The Care Leavers Charter Film

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The Care Leavers Charter was launched on Oct 31st 2012. For over a year Scott King’s beautiful film, Conscience has accompanied the Charter on its journey to improving the lives of care leavers. Now Conscience has a campaign companion in the form of this powerful film about the life of being a care leaver made by young people and Barnardos. (more…)

Bexley IROs to Pilot MOMO

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Jumping with excitement about Bexley IROs

We’re excited that Bexley IROs have joined us

The most important person at a care plan review or pathway planning meeting should always be the young person (even if they don’t attend).

After them, the most important person is probably the Independent Reviewing Officer (or IRO). Their job is to make sure the planning process is done well, and that the young person’s wishes and feelings are given full consideration.

Its the full consideration part of the IRO role that gets us going at Team MOMO. So last night, when Bexley IROs agreed to pilot MOMO we were jumping with excitement. (more…)

Feelings Come First in MOMO

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Pictures and How are you feeling todayMOMO helps young people express their views, plan meetings, request changes and make complaints.

It helps them do all of this without having to go anywhere or meet with anyone (it can also help them do it while with their advocate, social worker or friend)

Why Feelings Come First

But for some young people, before they express their views or ask for something its helpful to have a way to express how they are feeling, at that moment. Asking how you’re doing is what an advocate or any adult worker does first. MOMO does the same. Engagement starts with making space for someone to express how they are feeling (even if that is that they don’t feel like discussing their feelings) and acknowledging it.

This is what MOMO does first. It replicates this human interaction by enabling its users to express their immediate feelings.

Click On A Feeling

Once a user has chosen a scenario the first thing MOMO asks is how they are feeling. Users can click on any of 14 different feelings, or add their own. In the words of Jamie, one of our Beta testers “I like how I can express how I feel by clicking a button”.

How I'm Feeling - Mind Of My Own ScreenshotThrough the input of Jamie and 13 other young testers we’ve refined the list of feelings they are offered. As we learn more about what people click and the new feelings they add we’ll refine the list further.

Sending Your Feelings

Once a young person has finished making their statement they can save, print or send it to someone. Their statement includes their feelings, as a snapshot of how they felt at the time of writing about their issue. Though their feelings may change by the time they get a reply to their statement, expressing them in their statement generates reader empathy and provides a starting point for discussion with their advocate or other worker.

When Writing is Easier Than Saying

Jamie also said “I prefer it to saying it out loud”. For many young people the easiest way to talk about things they find difficult or feel inhibited about is through writing them down. In therapy it can help them raise issues in a way that feels safer and relieves the pressure of having to verbalise them 1-1 with an adult. Similarly, MOMO provides a way for young people to communicate how they are feeling, and state any issues, without having to do it in a 1-1 setting.

You can help young people use MOMO in this way. Share it with them as a tool to express their views and communicate with you, especially for when you aren’t available. They will do the rest.

MOMO: Easier than Paper

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Too much paperIf you’ve ever been in care then you’ll probably have been given a paper form to fill in before your Review Meeting. The form will have asked you about what’s happening in your life, and most likely will have included all the things that your care team think are most important.

In our experience forms can come in a variety of slightly unwieldy versions: from Times New Roman fonted A4 sheets, to kind-of-cool-but-cheesy online games.

But when we asked young people (more…)

MOMO Launches in 10 Weeks

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guide6It’s been 6 months since we kick started MOMO. As the app becomes a living and breathing piece of loveable tech everyone in Team MOMO is getting excited about harvesting our final testing results and getting the app out to young people who need it.

We launch in 10 weeks.

So far we’ve:

  • Researched what we didn’t already know about advocacy services, looked after children, care leavers and smartphone usage
  • Spent over 100 hours talking to young people and getting under the skin of advocacy services to understand their problems, issues and needs
  • Built a paper MOMO (prototype) and tested it with 13 young people, using the results to…
  • Build a digital prototype (aka Sprint 1) and tested it with 11 young people, using the results to…
  • Build a Beta version of MOMO (aka Sprint 2) – available as a desktop and mobile browser-based app that we’re now in the middle of testing in real-life situations with looked after children and care leavers in Bexley and Surrey.

We’ll carry on Beta testing until the end of September, at which point we’ll be ready to do a bit more building (aka Sprint 3) before we launch MOMO in October.

What is Beta Testing?

MOMO went into Beta on July 15th. This means that we have a version of the app that is 60-70% complete and ready to be used in real life situations by the MOMO community of young people and service partners who are already familiar with it. It still has some bugs, and it still has some extra features to be added before it can be used more widely.

What are we doing with Beta MOMO?

Young people in Bexley and Surrey are testing it out on smartphones, tablets and laptops with their advocate or social worker and feeding back to us on the experience. This helps us understand how it needs tweaking or improving to become more intuitive and easier to use.

Advocacy services are experiencing MOMO at different stages of their casework process with young people – before, during and after. By becoming more familiar with how it works they will be able to provide us with insight into what features it needs to have to help them improve their service efficiency, outputs and outcomes.

At the end of September we’ll gather all results, feedback and insight together and use the data to decide and prioritise what gets built in Sprint 3 – our final development stage.

Here’s a look at MOMO’s current homepage before it undergoes development in Sprint 3.

MOMO 150813

MOMO’s App Homepage

MOMO Launches in October

Around the end of October we’ll be falling over ourselves to let you know what we’ve built for young people. You’ll be able to use MOMO fully and for real as both a browser-based app and in Android and iPhone app format.

If you’re a service working with looked after children or care leavers you’ll be able to sign up for a trial and buy MOMO subscriptions that will get you access to additional value-enhancing features that will enable you as a service to

  • help young people kick start the advocacy process themselves and contact you with more information at an earlier stage of their issue. This will save you time and increase your efficiency and referral levels.
  • access local data reports on issues and outcomes you and young people have achieved with MOMO. That way you and your commissioners get a better understanding of local issues for young people and what helps solve them.
  • invite young people to use MOMO to prepare for meetings, increasing individual participation in reviews and your value to your commissioners

Make sure you know when MOMO launches by signing up below. [signup-form id=”590″]

Paper Prototypes at the Ready!

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The Situation Page from paper prototype of MOMO

The Situation page from paper MOMO

Yesterday we started paper prototyping Mind Of My Own with care leavers in Bexley and Surrey. Two days, seven sessions and much snipping, tacking and sharpie action later, we’re done.

It was amazing. Watching the prototype start off in Bexley as a few pieces of paper interfaces, buttons and acetate develop through young people’s input into something that closely resembles what will be the first build. What was great about it was how it engaged both user groups, created an inclusive environment and generated so much specific feedback and informed insight into how MOMO could work. If we had tried to achieve this just via focus groups or user consultations then it would have taken months to get anywhere near the volume of data and quality of learning.

Why did the paper prototype engage young people?

Paper is tangible and tactile so it feels real and provides an experience similar to as if it actually was your phone. Having a human ‘operator’ to act as the phone and move each paper ‘screen’ into and out of view while explaining what’s happening gave the prototype personality and users the experience of interacting with something with personality. As a result the user experience became more real.

Having a human operator also engaged users because they were able to aks it questions and getguidance when they got stuck or encountered a bug in the design answer your questions and guide you if you get stuck or encounter a ‘bug’, meaning the experience doesn’t stall. They can also ask you questions about your motives for each action. These opportunities for dialogue build rapport and make the experience more personal.

Why was it inclusive?

Because they are testing the app, not us testing them to see what they do with it. If something’s not right or they don’t understand it then it’s the prototypes fault, not theirs. This elevates the status of their role, levelling the playing field between designer and user. It removes barriers and breaks through any lingering senses of us and them. It brings young people intimately into the design process as an integral part of the process rather than an extension of it. They see their experience and suggestions being acted upon, and integrated into the design in real time. We’re learning and creating it together. For real.

