CASE STUDY: How young people with lived experience add value when they do the research

At We Rise we know that young people are great researchers. We also believe it adds enormous value to research projects if we can involve young people with lived experience.

Our recent Digital Inclusion project for Lambeth Council is a great example.

The We Rise Digital Inclusion Team are Alphadine Domingos, Redeemer Mensah, Angel Mensah, Phong Hin, Idiris Hassan Ali,
Khadijah Tholley, Shanise Hall, Laila Dorsett-Morgan, Miles Pierre Coke, Jesse Amoah, Lavar Edwards and Sondy Karambiri.
Nine of the team are show here along with our research partner Linda Jackson.

Our Client Brief

Lambeth Council asked us to evaluate the impact of their Digital Inclusion Fund and advise on how it can be improved.

“As a Council we know the issue of digital exclusion is a big one in our communities, and we wanted to better understand this challenge and how the Digital Inclusion Fund can better support digital access in the borough. It was important to us that the research was led by young people who are part of the community, and who had first and second hand experience of what it means to not have digital access.”

Chloe Bernard-Grahame, Senior Policy and Partnerships Manager, London Borough of Lambeth

What we did

We Rise recruited a team of 12 young people with lived experience of digital exclusion from local schools. They worked together over seven days, at Brixton Windmill Education Centre and at 3Space International House. 

On Day 1 the team met the Client to understand and explore the brief. They asked incisive questions about purpose and practicalities. Linda then coached them to identify the key goals, objectives and assumptions underlying the Fund to develop a Theory of Change to guide the evaluation. This development workshop made full use of the group’s knowledge and experience. Using the Theory of Change we developed the interview guides. 

We also invited local MP Bell Rebeiro Addy, who has been a huge supporter of Community Tech Aid, to a Q&A session. Brilliantly chaired by Shanise, the discussion enabled young people to learn from Bell and to share their own experiences. It highlighted the broader context, especially the lack of good WiFi connection in many homes and schools, the costs of WiFi and the fact that digital access is now a human rights issue.

Young people conducted two kinds of interviews. For the evaluation they spoke to organisations who had received funding, and some of their beneficiaries. They also interviewed other organisations and individuals for the wider research into unmet needs that the fund could help with.  Our young team received training on how to conduct professional standard qualitative interviews and practiced with Linda who ensured that they were ready.

Conducting qualitative interviews is a skilled job that requires good interpersonal skills, in depth understanding of the topic and the ability to write detailed notes. Our young team did the interviews in pairs and recorded them so that they could ensure their notes were accurate and comprehensive.

We Rise was able to access the Digital Inclusion Fund to provide our team with laptops which they used to carry out interviews and write up detailed transcripts.

At the same time we had a social media team developing an instagram campaign to highlight the issue of digital inclusion and show-case successful case studies from organisations who have been funded. On the last day the team presented their findings and proposals to an invited audience from Lambeth Council and local partners.

Value for our client

We found that the Fund is valued but there is a lot more work to do. For example organisations need guidance about what devices to buy and support workers and teachers need training so they can help with technology.

Programme Sponsor Juliet Amoah, Associate Director for Community Health and Engagement, said “this was so impressive and thorough – with lots for us to take away”.

“We were impressed by the insights, professionalism and passion that the young people brought to researching this issue, and were grateful for the structured support offered by the We Rise Team and the deep research and evaluation expertise provided by Linda Jackson. The process itself was very well managed and delivered in an amazingly short space of time considering the depth of insight and range of recommendations provided. We would definitely recommend working with the team.”

Chloe Bernard-Grahame, Senior Policy and Partnerships Manager, London Borough of Lambeth

Value for young people

Taking part in the project raised young people’s awareness of the issue and how it affects them personally.

“I learnt that I had been previously excluded from the digital world.”

“I learnt how lack of devices impact people and how detrimental it can be”

“I learnt how having a device can really improve someone’s life.”

Phong, Alphadine and Khadija

They developed crucial transferable skills for work, particularly business and customer awareness, the ability to be organised and reliable, self confidence, enthusiasm, teamwork and leadership skills. We could see the maturity of these young people develop over the course of seven days.

“I learnt how to communicate with different business in a professional manner”

Lavar

We asked each young person to assess their skills before and after the project using a four point scale and saw some big improvements. The chart shows which skills most improved across the group.

The young team also developed the technical research skills that they needed for this project.

“I enjoyed researching the organisations. I learnt how to use my interviewing skills. I learnt that I am able to be critical and good at answering questions”

Laila

By doing projects where they have to deliver real work young people learn a lot about themselves.

“I learnt resilience”


“That I’m a very good public speaker”


“That I need to have more self confidence and that I can handle any task given to me”

Shanise, Jesse, Khadija

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