As part of the DesignMyFuture project, throughout the summer period Ahead Partnership have been working with our international project partners to collect data from young people aged 14-25 years old about their skills, learning preferences, ideas on future careers, how they find out about careers and their favourite types of apps and games to help inform the next Co-design stage of the project.
At the end of last academic year (June/July 2021) most UK schools were teaching young people back in their school buildings, however, there was intense pressure to catch young people up with the learning they had missed while locked down at home in the previous term. Under the circumstances, gathering this data therefore proved more difficult than anticipated at the start of the project (pre-pandemic) and so here we share our tips and experience of how to gather that data from young people under these challenging circumstances.
The project partners agreed that the best format for gathering the data would be an online survey to ensure that it was as accessible as possible for young people. The questions were also designed to be answered in 10 minutes to reduce the number of participants ‘bouncing off’ the survey and leaving it incomplete.
Questions were written as directly as possible, avoiding jargon, and formatted with multiple choice answer options wherever possible (with an ‘other’ box always added) to ensure young people’s ideas and opinions could be sparked with suggestions but that they could add their own additional thoughts if they wanted
Circulating the research survey
Once the survey was ready, our first tactic was to reach out to partner organisations that had a large social media presence to share the news of the survey opportunity online. Once we had shared to the DesignMyFuture Twitter page, we tagged in the social media accounts of various UK youth voice organisations, many of which retweeted the survey to their followers which largely consists of young people aged 11-19 years old.
We also contacted some of our partner organisations such as Birmingham Education Partnership, CATCH and Child-friendly Leeds personally via email who were happy to share with their wider network of organisations, schools and colleges that work with our target audience or with young people directly.
One of Ahead Partnership’s programmes working with undergraduates (aged 18-21 on average) was also meeting in person during this time to work on a community activity, so we took this opportunity to tell them about the DesignMyFuture project and asked them to complete the research survey on their mobile phones as part of the warm up to their session, which yielded an excellent response rate.
Focus group approach
Unsurprisingly during the challenge of the pandemic, circulating the survey solely online only achieved half the number of responses we had hoped to receive for our sample. At this point we got in touch with local youth groups that have youth boards or want to develop a culture of young people sharing their voices on community matters and developed a session tailored to them that we could deliver during one of their evening meetings.
We were invited to two youth group meetings to deliver the session, one at New Wortley Community Centre and one at Shine in Beeston, both in Leeds. The session was designed to include an introduction to DesignMyFuture, a quick focus group around the research questions, some group discussion and a prompt sheet to help the young people write down their ideas about what steps they might take to determine their future career objectives and finally a session where the young people could complete the survey on their mobile phones.
The survey response rate for each of these sessions was almost 100% which was fantastic, with feedback from the young people and youth leaders alike that it had really engaged and inspired the young people involved to consider how they make future career decisions. We agreed that once we reached the dissemination stage of the project we would contact both groups again to let the young people use the app/game as they were very keen to see the outcome of their survey responses.
As we are in the final weeks of the Research Phase, there is just one more method we have devised that will help get the research survey into schools.
Since the start of the pandemic Ahead Partnership have developed numerous virtual ‘Classroom Takeovers’ with employers and schools/colleges across the UK. They have proven highly successful in engaging the young people involved around careers and understanding labour market information, and so we designed a version specifically for DesignMyFuture.
With the help of Dr Marc Fabri we have designed a session for secondary school students studying Computer Science where he will enter their classroom virtually (using Microsoft Teams) to tell them about the Creative Technology course he teaches at Leeds Beckett University, the qualities needed to work in his field as well as the DesignMyFuture project. The session includes a presentation followed by a Q&A session for the students as well as time for them to complete the research survey for the project.
We hope that this session will take place at a school in Sheffield before the end of the Research Phase so that their responses can be included in the data analysis in October 2021.
Lola Wilson, Faron Convey and Annamaria Stewart from Ahead Partnership.