YoungMinds put young people’s voices at the heart of every decision they make - from ensuring their language is youth-friendly, to defining their long-term strategic goals. But doing this via face-to-face techniques has limitations – from the number and diversity of young people who can be included, the frequency of involvement, and the significant time and costs associated with making it happen.
Our brief was to transform their existing approach from in-person to digital by creating a digital space that would allow YoungMinds to co-create content, campaigns, and initiatives directly with young people, at scale. Crucially, the product had to be safe, easy-to-use and engaging for all young people - no matter the challenges they are facing, or their negative experiences with the digital world.
We needed to design a product that felt accessible, understandable and enjoyable for all young people, including those experiencing mental health difficulties such as Autism, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, Anxiety and Depression. To achieve this, we placed young people at the center of this project and co-created with them, every step of the way.
This process revealed the concerns about sharing opinions and experiences online. Young people didn't want this space to become a popularity contest, or a place for youtube style comment threads. To create a safe space, it was critical not to replicate social media environments, these were places where young people typically felt unsafe. Creating a safe, positive space where young people feel comfortable opening up became our key product goal.
The product: Youth Participation app
The output is a YoungMinds’ native react app. Driven by our goal to create a safe online environment, we created first-of-its-kind features to ensure users can use the application safely, avoid triggering content or negative and anxiety inducing behaviour. Some of these features include:
- Collecting information on sign-up to ensure users are relevant, and joining the community for the right reasons.
- Users are asked to supply an emergency contact, so that if worrying behaviour is detected, YoungMinds can contact a guardian and progress with their safeguarding protocols.
- Users can define personal trigger words in the settings. Any content containing the user’s trigger words will first appear with a trigger warning and will not be shown. The user is given an option to view the content should they choose to.
- Only positive feedback behaviours are allowed - no down-voting of comments, adding likes and commenting are only possible on YoungMinds content, and not on other users’ comments.
- Number of likes each comment gets is hidden to avoid group-think behaviours.
- The app provides guidance on how to give positive and constructive feedback before the user adds a comment.
- Users have to actively confirm that the comment they are publishing is positive and follows the platform’s guidelines, to avoid posting negative or potentially hurtful comments.