Design jam 2.0: Turning gaps into opportunities

If you’ve been reading about our work this summer (thank you by the way!) you know that the Designership team has spent the last 12 weeks co-creating a youth-focused service strategy based on the principles of Duty to Assist. These include, for instance, ensuring youth have seamless and timely access to housing and social supports and that service providers are respectful of youths’ choice at all times. The service strategy, called PluggedIn, includes four parts:

  • A digital assistant to help school staff and students to learn what to do if they spot early warning signs that a young person may be at risk of becoming homeless. They can also ask for anonymous advice from a chatbot and get access to culturally appropriate supports. 
  • A strengths-based school awareness campaign designed to inform students about their rights according to Duty to Assist and how to use the digital assistant to get advice and access support. 
  • Training and professional development for school staff about how to uphold their duty and how to use the digital assistant.
  • A physical drop-in centre located in the school that is staffed by support workers from community organizations in Hamilton that have signed on to support the service.

We presented this service strategy at a design jam with youth with lived experience of homelessness, staff who work in the school context, and social and support workers.  

Participants told us that transparency and accountability are key concerns. For instance, one youth mentioned that students might want to know if a teacher is using the digital assistant to determine if they are at risk of becoming homeless. Others expressed a desire to be able to report school staff who are not offering timely support.  

Service providers mentioned that school staff already have a lot on their plate and any service that we do propose should avoid creating added work. They also suggested that we position the service to focus on young people’s strengths, rather than the challenges they face. Due to a lack of space in schools, a participant suggested that we partner with organizations that already have a physical presence within Hamilton schools.

Overall, the design jam was useful for identifying gaps in the proposed service concept and identifying some unintended policy implications of Duty to Assist. In the last two weeks of the project, we’ll be refining each of the service elements associated with PluggedIn and prepare for our final presentation that will be delivered in Hamilton on August 23, at Living Rock Ministries.

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