Design jam: Striking the right balance

Pink and yellow sticky notes dotted the room—on whiteboards, the wall, and a dry-erase board. Welcome to our design jam, an event that brought together youth and parents with lived experience of homelessness to provide feedback and design services to prevent youth homelessness in schools in Hamilton, Ontario. From the outside, this could have easily looked like chaos. But from inside, it was a space of creativity.  

The event, which was hosted at Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (SPRC), was a chance for youth to provide feedback on three storyboards the Designership team created that illustrated youth-focused school prevention services: an inclusive space toolkit designed to celebrate identity; an alternative education pathway for young people who struggled to attend school regularly; and a digital assistant that helps school staff and students determine if a young person is at risk of becoming homeless and provides helpful advice and guidance to help them get the support they need (in the end, we moved forward with the third idea). 

The youth gave lots of feedback on each idea—from the program names to combining key features to assessing the practicalities of implementing each idea. They also worked with the Bridgeable team to draw and write out their ideas, including app interfaces, suggesting life skills training ideas, and posters to promote the program in schools.  

The session included time for the youth to reflect on the overall design process—which they have been part of since the start of the project in late May. Our goal is to make this process as inclusive and accessible as possible so that other organizations can borrow it when designing and planning services and programs targeted at youth.   

The team left the design jam feeling incredibly privileged to have had the chance to work alongside young people with such great ideas and to have had access to the knowledge of frontline workers who are working day in and out to prevent and end youth homelessness.

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