The JPII High School launched a Social Innovation Lab to learn about challenges facing Collin County, mainly food insecurity faced by teens. The lab trains students to use human-centered design to innovate solutions. Students interact with the people, places and experiences involved in the social issues they have chose to address to gain empathy, build cultural understanding, and design skills.
Several times we were proved that we really need to step back and consider more perspectives before we make decisions.
- Student Reflection
Determing the Underlying Factor through Interviews
Students researched national studies of youth food insecurity, spoke with subject matter experts that work directly on the issue of hunger in schools, interviewed teens who had experienced or were experiencing food insecurity. The insight gained from this research and from direct interviews with teens led them to determine a more influential underlying factor to food security – teens surfaced the challenge of earning additional income to offset pressure felt in their home around finances. They also identified the challenge around the social stigma of not being financially secure and the way in which it lowered their self-confidence. As a result, students created the following design statement: “How might we support a mature teenager driven by his/her family’s financial struggles needs a way to pitch-in for household costs during temporary rough patches?”
Prototyping to Refine Design Concepts
Students split into four teams. Guided by the new Design Statement and the insights gleaned, each team brainstormed as many ideas as they might address the issue. Each team chose 1 idea to prototype. Two basic types of prototypes emerged – connecting teens to ad-hoc jobs and linking schoolwork with financial compensation. Each prototype prioritized avoiding social stigma associated with experiencing financial instability or food insecurity. Teams then used various methods to gain feedback. They also simulated the concepts at their school. Students then assessed the feasibility and desirability of the basic underlying concepts.
Adjusting According to Data
Teams then set out to build their ideas – Gameify and Tasker. Teams identified key metrics to track – quantitatively and qualitatively – throughout the design and testing period and set targets for each. Throughout the design process, students collected feedback from teens through surveys and interviews. They adjusted accordingly. Gameify sought to provide financial compensation for specific school-based work. Tasker worked to connect teens with ad-hoc jobs. Through the process students were met with barriers. Each team used these challenges as learning experiences and continued to refine their design.
Presenting Lessons Learned to Partner Organization
Students shared their project story, lessons learned and recommendations with the leadership of the North Texas Food Bank, their community partner. They highlighted the insights we gleaned from the teen interviews and surveys. The North Texas Food Bank leader that students presented to is interested in integrating the insights generated and the proof of concepts tested into the food bank’s 2020 initiatives.