Designing a scalable approach to learning during Covid-19

We co-created a new service delivery model as part of NESTA’s Rapid Recovery Challenge
young people sitting at laptops

Covid-19: compounding and creating challenges

UK Youth is a leading charity that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, championing their voices and delivering a range of national skills programmes.

Its service users face multiple challenges, from poor mental health to social isolation. When the pandemic exacerbated these issues and pushed thousands more families out of work, UK Youth saw an opportunity to revive its financial literacy programme, Money for Life.

They reached the semi-finals of NESTA’s Rapid Recovery Challenge in December 2020, securing funding for a development partner. They asked us to help them design a new financial education service capable of engaging 10,000 young people by August 2021. The ambition is to expand the reach further, with the next goal being set at 50,000 users by 2023.

Reimagining the learning experience

The starting point for our approach was the learners themselves:

  • What information and support do young people need?
  •  How will this be accessed?
  • What different levels of support are needed to make this learning experienceaccessible?We asked young people and youth workers to help us map the user journeys and identified three different learning experiences: intensive support, light touch support or independent learners.This helped us arrive at a blended learning model, where self-directed online content could be supplemented with remote assistance or face-to-face support. We also agreed to co-create the curriculum and the platform with learners and youth workers to keep the service highly tailored, attractive and easy to deliver.

“Snook are great communicators. They built an immediate rapport with young people which meant we got the best possible results. All our meetings were online too - it made me realise how good they were when it didn’t matter that we’d never met!”

Melissa Robertson, Head of Design, UK Youth

Understand the kind of help young people need with finance

In-depth interviews and workshops confirmed a pressing need for financial education.

Young people told us that they struggle with budgeting, want to avoid debt and need advice on saving or setting up a business. Youth workers told us that while the pandemic had led to a surge in requests for help, many others would be finding it hard to admit they were struggling.

We agreed on five themes to inform the new service:

    1. Maintaining financial health, through advice on managing money.
    2. Helping people in crisis, with sensitive signposting to content and services.
    3. Getting the right blend, by balancing self-directed and supported learning correctly.
    4. Staying flexible and engaging, through non-linear content that “doesn’t feel like school.”
    5. Using real-life stories to illustrate issues, featuring users, influencers and experts.

“Money comes in and out and I think, where did that go?”

Interview participant

Prototyping the platform and preparing to scale

We held co-design workshops to generate concepts which we then worked up into a low-fi prototype of the learning platform. After three rounds of additional testing, we had a clickable digital prototype.

In a series of working sessions, we then explored the key components of the service model that would enable a great user experience for 10,000 people.

The new model comprised:

  • Direct marketing to young people, harnessing existing channels and networks
  • Iterative curriculum development, with learners, youth workers and subject matter experts
  •  Digital service delivery, ensuring engaging content was accessible on and offline
  • Youth worker support, using UK Youth’s wider network of 7,000 youth clubs to provide the right help
  • Impact measurement and quality assurance, using data to inform development

Taking things forward

Although UK Youth didn’t secure full funding from NESTA (the finalists all have existing solutions and just have to scale them) the process itself has been hugely beneficial.

They have a far clearer picture of the financial needs of young people and a ready-made plan of action for when they have funding. They’re incorporating user-centred design techniques into future service development and the design team is considering using the blended learning model in other programmes.