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“RESEARCH IS FORMALIZED CURIOSITY. IT IS POKING AND PRYING WITH A PURPOSE.”

ZORA NEALE HURSTON

 
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Focus groups with teenagers attending a community centre’s Youth Service in London.

Analyzing the workflow of a support workers at a large housing association

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COMING SOON // Feasibility study at Ghanaian schools on the acceptability of adjustable eyeglasses.

 
 
 

Focus groups with teenagers attending a community centre’s Youth Service in London

To gain insight into the performance of their Youth Service, a community centre in London asked me to organize focus groups with teenagers attending the service. The centre asked for a piece of qualitative research that would give them an idea of why and how the children interact with the service and youth workers. Within a two week period I prepared research materials, ran three focus groups and delivered a report summarizing relevant insights.

 

The approach

The community centre wanted to better understand whether and how the service’s offer and the performance of their youth workers were fitting the young people’s needs and at the same time give the young people the opportunity to voice their opinions. They organized 3 focus groups, each with 2-4 young people attending and lasting no more than 45 minutes per session. One of my main challenges was to quickly build rapport with the young people so they would feel safe to voice their opinion. I chose to break down the session into three parts and slowly build up the intensity of the questions.

 
Different emotions

Different emotions

Reasons to attend

Reasons to attend

Youth worker performance

Youth worker performance

Part 1 – Emotions

I kicked off the session with a range of questions about the young people’s feelings to signal that their thoughts and opinions were at the centre of the session. It helped them to ease into the session and gave me some insight into their personalities.

Part 2 – The Youth Service

Next up were questions about the Youth Service. Besides a range of open questions about the young people’s likes and dislikes of the service, I presented the children with a list of potential reasons to attend the service and asked them to pick their top three reasons from the list. This opened up discussion between the young people which gave me insight into the motivation behind their answers.

Part 3 – The Youth Workers

Before asking the young people to rate the performance of each of the youth workers I wanted to get them thinking about what it means to be a good youth worker. I asked them to rank 6 attributes of good youth workers in order of importance. Afterwards they scored each youth worker on the different attributes.

 
 
 
Focus group results

Focus group results

Results

As a summary of the focus groups I analysed the transcripts of the different sessions and grouped quotes into themes that came up more than once. I provided and overview of main likes and dislikes the young people mentioned and summarized the rankings of the different youth workers. The combination of opinions and motivations gave the centre a valuable overview of how and why young people are using their service. The results were used to improve the future offer of the youth service.

 
 
 

Analyzing the workflow of a support workers at a large housing association

During a 5 months placement at a large London-based housing association – part of social innovation fellowship Year Here – I was tasked to look at the workflow of their Assessment and Support Officers (ASO). Tenants who are at risk of losing their tenancies – due to for instance mental health issues or problems with their benefits – are referred to the ASO who offers them short term support on a specific issue. I shadowed, interviewed and organised workshops with ASOs which led to recommendations for improvement of the workflow.

Referrals to the two ASOs would come from different employees, like neighbourhood managers and support workers.

Referrals to the two ASOs would come from different employees, like neighbourhood managers and support workers.


Understanding the role

To understand the ins and outs of the Assessment and Support Officer’s role I used a mix of different techniques. I started by shadowing the ASO for a week, which allowed me to observe the interactions between the tenant and the ASO and gave good insight into the variety of the role. As a next step I interviewed former ASOs and other employees – for instance neighbourhood managers – who worked closely together with the ASO.

A breakdown of the different parts of the Assessment ans Support Officer’s role

A breakdown of the different parts of the Assessment ans Support Officer’s role

As a result of the shadowing and interviews I identified several pain points within the role and to validate my assumptions I organized a workshop with both ASOs. The workshop started with a brainstorm during which the ASO was asked to generate factors for success and failure for different tasks within the role. These were then combined with the issues I generated and ranked on importance.

Pain points of the role were identified and validated during two workshops

Pain points of the role were identified and validated during two workshops

Results

The outcomes of the two workshops were clustered into different themes and divided into issues to define or to improve. Define included issues were the ASO was unclear what to do or unsure whether the issue was part of their responsibility. Improve included issues that would need larger changes for instance changes of used tools or interactions with other employees. The team the ASO worked in was undergoing improvements at the time and my recommendations were taken on by the manager working on the changes.