Building Peer Education Programs, One Hour at a Time
Building Peer Education Programs, One Hour at a Time
This project is interesting as it took an existing, negative and individual behaviour, and tries to use it to generate new, positive value for the public. The jury would have liked to see a greater recognition of precedents in this issue area, and thus more research around other solutions that tackle this challenge––and their respective pros and cons––may have led to a stronger concept. The service is yet unfinished, but the intent and motivations are admirable.
Building Peer Education Programs, One Hour at a Time
2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?HourSchool wanted to bring the insights they learned from creating their city site, HourSchool.com, back to the organizations serving homeless or formerly homeless populations. They saw an opportunity to co-design a peer education program with Green Doors, an organization that provides permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless. HourSchool brought me in to lead this new service design initiative.
At the time, HourSchool had already created a white-labeled version of HourSchool.com for Green Doors, but it wasn’t working. They realized that 1) even though Green Doors residents had access to computers and computer literacy was an important goal for the organization, the online platform was not a preferred method of communication for the residents and, 2) the platform was only one piece of a larger holistic program that encompassed the goals and needs of Green Doors clients, staff, and funders.
To create a holistic program, first, I needed to understand and formalize everything that was working about their existing online service. Then, I needed to create a framework for peer education programs that could be adaptable to each organization’s unique values and needs. My goal was to answer: What were the artifacts, the touchpoints, and the roadmap that HourSchool could use to co-create a successful program with these organizations?3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
One core thing the HourSchool team believes in is co-design. To ensure the creation of a successful and sustainable peer education program, we knew we needed to involve all the relevant stakeholders—including administrative staff, ground staff, and residents—from the get-go. However, it’s one thing to say we are going to do co-design, and it’s another thing to actually do it.
My point of view as a human-centered designer has been influenced by my experiences as a teacher—using Theatre of the Oppressed and radical pedagogy methods to engage learners as teachers and vice versa. I knew collaborative creativity requires structured spaces balanced with the freedom to experiment...not to mention a boatload of trust.
For HourSchool, I wanted to give structure to the company's co-design intentions by embedding activities that require active collaboration into the roadmap for HourSchool’s program development. These include a “getting-to-know-you” phase for people from HourSchool and people from the organization to have some formal and some informal conversations. The stated goal of these activities is information gathering, but perhaps more importantly, they lay the groundwork of trust for new relationships.
For Green Doors, I also wanted to make sure the iterative process was clear to all stakeholders from the beginning to give all of them room to play, reflect, and evolve the peer education program. Formalizing these into the roadmap meant including touchpoints specifically for iteration and reflection.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Green Doors was chosen as HourSchool’s first partner organization due to common values such as a strength-based approach and a focus on creating leaders. Green Doors picked their Pecan Springs Commons permanent supportive housing community to pilot the implementation of a peer education program.
In order for this program to be successful, HourSchool needed to extract the rich knowledge and stories that the Green Doors staffs and residents already had. Through co-design activities and Green Doors’ willingness to experiment, I was able to truly learn by doing in an iterative fashion to ascertain 1) what would work best for the Green Doors community and, 2) HourSchool’s own process for co-creating a program with other organizations.
My process included iterative co-design, prototyping the service with staff and clients, and periodic structured reflection activities. I built on the ethnographic research the co-founders, Ruby Ku and Alex Pappas, had conducted with people experiencing homelessness the previous year.
I had conversations with other designers committed to co-design, and I took inspiration from their best practices: Alex Gilliam of Public Workshop always emphasizes making all work as public as possible, and Carl di Salvo with the GrowBots project told us a story of showing up and hanging out with people outside of formal research sessions—in their case, eating ice cream and building real relationships.
So we showed up: to monthly resident council meetings, to gardening classes, to their public spaces. And we showed up with our design toolbox when it felt right: we didn’t just talk to people, we visualized what they said onto large paper; we didn’t just ask them what they wanted to learn, we let them tell us stories spurred by images we brought to the table.
I made sure we reflected as a team after every important engagement. Not only are these reflection sessions now an integral part of the service roadmap, I also purposefully engaged a variety of stakeholders throughout our cycles of iteration, so they could evaluate how things were going and so they could offer feedback on how to improve the processes. I’ve facilitated reflection sessions that included a mix of GreenDoors clients, staff members, and administrative staff.
Because the service HourSchool offers to community organizations is program development, I also had to draw best practices from the non-profit and social innovation fields. Our framework and roadmap include components and thinking drawn from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model. Furthermore, HourSchool’s service also goes beyond where traditional design would end with implementation. I integrated measurement & evaluation strategies into their service offerings from the beginning to help their partners gauge the effectiveness of new peer education programs.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
HourSchool has impact on many levels. Transforming people into teachers creates self-esteem and empowers on an individual level. Strengthening the capacity of community managers by modeling human-centered design techniques empowers on an organizational level. Unlocking knowledge through peer education programs empowers on a community level.
