Data entry: The successes, the challenges, and why we’re doing My Best Life

Rose Anderson

We’ve started our Alpha sprint, and the app’s development is coming along nicely! Alongside this, we’re continuing with data entry, finding information about services for young people in Lambeth and recording it in a spreadsheet ready to be transferred into our app. This blog will share some of the challenges we’ve experienced.

Categorising support and activities

There are currently twelve categories that we use to describe the services on the app, with each service coming under one or two categories:

  • Money
  • School and college
  • Sex and relationships
  • Mental health
  • Keeping safe
  • Job stuff
  • Where I’m living
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Drink and drugs
  • My body
  • My rights and the law

We’ve been aiming to have at least three entries for each category, as that will give a good range for usability testing (with young people in Lambeth) and allow us to test what aspects of the app young people like/dislike. We want to move beyond the normal categorisation of support, so we’re also categorising services by interest—for example, “Sports”, “Music”, “Gaming”, “Reading”, “Fashion and beauty”, “Activism”, etc.

However, finding services is less easy for some categories than for others. For example, “Family” was intended to include anything that helps young people with their relationships with their family, but so far what we’ve found is more to do with counselling and childcare support. Services that are labelled as being “for families” are typically geared towards younger children or parents, and not the 15-to-18 age range we’ve been designing for in the app.

In addition, we’ve seen quite a few organisations promising a “safe space” for young people, but few services that are specific about “Keeping safe” from crime. We had briefly considered removing the “Keeping safe” category, given that it overlaps with “My rights and the law” and that it’s been difficult to find services that fit the category. But we would rather not do this, because “Keeping safe” is at the high end of the risk spectrum, involving issues such as abuse and exploitation. If a young person using the app says they’re feeling unsafe, it would be irresponsible not to have anything to offer them. We are therefore looking at national and online support options to ensure we have the right information for young people. As an additional consideration, any “Keeping safe” services that we include on the app would have to show that they’re not linked to the police, in case that dissuades young people from coming forward.

Perhaps the category “Keeping safe”, as we’re currently conceiving it, is too narrow. So far we’ve found plenty of services across the board that a young person could attend in person, but right now many young people are using their phones more than ever as they are stuck at home—leaving them vulnerable to scams, grooming and cyberbullying. Perhaps we need to consider services for cybersecurity and online relationships help—although these are less likely to be local services.

Should we categorise support?

Some may want to ask why categories are necessary in the first place. The main reason is to make finding the right type of service easier. The filtering is currently optional, but how do we speak to young people’s sense of individualism when we have categorising? Nobody likes being categorised unfairly, and Generation Z in particular is all about breaking boundaries. We want to show that we see these young people as people, not just labels for problems. We think we’re doing this through the onboarding process for the app, telling users what it’s all about and offering to tailor search results to their own interests. We’ll keep meeting with our Young Person Steering Group to make sure we’re on the right track here.

The difficulty of finding suitable services has emphasised to us why we’re working on My Best Life in the first place. We’re trying to make it easier for young people to find what they need, saving them the time and frustration of searching for information. We’re putting in the hard work so they don’t have to.

Our search has also thrown up the importance of accessible language. A lot of the time, charity websites are written for professionals or parents, not for young people—even when the service is going to be delivered to young people. Alternatively, the “For Young People” links might be buried within the website and just too difficult to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

There is stuff out there, but websites aren’t necessarily written in a way to help young people find it. Transferring the necessary information to the app, and tweaking the service descriptions with language that appeals to young people, would be a great benefit.

Get in touch

We are not the first to grapple with this challenge. How have you dealt with the categorisation challenge?

Do you know any “Family” or “Keeping safe” charities supporting 15-18 year olds within Lambeth that you can recommend? And how do you think charities could improve their services’ visibility and accessibility to young people?

Let us know! Either comment below or email us on rose.anderson@thinknpc.org

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