We’re over the moon to announce that we have received funding from Nominet Trust to develop our 360-degree strengths feedback tool for young people. Alongside this award we are launching FLiP as a new social venture working with youth-led organisations to deliver scalable digital solutions tackling youth unemployment. It’s exciting times!
As some of you know, FLiP is an online tool that lets young people build a strengths profile based on feedback from trusted friends on Facebook and other social networks. The profile can be used when creating CVs and preparing for interviews by giving young people valuable information about themselves. FLiP can help people who don’t know what they are good at build confidence and apply themselves better to reach their full potential.
The backing will allow us to go from prototype to product over the next 15 months while creating a sustainable business model and we are looking at youth development organisations as key delivery partners.
In addressing current levels of youth unemployment, the government’s youth policy (Positive for Youth 2012) outlines the important role of youth workers and youth services supporting young people’s personal and social development as part of their pathway to employment.
During our first phase of concept development in London, we met some great youth workers running fantastic programmes but found themselves short of time and looking for new ways to engage young people through digital platforms. It was during the testing of FLiP in these employment support workshops that we saw real potential for the tool. The support workers were able to assess a young person’s strengths more efficiently and focus on tailoring the right support for them. The strengths profile also generated valuable discussions in CV building and career advice sessions.
We’re planning on providing some great technology to youth development programmes that can help organisations tap into the social capital that young people bring with them. It gives us great confidence to have the support of Nominet Trust, who are backing early-stage social start ups and share our vision of delivering real impact at scale. We’re building an amazing team of developers and creative brains to work on the venture over the coming months with our partners.
We will be sharing details of this next phase of development in our blog and newsletter, but for now we just wanted to share our excitement about what’s coming up next!
In the meantime, if you want to come and talk us please drop me a line at email@example.com
How to break through and avoid burnout after your hack weekend – 5 lessons on digital innovation for public service.
Back in 2010 a group of four passionate and creative individuals were exploring ideas around tackling youth unemployment. What digital solutions could be developed that would be meaningful and valuable for young people who’d managed to get themselves a bit lost along the way?
Two years later and after a process of concept development with Camden Council and support from UnLtd and Nesta we have FLiP – an online 360 degree strengths profiling tool based on feedback social media from trusted peers. Our aim is to address the complex challenge of youth unemployment by providing innovative digital tools to organisations that help overcome some of the barriers to employment. We are now developing a business model and entering the next stage of development to be able to roll out to local and national organisations working with young people so watch this space!
As a small team of designers and innovators we have worked hard to get the project off the ground and into the hands of young people and public organisations. This was new territory for us and we have come a long way from our early idea two years ago. I was asked by Nesta to share the learning and reflections on our journey. So here’s a summary of what I wrote that may be useful for public sector workers and digital entrepreneurs alike who will inevitably find themselves working together in some way or another.
Keep the momentum going at the beginning
The project has humble beginnings, we were four individual designers and developers with a big vision and a lot of enthusiasm. This self initiated project was kickstarted thanks to the Jailbrake hack weekend where six ‘back of the envelope’ ideas for new digital businesses were developed and pitched over 48 hours. However, after such an intense event teams were often left bewildered, overwhelmed and with little structured follow-up support on how to move forwards. It was tempting to obsess over revenue models and business plans to pitch for investment or funding. At this stage it’s too early to have more than some ideas or basic assumptions which need testing out.
Looking back, the few months after the weekend was a crucial time that would decide whether the project took off or fizzled out. What worked for us was finding an organisation who were excited and willing to develop and test our idea with their users and cracking on with some research and design activities. Getting to this point early was vital to keep the momentum going.
Our lesson was find people or organisations who share your goals and are as equally excited about it and start testing out some of the assumptions from the weekend as soon as possible.
Get ready for a culture shock when working in new sectors
This sounds obvious but it shouldn’t be underestimated. We came from the creative industries often working in the private sector, where the pace is fast and responsive. Working on a social innovation start up means people may well be working across sectors: digital innovators partnering with front line workers and organisations to radically change the ways things are done.
