On March 10 2021, the HCDExchange held its second community call of the year to tackle the topic of meaningful youth integration in HCD+ASRH.
As practitioners in adolescent sexual and reproductive health know well, creating an intervention that young people will resonate with and want to participate in is crucial to a successful outcome. But how might we create genuine partnership and collaboration with youth in the communities we design for? How do we navigate the inherent power dynamics of age and experience to level the playing field and give youth the voice and power to meaningfully shape intervention design?
In this community call, we brought together the Community of Practice to explore the question, how might we create space to have youth and their communities co-lead and co-design the sexual and reproductive health programmes that are meant for them?
Panelists from the HCDExchange Community of Practice
The conversation was guided by four members from the HCDExchange Community of Practice, who provided many of the insights summarized below in conversation with the broader community. They were:
- Anastasia Mirzoyants, Shujaaz Inc
- Linet Juma, Shujaaz Inc
- Arzoo Garg, The YP Foundation
- Heran Birhanu, PSI Ethiopia
Peer-led models are creating meaningful opportunities for young people to take a leading role in shaping HCD+ASRH interventions
Discussion guide: Arzoo Garg, The YP Foundation
In the conventional programme research and design cycle, researchers, designers, and implementers typically view young people as research participants from whom they need to extract information and lived experiences to include as inputs to an overarching research question.
But what if we reimagined the role of youth in HCD+ASRH away from being passive participants to being co-leaders of the research direction, substance, and outcomes? Panelists spoke about the need to begin to view young people as able and empowered contributors to the design process — particularly through leveraging peer led models.
Arzoo Garg of the YP Foundation shared the example of YP Foundation’s Know your body, Know your rights programme, which helps young people build capacity in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) rights through a curriculum taught in schools and marginalised communities. Through the programme, young people can enroll as peer educators to help shape the substance of the curriculum and then deliver it to others in the community. The model allows a greater level of youth ownership within SRH programming by creating a system that allows the intervention to be informed heavily by the lived experiences and lateral exchanges between young people themselves.
Young people need capacity building to accelerate their involvement in the design process
Discussion guide: Heran Birhanu, PSI Ethiopia
While design thinking can be a powerful avenue for bringing youth into the formation process of ASRH programming, it is still a relatively novel and often complicated framework to make use of without appropriate training. In order to get the full breadth of value out of human-centred design methods for ASRH, there is a need to make design an accessible tool to young people through creating more programmes that deliver HCD skills and training to youth.
Panelists noted that there is a clear lack of representation of young designers in HCD+ASRH work, and that opportunities for upskilling in HCD are still rare, particularly for young African designers. Panelists also noted that in the small contingent of young designers actively working in the space, there is still a need to diversify the pool across class, gender and urban/rural status to better reflect the communities being served.
Reaching young people for HCD+ASRH requires fluency in both digital communication and colloquial languages
Discussion guides: Anastasia Mirzoyants and Linet Juma, Shujaaz Inc
Meaningful youth integration in HCD+ASRH cannot happen without finding the appropriate modes, lexicon, and tools to effectively tap into young people’s hopes, fears, and aspirations. When dealing with sensitive topics such as sexual health, it becomes even more imperative to employ ways of engaging youth that foster comfort, guarantee psychological safety, and promote confidence in the motives of the adults conducting the research and intervention design.
Using examples from Shujaaz Inc, panelists highlighted two important considerations when thinking about ways to bring youth along in crafting HCD+ASRH interventions. The first was adapting the language used by researchers and implementing teams to align with how young people organically speak and express themselves, such as through using colloquial language systems like Sheng in Kenya. Engaging youth in more casual language can break down barriers and create the trust needed to activate vulnerability and open space for conversation about sensitive topics.
The second consideration was around embracing digital communication. Panelists highlighted the need to take advantage of the digital fluency of young people to create accessible content that makes it easier for them to unpack their motivations and desires and share their reflections with their peers in a medium they understand and relate to.
Many thanks to our community for participating in this call. If you missed it, you can rewatch it on our Youtube Channel.