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Welcome to BUILD’s playbook designed to help research teams, product development teams, philanthropists, school and district leaders and curriculum providers better understand principles of participatory action research. BUILD has been leading Youth Advisory and Youth Design Fellowships for three years and we want to share with YOU our best practices. So, in each Phase, you’ll find steps to follow, tools to use and ideas for how to engage youth. 


Eager to access tools? Click on the Toolkit button above to find resources and templates; make sure to check out our videos on relationship-building tactics as well. If you ever need support launching your Youth Advisory group, don’t hesitate to contact Cindy at BUILD (cpineda@build.org).

Phase 1

Defining the direction

Before launching a Youth Advisory Panel or Youth Fellowship, you need to map out where you are going. The Discovery Phase is the foundational phase in establishing a Youth Fellowship, where you define the purpose and objectives of the program. This phase involves an exploration to map out the trajectory of co-design initiatives with youth, establishing a clear learning arc that guides the development of a Youth Advisory Group.

Objectives

Step 1/

Define Goals And Objectives

Clearly articulate the overarching goals and specific objectives of the Youth Fellowship program. In order to define your goals, you’ll need to begin with an internal readiness evaluation. These questions help you clearly define the purpose of the co-design project and its objectives. Understand what you hope to achieve through this collaboration with youth and how their insights will be integrated into the outcome.
Ensure that the defined goals and objectives of the Youth Fellowship align strategically with the broader mission and vision of your institution, organization, or company. This alignment ensures that the co-design project contributes meaningfully to the overall strategic direction, making it more likely to receive support and integration into the institution’s overarching goals.
Ensure that the defined goals and objectives of the Youth Fellowship align strategically with the broader mission and vision of your institution, organization, or company. This alignment ensures that the co-design project contributes meaningfully to the overall strategic direction, making it more likely to receive support and integration into the institution’s overarching goals.
Set goals that are realistic and attainable within the resources and timeframe available. Conduct a thorough assessment of internal readiness, acknowledging any constraints or limitations. This ensures that the defined objectives are feasible, increasing the likelihood of successful implementation and positive outcomes for both educators and participating youth.
  • How have you incorporated youth voice into your strategic planning or engaged youth in your work thus far?
  • Whether you have engaged youth or not, why is it a necessary or desired action at this time? What initiative or directive is this tied to?
  • What goals do you have for your organization or team for engaging youth directly?
  • What goals do you have for youth in your engagement with them? What skills will they gain or what will they learn as a result of the engagement?
  • What are some of the questions you are hoping to ask youth and hear perspective on?
  • Who is your target audience to partner or co-design with? (Identify the specific group of youth you will be working with. Consider their age, background, interests, and experiences. Recognize that youth is a diverse group, and their perspectives may differ based on their unique characteristics.)
  • What resources do you have available to allocate?

Step 2/

Identify Structure Or Format

Determine your path, it’s time to decide which group structure will best suit your needs.

Once you have a clearer understanding of your needs, goals, and available resources, it’s time to determine the most suitable group structure or format for your requirements. At BUILD.org, we offer two distinct paths for youth engagement: the Youth Advisory Panel (YAP), which concentrates on curriculum research and policy agendas, and the Youth Design Fellowship (YDF), which focuses on product design, instructional design, and user experience. If you are in a strategic planning period or launching a new initiative, the Youth Advisory Panel may be more appropriate, whereas if you already know the products you’ll be designing, a Youth Design group could be the preferred option. Review the comparisons provided below for further guidance.

At BUILD.org, we have two paths for youth. One path is more focused on a research agenda and learning alongside youth (YAP); the other is focused on product design and the user experience (YDF). If you are in a strategic planning period or launching a new initiative, you may want to consider the Youth Advisory Panel; if you know the solutions you will be designing, consider a Youth Design Fellowship.

Select your type of group

YAP

Youth Advisory Panel - YAP

Youth Advisory Panels are best suited to help you grapple with big questions  – think about your strategic plan, your organization’s vision, your understanding of the problems your team is tasked to generate solutions for. Youth Advisory Panels help you better understand the root causes for issues, generate ideas based on lived experience or to gain more insight for research initiatives.