An organisation’s culture and attitude to innovation is very often challenged. People are asked to come out of their comfort zone and take risks. This is easier for innovators and designers who revel in trying new things but can get blinkered by the vision for the product or service being developed. We often forget the demands this can place on public and third sector organisations. While innovation is exciting and attractive, trying to innovate on top of a busy workload is hard graft for the front line. We scaled our vision and goals to match the resources and capacity of our project partners and the risks they were prepared to take. This allowed us to make small and progressive steps forwards in the project.
Small is beautiful
Our team is small and we have worked with much larger organisations. To do this effectively we have had to be flexible and responsive. Following a design-led approach for developing FLiP has meant that we’ve created and tested many prototypes to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Having a small team that can respond quickly prototyping activities has worked well for us.
For example, in an early version of FLiP, we had a live prototype of the tool that featured a database of opportunities uploaded directly by organisations offering work or training. When we tested this out in Camden (with young people and organisations), we quickly realised that there were not enough easily available opportunities to meet the demand of young people using the site. Following this we set up a new trial and focused on the strengths profiling features that had showed clear value and benefit to young people. This happened over one month and dramatically changed the direction for the project for the better. I believe we were able to do this and not stall because we are a small responsive and flexible team able to make decisions quickly and based on real insights. We often read about the necessity to ‘fail fast and fail often’ in order to succeed sooner but a team has to be well prepared for the practicalities of working like this. This leads me on to our next learning…
Don’t be precious
People need to be able to let go of ideas and assumptions on what they think will work. Being truly collaborative and co-designing solutions with a community of people means harvesting many ideas and trying to prove them wrong to find what is right and worth taking forwards. As mentioned in the example above, our project partners and young people were clear on what was working for them and we dropped what didn’t work. At the start of the project we didn’t expect that our main customers would be third party organisations offering employment support programmes to young people but this is now a key part of our development strategy.
User-involvement is not just a means to an end
Finally, as a great advocate and practitioner of co-design, I couldn’t ignore what we’ve learnt on user involvement. We often spoke about the benefits of co-designing and prototyping ideas with young people to ensure that the end result meets the needs of the people using it. While we still believe this is the best way to develop solutions, there is a certain amount of risk if the project fails at an early stage (albeit far less than a if a full blown pilot fails later down the line). However, this is enough of a risk to put some organisations off getting involved.
We found that organisations were more likely to invest a bit of time and resources if the young people involved in the process were shown to be learning skills as a result. Of the apprentice applicants that were involved in FLIP’s peer-research activities, 50% went on to secure apprenticeship placements. Camden Apprenticeship Scheme officers believed this was because of the skills and confidence the young people gained by being part of a co-design process.
We are very excited about the future of FLiP and will be sharing news of our future plans very shortly. As we speak, we are building new partnerships and securing support to allow us to scale the work we are doing and embed digital solutions into current support services for young people. We really see a huge potential to allow young people to leverage their social networks and access support when making career and life choices.
Bruno Taylor is a designer passionate about digital innovation and social change. He is heading up FLiP’s new social venture. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to have a chat.
NESTA has published the first series of their Reboot Britain programme, which FLiP took part in last year. They have produced a few videos to showcase the programme and the projects involved. Have a look at the first one they launched and keep an eye out for FLiP!
Through Reboot Britain NESTA was seeking to “test and understand whether collaborative technologies and the behaviours that surround them, can change the way public services are delivered to achieve better outcomes, using fewer resources.”
To test this the programme has specifically focused on essential but often challenging, high cost, high anxiety services such as young people not in education, employment or training, which FLiP addresses, as well as patients with mental health needs; individuals who are disabled or have mobility problems; offenders; families in chronic crisis; and vulnerable children and adults.
Reboot Britain was grounded in the reality of public services so it was essential to NESTA that each idea supported was built and tested within service areas, with involvement from users and frontline staff. In FLiP’s case we worked closely with Camden Council Apprenticeship Scheme and the young people participating to co-design the tool and cater to both groups needs.
NESTA has produced case studies for all ten of their Reboot Britain Programme. For NESTA, the projects show how collaborative technologies can be used to support and enhance our public services and deliver more for less in a number of ways:
- The tools offer a better understanding of users’ needs and reduce costs by helping eliminate aspects of services which are not serving users;
- They can help access and unlock spare capacity that exists within services, local communities and individuals; and
- Collaborative technologies support earlier interventions that are more effective in supporting users and will reduce demand on more critical and expensive services.
Have a look at the Prezi case study they’ve put together for FLiP.
FLiP participated at a one-day Express Social Innovation Camp (Sicamp) focused on young people and health- on Saturday 25th of February 2012. The event was a delivered in partnership with NECLES HIEC (Health Innovation Education Cluster), a dynamic network of Health Educators, Innovators and those that ensure health care is delivered to the population of London and Essex.
Interesting and clever young people, designers, developers, and healthcare experts were teamed up in groups to work on five questions:
1. How can we help make the transition to adulthood work more smoothly?
2. How can we help those with health and wellbeing issues avoid/reduce the impact of social isolation?
3. How can users better use their own medical history to have a smoother health care experience?
4. How can young people make a game out of eating well and getting fit?
5. How do I know if I need to see the doctor, and can we make it a better experience?
Young people have particular health needs – both preventative and in dealing with the healthcare system—which aren’t well catered to – the healthcare system is designed for adults and children, and when going through the transition from one to the other, the opportunity for confusion and problems arise.
Itamar Ferrer, co-founder of FLiP, joined the the first team to work on making the transition to adulthood work more smoothly. The team’s clear outcome was the insight that while there are loads of good services, young people don’t know where or what those services are. Our task was to address the transition a young person needs to make to access these services. We focussed on signposting services for 12-16 year olds in a variety of ways that would allow them to make their own route towards health. We think that much of our insight will be taken on board with the myhealthlondon website.
FLiP was invited to participate in Google’s second Interactivism event.
Interactivism: Young People’s Hack Weekend was held in London on 17th and 18th February 2012. It was delivered by Google and FutureGov who joined forces with the RSA and South London youth communications agency, Livity. Teams were challenged to submit ideas with innovative ways of using the web to help young people get into the job they want, or onto the training or education that will help them get there in the future.
To help get the participants creative juices flowing, Bruno Taylor, told the story of taking FlipJobs from an idea for an alternative CV platform that started at a hack event (Jailbrake) to the functioning beta site it is now. Over the two day event Bruno joined over 130 developers, designers, students, social innovations, and young people who joined the challenge and develop the ten ideas shortlisted from the 81 that were submitted.
We were kindly allowed to present FLIP at a meeting of the Connexions Personal Advisors (PA) team in Camden today. We were keen to see if the connexions service would be able to refer young people onto the tool and if they would find it useful.
The PAs had some questions on what type of opportunities would be listed on the site. They support excluded young people not in employment education or training (NEET) and often the opportunities that are out there are still out of the reach of many young people NEET because of the qualification requirements.
This has got us thinking about what other entry level qualifications and opportunities, in addition to apprenticeships, that we can put up on the site.
Watch this space!
Last week saw the FLiP team visit New Horizons Youth Centre in Camden to introduce FLiP live for the first time.
New Horizons is a day centre working with young people who are vulnerable, homeless or at risk. We dropped into an employment support workshop run by Janet Matthews, one of the staff at the centre. Here’s what she had to say about the tool…
We got some good responses and feedback from the group and they were very keen to see more opportunities being posted on the site in the future. They also helped out by describing FLiP in their own words for us on video.
We also asked the group to write down how they would sell FLIP to their friends?
We had a great time at New Horizons and will be dropping in again as FLiP develops. Watch this space!
We held another employer engagement session with our commissioning partner Camden Apprenticeship Programme to further understand what profile information is relevant to Camden as a public sector organisation offering opportunities to young people. We asked them to consider what information would be included in a job listing. Then they looked at the skills groups in the previous task and selected areas that they would request in the job advert. They were also asked what they would be looking for in the application responses, both written and at interview. We also showed some examples of what a young person’s FLiP would look like and asked them to provide feedback in terms of the type of information provided and the way it was presented. They found that highlighting strengths and skills was very appealing and useful. One of the team members stated: “I wish more CV’s started out with this phrase…”
We learned that the team from the Camden Apprenticeship scheme are not focused on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. They found this to be the same with most of the employers that are offering apprenticeships. They are more motivated to support young people with the right attitude and enthusiasm whatever their background. “Things like literacy skills you can teach. You can’t teach personal qualities. They are all about attitude and having the right attitude.” So we’re on the right track! With some tweaks here and there.