Case 4: The content is more important than the tool
In the beginning of the Polish pilot participants used an online forum based on PHP-Nuke as a platform of communication. It was quite a simple, intuitive and user-friendly tool. The group was satisfied that the forum allowed for keeping all the posts together, that the discussions helped to keep a track of ongoing activties. The forum was used for discussing some ideas for social events that the INCLUSO group could perform in local communities. There were plenty of ideas, their modifications and updates. We were astonished by the creativity and committment of young people, who in the majority seemed rather uninterested in everyday life.
After some time the participants started complaining that there were too many ideas on the forum and too little work done and that finally one of the projects should be realised. However, they found it hard to make a common decision and their discussions slightly turned to conflicts. The young people were also a bit dissatisfied with the fact that the forum was somehow plain: there was no possibility of uploading pictures or videos there, to comment on profiles etc. Seeing all that, the staff decided to be helpful and react, which after a while proved to be a bad step.
We decided to help the young people to work on one project - we suggested what they could do and how they could share the tasks. Following their need for a more attractive tool, we showed them the Ning platform and suggested using it for the project. Everybody switched form the forum to Ning. Having a more attractive tool, we expected a great explosure of self-expression and even more detailed discussions. We were deeply mistaken. The communication suddenly almost stopped.
When we were collecting the feedback on the project, we discovered that the young people did not mind the conflicts that much. They did not mind that they could not come to any conclusion. They wanted to keep being active in THEIR OWN way, by discussing THEIR OWN ideas, even if they were to remain just ideas with no realisation. Discussing on SOMEBODY ELSE'S suggestions, even if they were to bring the participants a step forward towards the project realisation, could not keep them motivated.
They did not mind the unattractiveness of the tool either. They felt forced to change the tool and, as the result, they did not like it at all. Although it was much more attractive and more useful for their work. As one of our participants said, the attractiveness of the tool is unimportant, as long as the young people feel that what they are doing makes sense.