OneUp is an online tool that provides easy to follow action plans for youth to learn life-skills – some of the things we may take for granted, but that they’ll need to be active members of society – while connecting them with both peers and experts for support.
More About This Project
Women and children are the largest growing population experiencing homelessness, and there are a number of programs being put in pace to mitigate this growing problem. Many of the programs that are having the most impact are focused on positive feedback, highlighting achievements of the youth. But in order for the youth to realize many of the benefits of these programs, they are regularly required to attend in-person meetings with mentors and/or case managers. Often, due to low self-esteem, a fear of expectations, and busy schedules (juggling school and multiple jobs), many youth are not ready for these structured programs. The result is that many youth simply visit the drop in centers for basic necessities without engaging in the programs or benefits the organizations offer. During my research, I was surprised to learn that – like most kids – these have regular access to computers and the Internet. I began to explore possibilities that would build on this insight in order to mitigate the friction point of physical-attendance at a center. I started with these questions:
- How can design facilitate the empowerment of young women who are not ready to engage in long-term programs, but may still visit the drop in centers?
- How can design be used to help the youth recognize their own achievements and build self-esteem?
- How can design extend the benefits of these great programs while minimizing the barriers for engagement?
Through design prototyping and iterations, I developed OneUp as an answer to these questions. OneUp is an online tool that provides easy to follow action plans for youth to learn life-skills – some of the things we may take for granted, but that they’ll need to be active members of society – while connecting them with both peers and experts for support. I believe that by empowering the youth to choose their level of engagement and dictate their own attendance terms, paired with opportunities to reach out for support to both peers and experts, these kids will be able to achieve the action-plan goals and simultaneously build their self confidence. Here are a few of the key features of OneUp.
- Action Plans. While many of us take basic social activities for granted, these youth haven’t learned how to use a checkbook, open a bank account, apply for a drivers license, or get a ticket to the bus. These Action Plans help them learn these life skills.
- Levels. The action plans are divided into levels of difficulty and necessary time commitment, and the difficulty level is made evident to the youth.
- Tracking Progress. Each action plan shows incremental progress through a vivid visual, and the youth’s profile page shows all the plans they are working on. This allows them to realize incremental gains on the way to a larger goal, and encourages them to keep at a seemingly difficult or insurmountable task.
- Rewards. The youth earn digital badges as steps are completed and gain points as entire plans are completed. The badges are a source of pride; the points can be redeemed for real world rewards (like gift cards).
- Community. There are opportunities for the youth to reach out to peers for support when they get stuck; they can equally share their accomplishments, gaining a sense of earned pride.
- Support. Online chat with adult experts empowers the youth to reach out for help when they are ready, and only when necessary.
Throughout the design process, I have been working with an organization in Austin that has a drop-in center serving homeless youth in Austin. Faculty, other students, mentors, and the staff at this organization have all been integral to the process, challenging the ideas, discussing content and exploring new concepts. I launched a proof of concept with the the youth that use the drop in center. While I am still learning, making changes and refining the tool, the initial reaction has been positive. The young women like the idea that they can work on the action plans from anywhere and receive rewards – and what’s more, they’ve engaged in the tool on their own, reaching out for support when necessary and continuing to complete the various action plans. All of us at AC4D have been rewarded with a change in our perception of homelessness in Austin and watching the perceptions change at local organizations. The staff has a new perspective on the way technology might be used within their organization, to empower their clients and to help them better engage with the young digital natives. But the real reward has been to see the change in their perception of what “design” is and how partnerships can be created to explore and develop new solutions.