Today we’re excited to launch the next stage of My Best Life, our long-running collaborative project seeking digital solutions to the challenges facing young people today.

At NPC we recently launched our new strategy, putting people at the heart. We’re paying special attention to topics and approaches where we believe NPC brings the most value, such as children/young people and digital. My Best Life takes on both head on, and we want you to be part of the team.

 

Understanding the challenge

Back in 2018, we worked closely with young people living with multiple disadvantages in the London Borough of Camden. We used interviews and user-focused workshops to map our conversations with young people about their lives: their quiet ambitions, their pain points, what helps them, and what holds them back from the life they dream of.

The young people we worked with in Camden faced multiple hurdles, ranging from language barriers to workplace discrimination and unstable housing. What everyone had in common was that they didn’t know where to go for help with those issues. They either didn’t receive the help they needed, didn’t know help was available, or didn’t think the help was for them.

Phase one of My Best Life involved a collaboration of organisations, including The Mix, Revolving Doors, the Camden Young People’s Foundation, UK Youth and Leap Confronting Conflict, and led by NPC. We’re grateful for the generous support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Zing Foundation, and our NPC Supporters Circle, without whom we couldn’t have done this work.

It was among the first times NPC really shaped its research around what young people think. The project enabled us to map young peoples’ experiences in a way which really resonated with others in the sector.

 

Building solutions

This next phase is about responding to the need for better support for young people we found in phase one. But we also want to go further. We want to trigger a massive shift in how the social sector approaches challenges like this.

Digital technology has the potential to make this a reality. Tech helps us work more efficiently on a much bigger scale, and it makes it easier for charities to involve their users.

We want to see the sector embrace digital solutions, and for funders and charities to collaborate in doing so. Working together is vital because individualistic approaches to digital solutions can stifle innovation and lead to inefficiency.

At NPC, we’ll be working with young people, youth practitioners, and charities—starting with The Mix, Leap Confronting Conflict, and UK Youth—to co-design a digital solution to helping young people access support.

We’ve learnt a lot from our consulting and thinktank work about the issues facing young people, but this sort of product design is a new area for us. We’re excited to discover what works well, and we’ll be sharing with the sector as we go. Stay up to date by signing up to our newsletter.

 

Take small steps and learn as you go

Our hope for the second phase of My Best Life is to promote collaborative digital projects, and to support other charities to work this way through the lessons we learn. We’re keen to use CAST’s ten design principles to help charities build better digital services to guide our work. Starting with ‘take small steps and learn as you go’.

Our digital solution doesn’t need to exist in isolation from the real world. It could be a tool that complements the work of frontline staff or supports youth workers in their interactions with young people. It could be a digital service matching young people with housing support, or an app providing emotional support as a wraparound to other services.

We think it’s too early to decide just now, and we aren’t the right people to answer that question. But we intend to convene those who can. We want the sector to collaborate to respond to the need for better support for young people.

 

Join the team!

So, over the next few months, we’re inviting any organisation working with children and young people, or developing digital solutions, to get involved and help us shape this project. We want to:

1. Frame the question, starting with user needs:

  • Is there a particular type support for young people you think we should focus on? Do you think there is a gap that could be plugged by a digital solution? Where do you think a young person’s user journey can be improved?
  • When are needs well met by a digital solution? Does a digital solution have to be connected to offline initiatives or can our solution be online only?
  • What digital solutions are already out there that are providing the right kind of support?

2. Build the right team, which is wide and inclusive:

  • Invite organisations and people to join our partnership, perhaps as partners, or on the steering committee, or as a sounding board.
  • We’re keen to build as wide and inclusive a team as possible right from the start, and to invite others to shape the project and what we learn from it.
  • We want to collaborate and build partnerships with those working on complementary projects.

3. Generate possible solution ideas:

  • We hope to develop these ideas as proposals for the design phase.

My Best Life is an open project, and this will be reflected in the way we work. We’ll be providing regular updates, with opportunities for you to get involved in shaping the direction of progress. We’re jumping into this team mentality right from the start. If you want to be involved as a project partner, if you want to share your insights, help set our objectives, or just have thoughts on our approach, we want to hear from you!

Working alongside me at NPC are Tris Lumley and Kathryn Dingle. We hope to be launching our formal partnership to start designing our solution this autumn.

To get involved in shaping this work, please get in touch with me at charlotte.lamb@thinknpc.org. Don’t miss out!

This year’s NPC Ignites will feature a breakout session on how to get the most out of digital technology and how to avoid being left behind by the latest tech trends. Book your tickets to our annual conference here.

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