Here is our value in the words of the Director of Communities at Green Doors:
“The HourSchool team has contributed significantly to the development of peer-led learning and social activities at Pecan Springs Commons, helping to build community and support leadership development efforts among our residents. Throughout our collaboration, I have found the HourSchool team to be personable and professional, patient, keen to listen and understand, and proactive in working to reach program design goals.
“I have been particularly impressed at their process of implementation, reflection, and improvement. The HourSchool team also quickly recognized resident council meetings as an important venue for generating resident discussion about peer-led and resident-driven learning and social activities. Their introduction of interactive activities at these meetings to engage our residents in designing learning and social activities has led to increased interest and participation in the program, as well as improving resident council meetings. Their thoughtful, inquisitive, and solutions-focused approach has allowed them to quickly identify the opportunities and resources available in the community, working to leverage these assets in their program design.”6. Outline the steps of the service; what are the intended behavioral patterns or “scripts” for the actors interacting with the service?
Three components structure the service.
1) THE ROADMAP: outlines the steps and activities that HourSchool and the organization will complete together to co-create a peer education program.
b. Assessment and discovery (“What do the clients want to learn and teach?” Identify advocates.)
i. Plan framework (Define structure & logistics.)
ii. Implement program (Try it out.)
iii. Evaluate program (Structured reflection with various stakeholders.)
d. Staff training
2) THE FRAMEWORK: a template of decisions that need to be made about the program. The framework is a combination of best practices from service design, curriculum development, and logic modeling. The framework structures the conversations HourSchool needs to facilitate with various stakeholders. Over the course of multiple meetings, pieces are filled in, visualized, and revised as the program is built and tested. After HourSchool phases out, the organization can use the framework as an ongoing tool for program evaluation, evolution, and development.
a. Goals & objectives (client goals, organization goals, funder goals --> program objectives)
b. Guiding principles
c. Resource inventory (assets, people resources, communication methods)
d. Curriculum (pedagogy, content, assessment)
e. Service blueprint (touchpoints and responsibilities of student/teacher/staff/HourSchool)
f. Program outcomes (outputs & outcomes, M&E strategies)
3) THE PLATFORM: HourSchool offers both digital and analog platforms (or a combination of digital and analog touchpoints) for students, teachers, and community managers to schedule offline classes. The specifics of the platform are customized to meet the needs, resources, and habits of each specific community.7. How did you identify the possible leverage points in the service system? How did you evaluate the importance of each, and determine the mix of interventions that would have the greatest impact?
COMMUNITY MANAGER (On-site and trusted)
The important leverage points were undoubtedly the people that were involved. Vital to the success of the Green Doors peer education program would be the community manager. I needed to know what the residents wanted and needed to learn, and the knowledge they had to offer. While I could conduct design research and talk to lots of residents, HourSchool couldn’t be on the ground full-time at the Green Doors community. The person who knew the residents best and who could most effectively judge whether the program was working or not (and why) was the on-site community manager. She would need to provide the scaffolding, promotion, and consistent communication that would get the program up and running. I needed to continually make collaborative logistic decisions with her because the program needed to fit her and her clients’ needs; otherwise they could abandon it once HourSchool left.
The most successful classes on the HourSchool city site were the ones that were community-driven and demanded by students, and we had to find that demand at GreenDoors. In addition to providing the platform and getting the residents excited about the program by engaging them in co-design, I also had to introduce an element of self-reflection into the Framework. It’s one thing to be asked on a passing survey “what do you want to learn?”, and it’s another to be led through an activity that forces you to self-reflect and come to your own conclusion that you need to learn or can teach something. In our conversations and activities with the residents, we were also able to change their perceptions about “classes” as something boring and top-down. We helped them dream about their ideal classes, and they provided us with a new way of thinking of classes in categories of social, demo, and lesson.
Other important leverage points are based on supporting the people involved in creating the program: scaffolding, alignment of stakeholder values, and buy-in. I had to architect these elements into our engagement roadmap and program framework. To scaffold, HourSchool was involved with the first round of classes, and then the community manager and residents ran through subsequent rounds on their own. All relevant stakeholders were included and engaged from day one to ensure they felt a sense of ownership in the program. The community manager was encouraged to take the lead in writing and making changes to the framework, the residents were shown how their feedback influenced program structure and content, and administrative staff stayed actively involved during reflection activities.
HourSchool can’t stay with Green Doors as the program evolves over time, but I have given people the tools and the processes to grow the new program as it fits their needs. It is hard, and it takes time to build relationships built on trust, but I believe co-design as a service will ensure the continued success of new peer-to-peer education programs.