Slipping between the cracks
The Matter, is an idea created by the founders of Service Design outfit Snook. Throughout their work they saw first hand how young people in the UK were too often disengaged from their communities, offered few opportunity to participate in community life and inadequately prepared by their education to get jobs in the new employment landscape.
Snook’s insights identified community engagement as the vital first step in building a willingness to acquire employment skills. So they created The Matter – an innovative, learning-by-doing approach which awakens an interest in having a voice in society among this forgotten group.
The Matter won 6 months of seed funding from the Design Council’s Working Well Challenge and I was responsible for bringing this awesome idea to life and making it a success.
You should have asked us ages ago
The idea behind The Matter, is a program that facilitates a group of six young people through a design-based problem solving cycle – from research to ideas. The group works with a real world client, who presents them with a challenging social question. e.g. How should the government listen to young people?
Their insights, thoughts and ideas are presented not in a report, but in a self published single edition newspaper.
What do you think?
We kicked off our design process with a co-design session with several young people similarly aged to those of our real target. We wanted to hear how they would design our service, since they’d be the ones using it.
We brought our early thoughts, and a bunch of pens and paper and together we co-designed wireframes for the website, defined the selection process and even role played some sticky team scenarios to help us all understand how to design for group dynamics.
Learning by doing
Back at the studio I spent the next month shaping the concept and designing the nuts and bolts of the program with the team.
What emerged was an 8 week program with 4 face-to-face sessions with us. We designed each step from selection to aftercare and looked hard at some of the skills we felt young people were missing out on to ensure each stage would provide opportunities for them to gain them, e.g. How to fail fast, time management, interpreting jargon, calculate risk, self promote, reflect and communicate within a team.
From the start we created the program with a scalable business model able to go UK wide, partnering with schools, councils and corporations.
Intuition and structure
To support the participants and improve their online skills we developed a custom digital platform for each team. We designed tools for capture and sharing that help participants collate and structure their ideas for the final printed newspaper.
I designed the functionality and graphic feel to be as intuitive as possible since many users would have little web experience. I created cheerful branding and a colour for each stage and generally kept graphic flourishes to a necessary minimum.
Hello real humans
For the first pilot I co-ordinated our partners, the young people and Snook’s internal resources to bring to life our ideas and start learning in the real world.
Over the 8 weeks, I designed and ran 4 meet up sessions, each time reviewing progress, reflecting on learnings and introduce the group to the new skills and methods they’d need in their next step.
Here’s a rough breakdown of what we covered in each meet up:
– interviewing the client
– deciding group roles
– stakeholder mapping
– Reflections on the process
– idea storyboarding
– writing workshop
– creating themes
– design direction
– production management
– final presentation
– selling the newspaper
Just getting started
After 4 months work spread over two pilots and numerous iterations, The Matter launched publically in January 2013.
The first pilot was an immense success. The participants presented their final ideas with confidence and conviction in a vivid demonstration of newly acquired, and very employable skills. They had become a community and they Mattered.
The group was invited to write an article for their local paper, received funding for a second print run of their paper and gained fast track support for a Council grant to bring one of their ideas to life – reverse consultation
The transformative dividend was undeniable.
To have kids to go from “I have no future, I will be on benefits for the rest of my life” to “I now have energy to see a better future and the ability to get stuff done” is great.
– City of Edinburgh Council