Why did it generate so much useful feedback?

Because it engaged young people dynamically and brought them into the heart of the process it gave them a strong experience of what it could be like to use MOMO for real. This meant that what they said and how they acted was pretty close to what they might do in real life. By observing and asking them the right questions we were able to learn about what, how and, most crucially why they interacted with the prototype as they did.

This kind of learning is like gold dust. It’s valuable for three reasons:

  1. It helps us understand users underlying wants and needs in relation to their use of the app rather than those more obvious ones that we can learn about through talking hypothetically about it. This means we can create specific features and solutions to meet these deeper rooted needs.
  2. It builds two-way empathy between designer and user – something that helps every aspect of design and development. This will be useful when we come back to test digital prototypes with any of the same young people.
  3. It enables us to zero in on the design elements and features that we are struggling to understand or implement eg “We’re not sure what exactly will happen when you press this email button. Oh, you’d want to be able to send it to yourself? Why’s that? Oh, it’s because you think you’d want time to reflect on what you’ve said before being sure you want to send it on to your social worker.”

Paper prototyping. Job done.

Next step will be to let the excitement we’ve felt during the sessions to settle, clear our heads and then meetup with the design team to review what we’ve learnt, sharpen features and then priority list them as ‘stories (link)’, ready for building in sprint 1.

Then, next month we’ll be back in Surrey to test the first build. Though it will no longer be paper what we’ll be testing will be the next iteration, the digital version of what we created together in the last two days.

The Magic of Paper Prototyping

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MOMO Paper Prototype Homepage

MOMO homepage V1 – black & white, 100gsm card

The concept of paper prototyping has always been slightly lost on me. Since I first heard about it the question ‘how can a sheet of paper replicate an app?’ has rattled around my head, as has ‘how do young people engage with a piece of paper in a way that gives us meaningful information?’

Well, to be honest it’s not just paper; it’s blu-tac, acetate and marker pens too, all worked magically by a very skilled operator pretending to be a phone. And the concern over young people engaging? That was unwarranted too.

The thing with paper prototyping, and the magic of it, is that it’s not about the look, colour or aesthetics of the app. It’s about the interaction process, the thinking behind the user’s actions as they press the paper buttons. It’s about the conversations the young people create with the app, not the conversations that young people create with us. It’s about seeing first hand what works for them and what doesn’t.

Paper is that very tactile resource. It’s non-threatening, it’s easily manipulated, it can easily be ripped up and thrown away. That’s why it’s so effective. The young people using it could journey through a process, create an outcome and see for themselves how the different interfaces behaved. In turn we watched, we listened and we responded.

The app wasn’t perfect, but then it’s paper, we can change it. The young people didn’t always like things, but, it’s paper, we can change it. The wording, the order, the positioning didn’t always work but again, it’s paper, we can change it. This attitude was reflected in the relaxed atmosphere of the room, the fun vibe generated by the process, and also in the suggestions, criticisms, openness and ambitions given to us by the young people.

Watching the paper prototyping was a fascinating and very informative process, which ultimately gave us more information than we could have obtained through months of research and focus groups.

Yes, we did identify quite a few changes, but that’s probably a good thing. It means we can make a better app now, not discover the errors later. It meant we could make changes there and then, we could progress and test our learning, and through the seven different pairs we worked with over the two days the app became stronger, our objectives became clearer and MOMO’s fundamental principles excelled.

At the moment MOMO may only be paper, pens and a bit of blu-tac, but for twelve young people, and a handful of workers (and myself) it has come to life. The concept of paper prototyping is now one I completely endorse and appreciate, and also one that fully embodies the co-production principle and drive for change that is central to the innovation process.

Care Leaver Interviews

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One of the aims of the Big Lottery’s Youth in Focus programme is to help young people leaving care. In 2010 they awarded £30 million of funding to organisations supporting young people between the ages of 15 and 25, so they get better access to education, housing, healthcare and employment advice and services. They asked some young care leavers what help they would have liked.