Design to Empower Youth Leaders

World Vision's Youth for Change curriculum helps young people to make positive change in their communities. We worked with them to make it easier to use.

Design for Cambodia’s Future

Cambodia has a growing, youthful and talented population. To develop the potential of Cambodia’s youth, World Vision created the Youth for Change curriculum, a multi-year program of activities and trainings, to be delivered by young Cambodians with the support of World Vision staff.

Having already designed the curriculum, World Vision asked us to work out how it could be made more usable for youth club leaders.

Youth for Change: Empowering Young Leaders

Young people make up a large proportion of Cambodia’s population, and there’s a huge need to give them the right skills to make the most of their opportunities. The curriculum is a great tool for that, and we wanted to help the youth leaders themselves to identify the challenges of using the curriculum, and to be part of designing solutions to that.

Research and Design

We set up three usability field tests, visiting youth clubs and seeing the Youth for Change program. We were able to watch youth leaders deliver sessions and get their reflections on the issues they had faced, before co-facilitating sessions based on 4 different session templates, to focus in on specific issues and triage their importance, and test potential solutions. This mix of observing, facilitation and co-facilitation with youth leaders and those taking part in the youth clubs gave us a deep insight into what they were facing.

Client:

World Vision Cambodia

Services:

Content and Design
Human-Centered Design
Research
Capacity Building

Consultants:

Jesse Orndorff
Research Phase Management
User Research

David Burton
Product Phase Management
Product Design

Raksmey Chamreun
Lead Research Facilitator

Ouk Chantrea
Research Facilitator

 

Unexpected field results and a shift in project design

Some of our research findings were unexpected – which is exactly what we’re hoping for in a user-centred design process. We needed to be flexible to make sure that we were facilitating the research well, and we’re grateful to World Vision for understanding the value of the approach we were taking, and being open to change.

In designing our teaching templates, our assumption was that we would help youth leaders with their technical ability to deliver trainings using the curriculum. During the first field visit it became clear that youth leaders already had good technical skills to run trainings – they were comfortable leading the sessions and had a good knowledge of the curriculum. Their challenge seemed to be that they needed to adapt the curriculum to the context of their own community, and make sense of the content for their particular group.

Particularly given the size of the curriculum, we began to think that it would be help youth leaders to grow the skills to take any aspect of the content, figure out the best teaching method, and adjust activities however they needed to.

This meant we had to shift our own project design in order to tackle this new challenge. For the final two field visits our HCD approach was the same, but we switched our focus from the technical side of the curriculum content itself, to identifying the ‘soft skills’ that youth leaders needed to be able to solve problems during training sessions.

We completed the research phase with a good understanding of the soft skills that youth leaders needed to deliver a good session – and at the heart of it was the ability to use a range of teaching methods, and to reflect on sessions with World Vision staff week-by-week to allow iterative improvements to each leaders’ approach. We designed a series of habits and exercises that reflected the soft skills identified during the field visits: listening to people, debriefing well, adapting teaching techniques, and working as a team.

Being agile is a key part of our facilitation process. Ouk Chantrea works with youth to shift a session to focus on soft skill development.

Not your typical ToT: ‘How’ instead of ‘What’

After the research and design phase, we returned to help World Vision train their technical staff so that they could train youth leaders across Cambodia in these soft skills, running a 5-day event for regional technical staff in the program.

For the staff to relate to the challenges faced by youth leaders we knew that empathy would be an important skill. We ran the ToT in a similar way to the user research sessions, including roleplays and reflection exercises, to allow the technical staff to see the issues that youth leaders experienced and empathize with them.

We knew that these soft skillsets were important for the youth leaders, but it was just as important for the technical staff too! During the ToT we went through session templates from the curriculum using these habits to communicate how to deliver sessions, rather than teaching the curriculum content itself.

Our ToT design was not what the technical staff expected – ToTs are often done in a lecture format and so an experience-based approach is unusual. We had a great time together working out how to make Youth for Change work in a way that’s easier for young people to use, and daily debriefs on the training with participants were really helpful in helping everyone to talk openly about their experience and concerns, and stay together in the learning process.

The power of human-centred design

Assumptions are unavoidable in design, but a key part of HCD is to design like you’re right and test like you’re wrong. As always happens on a human-centred design project, we went into this project with assumptions but found out something entirely different. The key skill was taking that in our stride and asking ourselves ‘what do we do now?’ – and it was so exciting to be able to go and listen to young people’s challenges and then reflect their needs to the program on a national level.

We don’t always get to talk to users first, but this project was a great example of how taking the time to do the user research as early as possible helped us to design a good service, and got a better output for our client. World Vision knew the value of this approach and it led to some great collaborative work.  

HCD techniques remind us to be humble – that we aren’t the most important people in the room. That’s a lesson we want to always welcome, and this was a great experience of that.