Author Archives: Thomas Morris

  1. Giving Biodiversity a Helping Hand: A Bug Paradise

    by Thomas Morris | 29th Mar 2019

    A group of young people took part in a Wildlife Garden Workshop at the Ebbw Vale Institute creating bug hotels and seed bombs to help pollinating bugs and improve the area around the building.

    The EVI is a historical community building in Ebbw Vale that was regenerated and is run by ProMo-Cymru. It provides a programme of creative activities, learning and social enterprise developments and is home to a variety of third sector organisations.

    Young people from Llamau, Act Trainingand Blaenau Gwent Youth Services took part in this special workshop run by Eggseeds, an organisation that delivers outdoor education teaching people about nature and biodiversity. The workshop was organised as part of a series of sustainability measures taking place at the EVI as part of a WCVA supported project made possible through the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme.

    bug houses being painted
    Painting the bug hotels in lovely bright colours

    Vacancies at the Bug Hotel

    The workshop began with building bug hotels, small wooden buildings that can house all kinds of insects and even some birds. These wooden structures were all attached to a big slab of AstroTurf and will be placed just outside the front of the EVI. This will create a small, elevated street for bugs to thrive in inside the community garden.

    Before the buildings could be made ready for the bugs to move in though, it was time to smarten them up a little to catch the eye of any EVI passers-by. The young people got to work painting the bughouses and bug hotels!

    The inside of the bug houses
    Chalkboard roofs, with straw and bamboo filling

    Attracting the bugs

    “The three taller structures will mainly attract flying insects. Bees, butterflies and lacewings might like to nest inside them” explained Sam from Eggseeds.

    “We stuffed some of the smaller houses full of sawdust with just a few small gaps to get in. This makes it ideal for beetles to burrow through. We added larger round holes to some of the smaller houses too, to make an ideal nesting place for birds.”

    Once painted, the chalkboard roofs (good for writing messages on) were nailed to the buildings with power tools and the houses were then stuffed with sawdust and cut bamboo tubes. Sawdust stuffing creates a malleable environment for insects to burrow and nest inside. Think of all the extra surface area for their tiny bodies to slip into and crawl along. It’s hoped that the bamboo tubes will become a place for bees to lay eggs.

    finished seed bombs
    Seed bombs are a great way of planting wildflowers

    Bombing for blooms

    With the bug buildings looking fantastic it was time to move on to the next activity – creating seed bombs. Seed bombing is an ancient Japanese organic farming technique, a way of seeding which is kinder to the land and protects the seeds from birds and other wildlife. This is a great way to increase biodiversity in your local area.

    We used seeds that sprout hardy wildflowers. The other benefit of seed bombs is that, as the seeds are encased inside hard-packed earth, birds can’t easily eat the seeds, giving them time to start growing.

    dirty hands rolling seed bombs
    Getting muddy creating the seed bombs

    How to create your own Seed Bombs:

    Step 1: Scoop up some wet clay, mix it with some soil, roll into a ball and make a dent with your finger

    Step 2: Pick up two or three seeds and drop them into the dent (any more and the seeds will compete for resources when in the ground and won’t grow to their full potential)

    Step 3: Knead the seeds into the centre of the ball

    Step 4: Throw the seed bomb onto any fertile or waste ground and hope that plants will grow.

    bug houses in situ
    The bug hotels and houses standing proudly outside the EVI

    Be a wildlife hero

    It doesn’t take much to make a difference to the biodiversity of your local area. Why not take some of the ideas above and create a paradise for birds and insects in your own garden? The participants were really happy with the finished results and headed off home having learnt some valuable skills thanks to the Eggseeds team for all their expertise and hard work.


    This workshop was funded through the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme through the WCVA. The EVI received funding to improve energy efficiency at the building, increase the local biodiversity and involving the community through volunteering.

    This is the latest in a series of articles on the many ways we’re promoting sustainability at the Ebbw Vale Institute. Read the others here:

  2. Young People Using Private Channels to Communicate Online

    by Thomas Morris | 5th Apr 2019

    Young people are becoming ever more aware of their digital footprint. The digitally native generation has learned to separate their various online personas and their real life presence. The amount of admin involved with running various social media accounts (and various not so social accounts too!) is likely to perplex the average adult.

    Alt accounts

    “Alt”, or alternative, accounts have always been a thing- in online games. A player might log in to their usual play-space under a second account, with a different name, in order to do things they can’t do on their main account. For example, if a player has developed a big following either in game or in an online community such as YouTube, they might like to play without fans harassing them for the digital equivalent of an autograph.

