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Youth Voices

BC Family Justice Innovation Lab

Using Design for Social Innovation to improve the way youth impacted by separation and divorce experience the justice system.

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The BC Family Justice Innovation Lab is a volunteer-run initiative focused on improving the experience of children and families going through separation and divorce. The Lab aims to create positive change within the justice system by closing the implementation gap and improving access to justice with solutions that are experimental, participatory, and systemic.

We provided the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab with coaching, design strategy, and workshop facilitation to help them design for social innovation. 

In 2016, the Lab worked with OXD to learn about human centred design and increase their design capabilities. As a volunteer-run and grant-funded initiative they were able to develop design capabilities within their organizations and bring human centred design to the justice sector. We helped the Lab focus their goals and then facilitated a series of workshops with youth impacted by separation and divorce. They were able to embrace complexity and experimentation in an effort to improve the experiences of youth in the justice system. 

Tackling complexity using human-centred design

Separation and divorce are both social and legal problems.

The Lab occupies the space where families and the justice system come into contact. This is challenging because the people they encounter view separation and divorce differently. The justice system treats separation and divorce as a legal problem with social aspects, while families experience it as social problems with legal aspects. To help youth and their families, the lab sought to treat separation and divorce as a social problem first and foremost.

Subject matter experts would have to embrace new ways of thinking and working.

The Lab had set out to address old, systemic challenges in new ways. Over the course of this project they would be working with other legal subject matter experts—people trained to find solutions quickly and by relying on precedent—who would need to embrace emergent and iterative ways of working to produce a less linear solution.

The Lab needed to level-up their design knowledge.

The Lab team itself needed to build capacity in design methodologies within their organization. While they knew they wanted to take a human-centred approach, they had little experience with these methods. The Lab needed a partner with whom they could co-create and learn in an effort to build up their design capabilities.

How we helped the Lab tap into their innate design capabilities

Build consensus among the project team.

The Family Justice Innovation Lab had a big and broad long-term goal. To focus our design research we worked them to narrow their goal and build consensus around who they were designing for.

Co-create with end-users and subject matter experts.

We engaged youth impacted by divorce—the Lab’s target demographic—in a number of storytelling and co-design workshops. Our UX team also conducted interviews with experts who interacted with youth as they moved through the justice system.

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Find themes.

We summarized nearly 100 findings to extract themes and identify key issues. We saw a strong link between child well-being, parental conflict, and economic resources. We also learned that supporting a child’s sense of self during divorce was important.

Involve end-users in the sensemaking.

A multi-disciplinary group—young people from the first workshops, parents, social workers, lawyers, and therapists—came together to contemplate what it means to create change within the justice system. We used Cognitive Edge narrative methods to analyze the narratives and do affinity mapping.

Create archetypes.

Archetypes emerged from the workshops; providing the Lab’s team with the raw materials needed to produce personas. We coached the lab’s team through what was an important exercise in understanding who they were designing for. We then reviewed the personas and provided feedback.

The benefits of designing for social innovation

Increased design capabilities within the justice sector.

By partnering with OXD, the Lab’s team was able to learn about human centred design. Working with the Lab instead of for them helped them increase their capabilities and bring new approaches to the justice system.

Signalled cultural change by embracing innovation.

The justice system has a tendency to treat complex social problems as if they are predictable, mechanical, and can be solved by top-down reliance on experts. The Lab set a precedent for cultural change by using a grassroots, human centred-design.

Engaged youth with design research.

This human centred approach empowered youth to participate in the creation of a solution. By working directly with youth, experts and advocates in the justice sector were able to hear from them directly.