Focus: to help inform policies, practices, program design & funding priorities of funders, philanthropists.
Timing: 4-12 week design sprints to allow for deep discussion and richer understanding of complex issues within education like culturally-responsive and sustaining education.

YDF

Youth Design Fellowship - YDF

Youth Design groups are best suited for exploring how to improve curriculum or products including digital products or tools. Youth can respond to curriculum/ products created or help co-design new product features or elements (IE: Characters, narrative story arc, background images or colors, etc.). Youth Design groups are often focused on UX elements, but with more time, you get more robust feedback and a deeper understanding of youth interests and needs.

Focus: product design and improving the relevancy of curriculum and digital products targeted at students in a school setting.

Timing: 6-8 week design sprints where students learn core principles of UX and UI design and help improve BUILD products/ curriculum.

Step 3/

Determine Budget

Now that you’ve determined the type of group you want to launch ensure you allocate the necessary budget and resources for the co-design project. Ensure that the youth participants are adequately compensated for their time and efforts through monetary compensation or other incentives. This may require support from your operations, finance, or human resources department, and it will definitely impact when you can begin your work partnering with youth.

Ensure that the selected group structure or format aligns seamlessly with the goals and objectives defined in the previous step. Consider the unique aspects of your goals, such as whether they lean more towards curriculum research and policy agendas (fitting for a Youth Advisory Panel) or product design and user experience (suited for a Youth Design Fellowship). The structure you select should be adaptable to effectively address the specific needs identified in the goal-setting phase.
Ensure that the selected group structure or format aligns seamlessly with the goals and objectives defined in the previous step. Consider the unique aspects of your goals, such as whether they lean more towards curriculum research and policy agendas (fitting for a Youth Advisory Panel) or product design and user experience (suited for a Youth Design Fellowship). The structure you select should be adaptable to effectively address the specific needs identified in the goal-setting phase.

Take into account the preferences, interests, and skills of the potential youth participants. Consider conducting surveys or interviews to understand their areas of expertise and interest, helping you tailor the group structure to maximize participant engagement. This approach ensures that the selected format resonates with the youth audience, fostering enthusiasm and commitment to the co-design process.

Conduct a thorough assessment of all resources required for the co-design project. This includes not only direct project expenses such as materials, facilitators, and venue costs but also indirect costs like administrative support, marketing, and communication efforts. A comprehensive understanding of resource needs ensures that the budget is realistic and covers all aspects of the project.

Conduct a thorough assessment of all resources required for the co-design project. This includes not only direct project expenses such as materials, facilitators, and venue costs but also indirect costs like administrative support, marketing, and communication efforts. A comprehensive understanding of resource needs ensures that the budget is realistic and covers all aspects of the project.

Establish effective communication and collaboration with relevant departments, including operations, finance, and human resources. Engage these departments in discussions about the budget requirements for the co-design project, seeking their support and alignment with the goals of the initiative. A collaborative approach ensures that budgeting considerations are integrated seamlessly into operations and that necessary approvals and processes are followed.

Once you know your budget, decide on your “just-right” number for your crew. Our best design sprints have been with small groups of 7-10. This allows for the right balance of energetic, mixed perspectives while also giving time and space for many youth to engage and share their stories. Also, if and when something like the power goes out (which definitely happens), there is still a big enough crew that with one or two youth missing, you still have enough to carry the conversations and ideas.

Conduct a thorough assessment of all resources required for the co-design project. This includes not only direct project expenses such as materials, facilitators, and venue costs but also indirect costs like administrative support, marketing, and communication efforts. A comprehensive understanding of resource needs ensures that the budget is realistic and covers all aspects of the project.

Conduct a thorough assessment of all resources required for the co-design project. This includes not only direct project expenses such as materials, facilitators, and venue costs but also indirect costs like administrative support, marketing, and communication efforts. A comprehensive understanding of resource needs ensures that the budget is realistic and covers all aspects of the project.

