At this stage, you should have prepared every detail regarding online community management, so now it is all about carefully managing the online community of the young participants. In sum, the role as an online community manager involves moderating the discussions, activating the young people, and keeping the eParticipation process safe. Check out the OPIN User Manuals to learn more about the technical actions you can perform in your role as online community manager (i.e. initiator and moderator).
eParticipation usually happens over a period of time. Keeping young people engaged in the process can be a challenge, but here are some tips to keep them activated and motivated. You need to ensure an ongoing good dialogue between the young participants. This means that you have to be an active and attending moderator and establish a good relationship with the young people. Feedback and support is vital. You should respond to their questions and queries on the platform as well as via email as soon as possible. Otherwise, they might lose interest. Remember to communicate clearly when they can expect that you, the online community manager, are online!
If the level of activity is low, it is your role to motivate the young people to be more active. Let’s say that an idea has been posted. Then you should encourage the participants to further develop the idea by asking clarifying and cheering questions. But remember that you have to be neutral and not favour some ideas over others!
Another way to motivate the participants to actively take part in the deliberations is to ask the recipients of the results to be online within a certain timeframe. Here the decision-makers could either moderate the debate or answer questions from the young people in an encouraging manner. Stakeholders or experts could also be invited to do this. However, before activating this tip, carefully consider the consequences of letting the decision-makers take part in the deliberations. They can potentially influence the outcomes of the process, so you, the online community manager, have to be awake, so this doesn’t happen.
Lastly, the online community manager has a very important role with regards to keeping the online process safe. For the young participants’ own sake, you have to keep a watchful eye on what they are posting. You should remove posts which expose personal information or don’t live up to the Code of Conduct and the online do’s and don’ts that you have decided on in the Preparation Phase. If you decide to remove posts, you should of course notify the user.
As previously mentioned the EUth project recommends that minors use a pseudonym on the OPIN platform. It might happen that some participants exploit the fact that they have not revealed their real identity and therefore see an opportunity to deliberate in a harsher tone. Regardless of pseudonym, if someone ruins it for the other participants you have to tell them to play by the rules. And if this doesn’t help you have to take the consequences and evict the person in question from the project. However, all in all, there are more pros than cons with regard to minors using pseudonyms in the long run!