    Social media buttons for Young People Using Private Channels to Communicate Online article

    Fed up of Facebook?

    On Facebook, in particular, as demographics have changed and parents have tried to add themselves to teens’ friend lists, young people have started using more comprehensive forms of privacy controls online. They filter who gets to see their various types of user-generated content. Many young people, fed up with this paradigm shift, appear to have left the social network entirely – which of course is a big part of the reason that Facebook bought Instagram.

    Flop accounts

    On Instagram and Twitter, it is much easier to have separate accounts – public and personal, perhaps a business account too. You can switch accounts easily on their apps too. This has led to the development of the “flop” account on Instagram. Flop accounts are where young people share an account and post images related to current affairs or drama within their real-life or digital communities. There is an element of anonymity behind the accounts, but they effectively act as curated news feeds.

    game control for Young People Using Private Channels to Communicate Online article

    Private group chat

    Then you have the private channels that are harder to observe. How much chat do you think goes on in the chat box of an online game for example? A particular behemoth now is Discord, the social app designed specifically for gaming. Private groups on Discord, WhatsApp (also a Facebook acquisition) and Facebook itself are closed channels. This means you can’t simply look on or lurk. The design of such a group is that you are a key participant, even if one of many. You are constantly compelled to contribute, and by doing so become part of the community. This has caused issues for journalists, who struggle to maintain the distance with their subjects needed for objective reporting. Would third sector workers have similar issues, or would you benefit from the increased trust of your participants?

    Contact us

    If you would like to better engage with users on private platforms or learn to create and run your own get in touch with ProMo-Cymru by emailing Nathan on nathan@promo.cymru

  3. Jumping on the Podcast Bandwagon

    by Thomas Morris | 6th Mar 2019

    Podcasts are undergoing a renaissance. Originally developed through a series of happy accidents in the early 00’s, the podcast format has now come of age and is an accepted mainstream form of entertainment- and arguably the most democratic.

    If you’re a charity or social enterprise looking to get your message out to a wider audience, a deeper understanding and engagement with this newly matured medium may be key. Take a read of our blog to find out why you should be considering a podcast.

    Radio mic in front of ipad for podcast article

    Tuning in with podcatchers

    If you’re yet to witness the portable audio phenomenon yourself, you’ve been missing out! There are all kinds of great podcast listening apps, called podcatchers, available for you to try.

    Apple have officially supported- and been the main curators of- the medium for some time, with iTunes’ podcasts section. However, recently Google has released an official podcatching app, which bodes well for Android users.

    Getting down with the podcasters

    What kinds of things do people talk about on podcasts? There are repurposed radio shows from organizations such as the BBC from The Reith Lectures to Tomorrow’s World.

    But the real individuality comes with smaller podcasts, usually staffed by just one or two people, often recording in bedrooms- Cardiff local Daniel Minty is a great example. In his series, Minty’s Gig Guide to Cardiff, he interviews musicians at various stages of their career from the studio, which he enthusiastically admits is “the bedroom.”

    Distraction Pieces Podcast advertising image - Scroobius Pip holding mic to head

    Benefits of podcasting

    Another benefit podcasters have is rich data about the demographics of people listening to their podcast- often enriched by a tight social media community. Many podcasts rely on an interview format for their content, and often hosts will be highly interested in offers by charities to come on and talk about their cause. Podcaster and musician Scroobius Pip recently interviewed Natalie Clapshaw of brain injury charity Headway on his Distraction Pieces Podcast. Radio Cardiff also host a regular show for charities to discuss their work.  

    One of the great things about the medium is that listeners are often very engaged. Podcast listeners have carved out special time during their day, to learn something fascinating about the world simply through the act of kicking back and listening in.

    Going It Alone

    If you decide that your organization could possibly get its message out better with its own podcast, there are a number of options available to you to keep costs low.

    The easiest option by far is using the Anchor app. You can record with a smartphone, you can edit on your desktop, you can submit your podcast feed to iTunes and, from there, all other podcatchers with just one or two clicks.

    Alternatively you could use the Virtual DJ desktop app, which includes audio channel mixing, all for free. The web service Podbean offers free/ cheap podcast hosting, as does Mixcloud. If you have an Apple account, you can quite easily submit your RSS feed to iTunes, and from there the world is your oyster.