Establish effective communication and collaboration with relevant departments, including operations, finance, and human resources. Engage these departments in discussions about the budget requirements for the co-design project, seeking their support and alignment with the goals of the initiative. A collaborative approach ensures that budgeting considerations are integrated seamlessly into operations and that necessary approvals and processes are followed.

Once you know your budget, decide on your “just-right” number for your crew. Our best design sprints have been with small groups of 7-10. This allows for the right balance of energetic, mixed perspectives while also giving time and space for many youth to engage and share their stories. Also, if and when something like the power goes out (which definitely happens), there is still a big enough crew that with one or two youth missing, you still have enough to carry the conversations and ideas.

Step 4/

Establish Participant Incentives

Define and implement a thoughtful participant incentive structure to recognize and reward the contributions of youth involved in the co-design process. This step involves considering both individual motivators and external factors, such as certificates of participation, mentorship opportunities, skill development workshops, or stipends. Tailor the incentive structure to align with the preferences and needs of the target participants, fostering a positive and engaging experience throughout the Youth Fellowship.

Conduct a thorough assessment of the individual motivators of the youth participants. Understand what personally drives them and what they find rewarding. This could involve surveys, interviews, or informal discussions to gather insights into their preferences, interests, and aspirations. Individual motivators can vary widely, and tailoring incentives to align with these motivations increases their effectiveness.

Conduct a thorough assessment of the individual motivators of the youth participants. Understand what personally drives them and what they find rewarding. This could involve surveys, interviews, or informal discussions to gather insights into their preferences, interests, and aspirations. Individual motivators can vary widely, and tailoring incentives to align with these motivations increases their effectiveness.

Both your time allocation and your financial allocation you can spend. We suggest paying students an average amount of $15-20/ hour at a minimum for multi-week engagements. If you are doing a one-off focus group, up the ante to $40-50 for a 90-minute engagement. Financial incentives are an important part of showing the students you value their work, their energy, and their vulnerability as they share their thoughts, ideas, and personal examples with you.

Certificates of participation serve as a tangible and symbolic recognition of the efforts and contributions made by youth participants. Craft certificates that not only acknowledge their involvement but also highlight specific skills acquired during the co-design process. Provide artifacts for newly acquired skills within the co-design projects, ensuring that the learning experience is not isolated but integrated into the collaborative and real-world context of the program.

Support Documents

Focus Group
Protocol V1

Template

Focus Group
Protocol V2

Template

Readiness
Assessment

Template

Sample Budget

Template

Participant
Incentives

Template

Tutorials and Trainings

Cindy Pineda

Youth Advisory 
Panel Overview 


2:06 min

Marisol Burgueño​

Youth Design Fellowship Overview

1:35 min

Playbook Phases

Discovery

Defining the direction and your goals

Recruitment

Finding and preparing the youth

Session Planning

Outlining the scope and sequence for the work ahead

Building Relationships

Best practices to ensure you are starting from a foundation of relationship-building

Implementation

Running your weekly (or daily or monthly) groups to capture insights, experiences and stories

Evaluation

Ensure you met your objectives and if you can hold yourself accountable to those engaged. Reflect and prepare a summary of learning or insights.

Next up:

Recruitment

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VIDEO PREPARATION GUIDELINES

HOW TO RECORD

1. iPhone, iPad, Zoom and Loom are all choices of recording tools for their video presentation 
2. Record with both students and their presentation in view
3. Record horizontally for the best view of the students and their presentation
4. Follow Presentation Diagram to the Right

PRESENTATION TIPS.

- Make eye contact with the camera
- Notecards may be used as cue cards
•Pro Tip: Notecards should avoid having a full script
- Even when you are not speaking, don’t forget the camera is still recording!
•Be aware of your body language while you and your business partners are speaking
- Everyone has an opportunity to speak
- Professional dress is encouraged
- Practice makes perfect
•Practice how you will transition from each speaker
•Project your voice when you speak​

Follow positioning format Above

Download a Sample of Our Curriculum

Fill out this form to receive a free sample of our curriculum and to receive occasional email updates on how to bring BUILD to your community.