum and supporting it with their digital knowledge and other being very reticent and requiring considerable additional input. Support mechanisms for the latter group are being put in place such as clear introductions and guides to assist them. However the face to face discussions will also continue in order that all officers can gain support.
The sport safeguarding network is now moving towards a four level approach as opposed to one platform. This includes extending resources through the CPSU website, expanding the forum to facilitate shared learning and developments, maintain more focused task groups and consultations – both on and offline, and extend the openly available webinars as well as using webinars (and some teleconferences) for smaller meetings.
In summary, the question of “how open is open” has a number of different answers depending upon the type of safeguarding information communicated. Child protection concerns remain in confidential, closed settings, although anonymised examples could be used for learning and development. Organisational dynamics will be discussed in the gated forum, with clear groundrules (currently being finalised) around this. Training developments will take place within the gated forum to gain input from within the sector, and to provide learning opportunities through gated webinars. Other webinars and resources will be shared openly through the CPSU website.
If you would like more information about the Child Protection in Sport Unit, please visit our website. If you have any questions about this presentation I’d be happy to respond.
14:22 on 4 February 2017