    Strangetown Podcast logo

    Here to help

    ProMo-Cymru has experience in providing podcast training and have developed a podcast for young people in collaboration with Radio Platfform called Strangetown, which features on theSprout website for young people in Cardiff. You can listen to the latest episodes by scrolling down to the bottom of theSprout homepage or by visiting the Radio Platfform page on the Wales Millennium Centre website.

    If you would like help in setting up a Podcast then we would be happy to discuss how we could help with training. Contact: arielle@promo.cymru

    One word of advice though: if you’re starting a new podcast right now, you’re not alone. Because it’s easier than ever before, everybody’s at it. You’ll need to keep up in this auditory arena- and a great place to do that is with Nick Quah and NiemanLab’s Hot Pod newsletter.

  4. Instant Messaging: The Preferred Method Of Contact

    by Thomas Morris | 26th Nov 2018

    Research in the way that children and young people are contacting one of ProMo-Cymru’s helpline services shows the increase in popularity of contacting through Integrated Instant Messaging. This is overtaking the traditional phone call and SMS messages.

    Meic Cymru is one of the services run by us here at ProMo-Cymru. It is an information and advocacy helpline service for young people aged 0-25 in Wales. During 2017, instant messaging (IM) communications through the Meic website overtook phone calls, and it doesn’t look like this will be changing any time soon. This year, IM have consistently made up at least 50% of all Meic contacts.

    Preferring to chat

    Is it any surprise that today’s young people feel more at home speaking to an advisor through a chat interface? SMS has been commercially available since 1994, (the birth year of those who are currently just under the age limit of the Meic service) but it has always come at a price in the UK. Online Instant Messaging, from MSN, Yahoo and IRC chat-rooms through to live support chats and of course the WhatsApps, Telegrams and Discords of the world today, has always been free of charge and today’s young people have grown up with it dominating their social lives.

    Some might say we would be better off developing a chat interface through, for example, Facebook Messenger. ProMo-Cymru is well known for utilizing social media to engage people of all ages. Ultimately though, by using our own platform developed on the open web, we can guarantee the confidentiality of our users. We can ensure that everyone has access to our platform and, with full control of the system, know that it will remain operational for years to come.

    Old phone - people prefer Instant Messaging

    Keeping it confidential

    Through our secure, confidential IM service, children and young people can tell an advisor everything that is troubling them and get the help they really need. A phone call can be harrowing for a child or young person. It is not always the best place to spill the beans. They might feel more at home contacting through a text interface.

    So why is texting less popular? SMS operates on a ‘best effort’ delivery basis. This means that as many as 5% of text messages are not delivered. It is not surprising therefore that today’s young people prefer to web chat.

    We must also consider what is lost when communicating over text. When we learned to use phones we had to place more emphasis on tone of voice. Body language was absent. When people message each other they develop an online culture with new ways of contextualizing their words. They use things such as emojis and abbreviations. The Meic staff constantly discusses with each other how to improve their practices and ensure that they are up-to-date with text lingo.

    Understanding communication choices

    As someone who is still under 25 years of age, I may be able to offer some insight into the preferred communication method of young people. Messaging is so ingrained in our culture that the use of different platforms actually defines who you get to know. This is probably more so than whom you are in physical proximity with. For example, if you’re an Android user you’re unlikely to get to know iMessage users on iPhones. If you have an account with Discord because you were invited to join a chat server, you’re likely to join more Discord servers with the same account. If you don’t have an account maybe you won’t bother. Millennial-dominated workplaces run on Slack, not email. The list is endless and the reasons many.

    Perhaps it is this simple. Being on the phone to a professional requires a certain level of professionalism in your physical space. A journalist I met once recommended always standing up when on the phone. They suggested that your increased posture and presence would be felt on the other end.

    When you are in the depths of despair it is easier to send a message from a place of safety and comfort. Maybe tucked up in bed, quietly messaging. You don’t want to raise your voice on the phone and risk someone else in the house hearing your problems. Maybe you’re out in public, and it’s even more embarrassing. Add to that the fact that mobile data is usually cheaper than text nowadays, and you’ve cracked the case.

     Being there for those that need it most

    So to conclude, if our helpline service for children and young people was not being delivered through instant messaging, it would not be giving access to all of those who need it most. You may as well say, that for some children and young people it would not be delivering this essential service at all.

    About us

    If you are interested in any of our services or would like to learn more about our work here at ProMo-Cymru please contact Arielle Tye on 029 2046 2222 or e-mail arielle@promo.cymru.

    Further information about our TEC model available here: