Reflections on our project plan

Rose Anderson

As NPC works on My Best Life, a project exploring tech solutions to the problems faced by young people, we’re committed to posting regular updates and sharing our findings. Here, I’ll be sharing the key topics of discussion from our most recent Steering Group meeting.

We want to understand why young people want to access services. We already know how young people access services, and now we want to explore what motivates them. This doesn’t just mean whether they’re looking for counselling, advice or recreational activities. It means we want to know whether it’s the service itself that motivates young people to take part, or whether there are other factors driving them (such as the need for money). The need for this knowledge is why we’re continuing to work with young people and creating a Young People Steering Group. We’re planning to recruit young people from both the local area we choose to work in and other urban areas across England. However, we’ve come to realise that we may need to speak to youth workers sooner than we had planned, in order to get a better perspective on young people’s drivers and potential barriers to access.

We also want to understand, and reach out to, young people who aren’t accessing services. We want to engage them and learn about their reasons for not being (or not wanting to be) involved with services in their local area. We are considering how we might connect with organisations who specialise in working with young people who might otherwise not have had connections to any services.

We need to ensure we have clearer measures of success in place. What is our ultimate goal for this progressive web app (PWA)? Do we want to see more young people connecting with services? Or do we have more long-term goals, such as greater ongoing engagement with services? The latter goal is more ambitious and would require more work to be done on the prototype PWA.

We’re clarifying the scope of our product. At the moment, we’re exploring what already exists (in line with CAST principle number 2). This includes considering using off-the-shelf CMS rather than building our own – but we want to investigate how much we can build on existing content.

We mustn’t underestimate the data challenge. If we’re going to help young people access services, we’ll need data about said services. But Covid-19 will make data collection much more difficult, as everything is in a state of flux and, sadly, some services may not even exist in future. We’re considering whether to make a full data portal at this stage, or whether we should use static data for now and work towards a more dynamic data set later. We need to decide whether organisations are inputting their data for us, or whether we’ll be doing our own “data scraping” research. And then there’s the challenge of translating this data into a language suitable for young people. We at NPC are working with our partners to see if we can recruit young people for data collection, identify networks that could help us, and/or tap into existing movements.

Looking for a local authority

Our Steering Group has also been discussing the search for a local authority to partner with us. Their availability and experience will be key to the project’s success. We also need to be careful that our findings are applicable to other areas of the country. We have been grappling with the questions ‘Are we building for all or are we building for some in a specific location?’ and ‘Are we building to be replicated or scaled?’ We know it will be a balance of the two.

The challenge for us is deciding whether to go where there are already plenty of youth services, so we can concentrate on getting the PWA’s infrastructure right, or to go where there are fewer services, so we can more easily see the impact our PWA will have. We might even try to do both! At the moment, we’re keeping all our options open.

So, what happens next?

We’re now going to be finalising the local authority partnership. We’ll also be running our first youth steering group meeting in the next few weeks. Do you have experience with engaging young people in this way, and are there any tips you’d like to share with us? Let us know!

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