Talking to Youth Organisations About My Best Life

Rose Anderson

Last week, we presented the My Best Life app to the Asset-Based Community of Practice within the Youth Fund Learning Network (YFLN), a network of youth organisations funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Youth Fund. This was an opportunity to share what My Best Life is all about, and to talk about the process we went through to develop the app as well as talking about the final product itself. This led to an interesting question-and-answer session about how the app could be scaled and who would like to be involved, with a lot of interest in the outcomes of the next phase of our work.

Key points

Responses to the app

Overall, the response from the YFLN was highly positive! They were especially glad that the app’s development process included young people so fully from the get-go, and they highlighted the deep listening and responsiveness to young people’s insights. They could see the usefulness of the app for young people who may have just moved into a new area and want to know what they can do there. They are looking forward to seeing how the app develops, with one attendee wondering how it could be scaled across the other nations of the UK.

Attendees also told us that they imagined practitioners would find the app useful, as they could use it to help them find appropriate services for the young people they work with. In addition, service providers would perhaps benefit from the points we made about what young people need to know before they feel confident to access services—for example, it could prompt the Comms team to think about how they advertise their organisation’s activities.

Focusing on the strengths and assets

The YFLN cares about asset-based approaches: supporting young people in a way that looks at the positives and the strengths that young people have, rather than focusing on the problems they face. Preparing for our session with the YFLN has prompted us to think more about the principles of asset-based working, and how asset-based My Best Life is.

For example, the app’s users can currently filter by age, location and activity format; take a quiz to tell the app more about themselves; or just scroll through the service listings to see what’s available. We’ve tried to frame the quiz questions in a positive, asset-based way. For example, instead of asking, “What’s worrying you?” or “What problems do you have?”, the quiz asks the more neutral question of, “What’s on your mind?”, and possible answers include “School and college”, “Mental Health” and “Friends”. This comes alongside questions asking how the young person feels today and what their hobbies and interests are, to ensure we build a more holistic view of an individual’s wants and needs before making recommendations. The categories in “What’s on your mind?” are also used to categorise the services on the app.

Key questions and challenges

Increasing social mobility—how do we allow young people to transition across geographical boundaries?

One comment in the YFLN event got us thinking about how the app could be used to increase social mobility across geographical boundaries. We have so far been focusing on helping young people find things to do in their local area. However, one attendee made the good point that a young person may want to find an opportunity in a different part of the country—for example, a student in Belfast may be looking for work experience in Greater Manchester. In addition, a young person moving house might want to use the app before they arrive, so they can see what’s available around their new home, or even get in touch and start making connections in advance. These are considerations we may wish to keep in mind when we think about scaling the app—there’s an opportunity to foster relationships across the Four Nations and open more opportunities to more young people.

Scaling the app—how do we collect service data?

The app is currently being tested in Lambeth, but our key challenge is how to make it scalable. Is there any technology that we can employ behind the scenes to make organisations’ data easier to use? We know we need an alternative to inputting data manually, as we have been doing so far! We’re currently in conversation about a data scraping system to make data more readily available. Organisations would add something to their website that would mean their data could be collected and pooled with others’ data, so that they and anyone else can access all that data from lots of organisations. We want to talk to organisations and ask if they’d be interested in this feature.

Reaching young people—how do we reach young people where they are at?

During the meeting, one attendee talked about learning to use QR codes so that young people could access their online offer, which prompted a discussion about advertisement. We’ve talked to young people about how they find things to do, and commonly cited sources include flyers, school, friends and youth clubs. But one source that consistently came up (but hasn’t been tested yet) is bus stops. A QR code at a bus stop could be a way to get young people to engage with an app straightaway, while they wait for their bus. We would ideally add a tracker so we can see how many young people engage with My Best Life in that way.

Another attendee suggested recruiting influencers who are themselves young people to recommend the app. This reflects what we’ve heard from young people, who wanted something that was “for them”, rather than recommended by an adult (although they would still listen to an adult they trusted). Mostly, young people talked about Instagram and the celebrities who use it, so it is an area we’d like to explore.

Appealing to young people—how do we make the app more dynamic?

Looking at the app as a whole, one attendee told us that, while they thought the app looks clean and clear, they wondered if it could be made a bit more “funky” to be as appealing to young people as possible. This chimes with some of the feedback we’ve had from young people that the app perhaps feels a bit too “corporate”. We’re keen to adapt the app and add more dynamic content, such as videos. One person had the idea of commissioning some young graphic designers or creatives to work on the visuals.

All in all, the session was insightful and a great place to hear and share ideas for the future development of My Best Life. Quite a few attendees expressed an interest in using or appearing on the app once it’s ready to be rolled out nationally. We hope to keep in touch with the YFLN and keep them informed of our progress. We’re considering hosting another session later this year surrounding the data challenge—exploring how charities currently reach young people and share their services, and how technology could support this.

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