Most people do not realise how our childhood memories shape our present as well as our future.
We lean on our memories and become who we are as a result of them.
But, some people are born into less fortunate circumstances and struggle to cling on to important memories – sometimes because they have none.
In New Zealand, thousands of young people in state care could benefit immensely from having important moments preserved for their future.
The social services sector understands the importance of the life story of a young person but has struggled to consistently enable tamariki to collect, maintain, and share their life story in a way that was powerful and engaging for tamariki (young person) and their whānau (family).
What emerged from the work is a system that enables the collection of collaborative life stories.
We achieved the significant milestone of enabling busy support workers to capture meaningful moments for young people, and we are now sourcing funding for development.
More importantly, is the impact this project has had on young peoples’ lives.
There were numerous moments of young people engaging with their stored memories, sharing and communicating more with others, and being proud of their achievements.
For many of them, this is something that was previously difficult to do.
I describe the shared impact within the following representative story of a young person in care that experienced and continues to use the app:
David came into care as a young child. Although he has had a good connection with whānau, it has been primarily through visits, reports, and occasional photos sent by staff. Storybooks were not part of his life, and he had difficulty making connections with people on his own terms. A two-way relationship was very difficult, repetitive, and limited.
Staff help David to use the app and they also take photos of important moments for him. They work together to build a rich story.
David is proud to show the photos he has to EVERYONE! He now owns and leads connections and discussions about things that are important to him and can describe the events in detail.
Whānau enriched David’s story and they were able to stay connected in the present moment, providing encouragement for the things he’s been doing and also being a constant part of his life. David really enjoys staying connected with his family in this way.
I selected two main methodologies:
- The DUCTRI Design Thinking Methodology as the overarching approach. In particular, this methodology is beneficial because it expends on the traditional ‘double diamond’ and incorporates resourcing and implementation phases.
- Lean Startup to develop and test prototypes while mitigating risk.
Tools and Techniques Used
- Semi-structured interviews. Interviews with a diverse range of young people in care and support workers were conducted to build rapport in a particularly sensitive environment, to allow the participant sufficient ‘airtime’ and to provide a safe space to ‘dig deeper’ where needed. The TEDW model was central to the type of questions asked.
- Analogous research. Inspiration was sought from sectors that have a similar problem and how they are solving the problem either digitally or analogue. Desktop research and in-person research within social sector organisations was used.
- Crazy Wall. Each notable comment and observation from each interview was transcribed on to post-it notes (including the interviewees unique identifier) and randomly placed onto a blank wall.
- Affinity Map. The post-it notes were iteratively organised into themes and groupings. The sentiment of each grouping was encapsulated into a speech bubble.
- Empathy maps. Empathy maps were created to further extract insights and needs for carers and young people.
- Tensions and polarities were captured to demonstrate the forces that are in play.
- Personas were developed to represent young people, family and support workers. These personas were used throughout the project to consider perspectives when decision-making and developing a minimum viable prototype (MVP).
- Bright spots. Bright spots that signalled a possible direction that could be leveraged and amplified.
- Reframing of the project goal into a How Might We … question to focus on the fundamental need of trust and connection.
- Co-design workshop. Stakeholders participated in a workshop after experiencing the data and insights to ideate solutions and surface additional issues.
- Brainwriting. Several iterations of mapping out ideas and connections between.
- Experience stroyboards. Five critical experiences that the project is trying to enable.
- Hand-drawn sketches. To start visualising he most likely form of interface screens.
- Low-fidelity wireframes. Using Figma to design the mobile and desktop interface into an MVP.
- High-fidelity MVP. Using Glide platform to develop a working app that could be used in the real world setting during a Pilot.
- Focus group testing. Testing of the MVP from care experienced young people in a group setting.
- Individual testing. Testing of the MVP in a one on one setting with both support workers and young people.
- Pilot testing. A real-world test was conducted over a three week period with both young people and support workers using the app as part of their daily routing.
- Architecture and Development. We worked with a group of young developers to determine the architecture, user stories, development roadmap and costings.
- Pre-mortum. A pre-mortum was developed to identify the barriers to a successful project and mitigation strategies.
- Switch framework. We used the Switch framework to apply behavioural change techniques that would shape the ability for support workers to more easily use the app in their busy day.
- We identified and articulated the most important success factors for the organisational change.
There were several fundamental building blocks that emerged from the work during the nine month project:
- Several critical insights that would shape the path of the project.
- Point of view statements, POV statements that crystallised the main need for each user group.
- Design principles. A set of principles that could anchor the work and decision-making regardless of the final deliverable.
- Social impact map. A way of articulating the value to internal and external stakeholders or used as a progress assessment tool.
- Social impact canvas. A canvas to articulate the business structure.
- Foundation stones. Three fundamental project principles that would be needed to continue the work.
- A working MVP app tested in real-world conditions.
- User stories and architecture as the development framework.
- Top-down and bottom-up behaviour change leadership approaches.
- A model that reframes the viewpoint of storybooks and places the young person at the centre as a way of thinking about the why, how and what of delivery..
There are four significant areas of impact:
1. Because young people need to trust before building connections that lead to positive outcomes, the MVP enabled young people the opportunity to preserve important moments, develop their own positive narrative and to share with whoever they trust.
During the course of the seven week pilot there were hundreds of photos taken by young people, support workers and family.
The young people began to engage with their stored memories, sharing and communicating more with others, and being proud of their achievements.
For many of the young people, communicating in ways that would be typical for ‘us’ is challenging, yet the app enabled them a powerful way to communicate on their terms with increased trust, connection and confidence.
Even now, nearly four months after the end of the pilot, young people are regularly using the app.
2. A support workers day is messy and busy, yet we evidenced that the MVP could enable an ‘easy’ way for them to facilitate the development of a rich and meaningful story of a young person’s life.
Because trust and connection is fundamental to successful support delivery, the app provided another way of engaging to establish trust and connection with a young person, leading to enhanced support.
Additionally, the app became a focal point of conversation and collaboration between Support Workers, creating a shift in thinking and initiating a new way of working.
3. Often family feel disconnected from their loved ones that are in care. Using the app, family were able to engage directly with the young person using the app as “conversation starters” when visiting.
More importantly, it is the ability to ‘peek’ into the young person’s day that provided the most benefit, in terms of providing comfort that their loved one is in “safe hands”, and to “remain part” of the young person’s life.
4. Finally, the organisation now has a ‘tool’ that can fulfil regulatory obligations without burdening an already resource constrained sector.
Some of the organic initiatives in use to enable connection and communication (emailing photos to parents) can be enabled at scale throughout the organisation with the digital system that was designed.
In my opinion, what has emerged is a new ‘way of working’ that transcends the project. Since the project, we have leveraged the approaches, methodologies, data and insights and taken the ‘way of working’ into new areas of research, gained further insight and understanding, leading to the reshaping of multiple services in a human-centred, collaborative and iterative way.
The organisation now has a model from which to transform into one that will remain competitive and relevant in the new world (individualised funding, voice and choice, enabling good lives etc) that it faces.
LET’S WORK TOGETHER