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.

Hammerwick Childrens Social Care User Journey

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Hammerwick Council - Childrens Social Care

(it’s not a real council)

This is a story about the Children’s Social Care Service within Hammerwick Council, a fictitious London Borough. It’s one of six personas we’ve created to help us develop Mind Of My Own and is based on interviews carried out with children’s services. It helps us explore how Mind Of My Own could help councils to do an even better job of helping young people to be heard.

About Hammerwick’s Childrens Social Care Service

Hammerwick is a large London Borough with a diverse population, including 538 children in care and 260 care leavers. Over the last two years 62% of its young people have left care at the age of 16 and 38% have left at the age of 17 or 18 after staying on for longer in their fostering placements. When they leave care they are entitled to support with accommodation, job finding and education up to the age of at least 21, and beyond if in education or they have special needs.

A few young people are ready to leave care at 16 but the majority are not, even when they turn 18 (and sometimes even when they turn 21). The borough’s care leavers tell stories of rejection and isolation. They want “security and safety, respect and guidance. Someone to turn to, someone to be there for us when times get tough”. Young people from the borough were involved in making a video about their experiences for the Care Leavers Charter.

The Care Leavers Charter and the Munro Review

Hammerwick is expected to work to the Charter. In the words of Scott King, care leaver and Ministerial Adviser on the Charter “Our new Charter focuses on the hearts and minds of the individuals. To respect and honour their identity, To believe in them, To Listen to them, To inform them, To support them, To find them a home and To be a lifelong champion.

Our aim is to change the social work ethos in the UK and start understanding the individual children and young people, respecting where they have come from and what they have been through and nurturing them to be the best that they can be.

The Care Leavers Charter aims to change the social work ethos in the UK and start understanding the individual children and young people, respecting where they have come from and what they have been through and nurturing them to be the best that they can be.”

The Charter is one of several policy and ethical drivers that Hammerwick’s social work team is trying to work to. In 2011 the ground-breaking Munro Report recommended that social workers be given more support and freedom to get alongside children and young people and put their views at the centre of their care. Some of its recommendations can be interpreted as:

  • reducing the need to complete assessment processes within arbitrary timescales
  • reducing the role of the professional voice and increasing their connection to the child’s voice
  • increasing the power of the child’s voice.

Implementing Munro’s recommendations should help social workers to reshape their relationships with young people and develop better shared definitions of problems. It should also enable young people to be more involved in developing solutions and making decisions with professionals.

Hammerwick are trying to do the right thing

Hammerwick’s senior children’s social care management team is trying to give their social workers the freedom to make this happen and their social workers have been trying to do this. Everyone knows that putting the child’s voice at the centre of their care is the right thing to do but they still struggle with having enough time to build relationships and really listen to what children and young people are saying. This is compounded by the ongoing turnover in staff meaning that each child’s social worker changes on average every 29 months.

As a result, not much has changed – social workers are still overly burdened by administrative tasks and assessed on number, rather than quality of visits to children and young people. The borough is unable to demonstrate any increase in young people being involved in decision making processes. More crucially where involvement happens it is unable to track or show if this leads to any benefits, i.e. improvements in the young person’s wellbeing, health, quality of support or experience of care.

Hammerwick’s MOMO User Journey

Hammerwick have been offered Mind Of My Own for a year. A handful of young people from the Borough have already used it independently to express their views on issues relating to their leaving care service either by using it to generate and print a statement or to download and email it to their social worker.

They understand in theory that MOMO could help solve the problem of young people not feeling heard by their services. However they are concerned that it might become another administrative burden for their staff and aren’t sure that it’s worth spending time adopting in case young people won’t use it. They get the idea that it could help young people express their views and that this could help change their working culture into one that puts young people at the heart of what they are doing but can’t see how it might do this.

Having tried out the professional’s user interface and explored MOMO’s features Hammerwick’s Director of Children’s Social Care approves the purchase of a one year subscription. They roll it out to their leaving care team first who are invited to register via Hammerwick’s user account. Once registered each team member is invited to watch a MOMO ‘How to’ video that explains how to use it. These videos are easily accessible for any time they need a refresh.

Hammerwick begin inviting young people who are coming up to leaving care age to use MOMO to input their views into their next Looked After review meeting. They can send emails with links or send young people flyers in their leaving care packs. These flyers are printed from their own dashboard and include a code that young people can use when they register, so MOMO recognises where they are from. This means that users can send their statements directly to Hammerwick’s user account and so to their social worker.

After six months of using MOMO they see an increase in young people expressing both positive and negative their views at meetings and in-between. Young people’s contribution to transition meetings increases, even when they don’t attend. Hammerwick receive stats on numbers of young people who have used MOMO and their feedback on the experience of using it and the benefits it’s created for them. Anecdotal evidence from social workers includes stories of how much easier it is to understand what young people have written via MOMO and of how those who have used it will talk more confidently in reviews and at 1-1 meetings.

Hammerwick invite the rest of their care leavers to use MOMO and continue to recieve its benefits.

Summary: What Hammerwick want Mind Of My Own to be able to do…

As a children’s social care service manager I want MOMO to:

  • be easy and intuitive for under-pressure social workers to use to invite young people to MOMO and to access young people’s statements when young people choose to share them
  • do more than just help me enable young people’s voices to be heard within our services
  • generate direct access flyers that I can print and give to young people
  • improve our efficiency at enabling young people to express their views in meetings and more generally, without prompting by their social worker
  • be easy to invite and encourage young people to use
  • be easy for young people to send their statement to their social worker without needing to know their email address
  • produce statements from young people in formats that are easy to understand and work with
  • show me how many young people have used it and whether they think its been useful for them
  • give me evidence of how it has increased Hammerwick young people’s involvement in decision making
  • give me evidence of how young people’s involvement in decision making has led to improved decisions and outcomes
  • enable young people to tell my staff about things that they want to change or be sorted out, not just the things that my staff ask them about before reviews etc
  • enable young people to challenge assumptions about them
  • show me how it adds value to our wider strategy (listening to young people, reshaping relationships, changing social work culture etc)

Hammerwick’s story is one of six user journeys we’ve created. To see the rest click here .

Care Leavers: Our Conscience is Built From What We Have Learnt

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Text by Scott King – @ScottKing_

Children and young people in care, a misunderstood , invisible minority. Society judges them for their actions and what they see on the outside but people forget what these individuals have been through, what they have had to endure, what they have seen and what they feel. Each has a story and their minds are burdened by trauma, labels, regret and self – blame.

Care leavers are constantly fighting demons within themselves struggling to understand why they feel how they feel. Care leavers are not valued as individuals and leave care with no foundations to build a future upon.

Our new Charter focuses on the hearts and minds of the individuals. To respect and honour their identity , To believe in them, To Listen to them, To inform them, To support them, To find them a home and To be a lifelong champion. Our aim is to change the social work ethos in the UK and start understanding the individual children and young people, respecting where they have come from and what they have been through and nurturing them to be the best that they can be.

Believe in Children in Care, Believe in Care Leavers. They are worth more than what you leave them with. They are worth more than a life trapped in the welfare system.

This video is to help professionals understand the conscience mind within children and young people in care as this is the force that takes life’s blows, tries to deal with them and governs the actions of the individuals. We hope that care leaving services will see the individuals for who they are on the inside and communicate empathy and ultimately making better decisions on behalf of care leavers instead of just comparing them to their peers and making them blame themselves for their past.

The Charter was released 29th October 2012 , endorsed by children’s minister Edward Timpson.