Improving youth's mental health by providing learning and socialising opportunities
Bradford District Council
3 months (2019)
Areas of responsibility
Desk research & interviews, System analysis, Design strategy, Workshop facilitation, Prototyping, Service video & storytelling
The Shipley and Canal Road Corridor in Bradford has been identified as a priority green infrastructure opportunity to be developed alongside the expansion of a road that runs through the area. There is a sequence of large empty fields and a small river that runs mostly inside a man-made channel. My team was asked to leverage the potential that the corridor can have for public health, through the provision of new forms of citizen engagement.
The Bradford way is a new community centre with makerspace for youth to gather and exchange ideas. It creates a self-empowered learning environment in which people can gain confidence, creative capacity, relationships and knowledge. We proposed collaborative business models to help communities to organise and take ownership of the development and maintenance of their public spaces.
Since this is a public service that should benefit everyone in the district, we spent much more time on communicating with stakeholders in Bradford than doing desk research. We conducted user research effectively with locals, government officers and experts. We invited citizens to engage in discovery sessions on the street, organized co-creation workshops at the district council and held meetings with potential partners such as local businesses, charities and schools. We overcame challenges like managing the duration of activities, the way people communicate and the expectations of the participants to the workshop outcome. Reaching out to all these stakeholders helped us fully understand the pain points and the corresponding design opportunities which accelerated all the decision-making processes in the project.
We discovered that 20% of Bradford children have some level of mental health difficulty and it is expected to increase by 38% by 2025.
After getting in touch with different stakeholders in Bradford, we summed up a few key insights.
1. Communication channels are inadequate for public feedback
2. The sense of familiarity in public space is valued
3. Bradfordian is proud of its manufacturing history
4. Many youths leave school with few qualifications
5. 12+ facilities are limited for the high youth population
How might we regenerate unused space next to the canal to create new learning and socialising opportunities for Bradford’s youth?
The Bradford Way
It is a reimagined community centre that re-purposes this disused building along the Canal Road Corridor, it will be community-run rather than government-led, and designed through co-creation.
Our proposed offering is the creation of Bradford’s first makerspace in the city centre, providing new learning and mentorship opportunities for youth. A makerspace is a community centre with tools, combining equipment with education. It creates a self-empowered learning environment in which members gain self-belief, relationships, and knowledge.
The experience is also about creating personal and community ownership. Through making, the ability to create and lead deepens mental resilience and belief in oneself. Through space, you might see someone sitting on the bench you made. The projects will focus on building the space itself, creating an inherent sense of ownership and familiarity. Makerspaces are all about a community working together, meeting new people and having a voice that strengthens the social fabric and creates shared responsibility.
The Bradford Way also creates new communication channels to share youth needs and opinions with the Bradford District Council, potentially through their future leaders program, which enables the council to hear from a hard-to-reach group. The opinions of the public could reflect the quality and required modifications of the service and the possibilities to expand it in the future.
In our prototyping workshop, participants agree that a Makerspace for teens is a great start to make use of the large empty space around the canal to benefit the public. In the long term, they see the potential for this to grow into other community hubs, building on the success of co-creating the Makerspace to meet other community needs. They built the other desirable hubs on a 3D model of the corridor that we built. Using lego and play dough, they designed playgrounds, classrooms for entrepreneurs, urban farms, and food pop-ups.
The role of facilitator during a workshop
A facilitator should be active in leading the discussions by avoiding the domination of speech and making participants aware of the amount of time left in the session. We have invited 6 guests to one of the workshops and all of them were very eager to express their views. We aimed to end the workshop in 2 hours but we overran for another 45 minutes in order to complete all the designed sessions.
How to inspire participants during a workshop
Sometimes it is difficult for participants to think out of the box and communicate their ideas efficiently. We provided tools like playdough and legos for them to get inspired by different colours and shapes and visualize their ideas in a tangible way. Participants enjoyed the creative process very much as they treated it as a fun brainstorming game and they were able to present their ideas effectively.