Since its first beta launch of the website in 2005, people have been drawn to the mindyourmind program. For one, there’s an ongoing need for better mental health and care for young people. As well, mindyourmind has had a long history of understanding the necessity of involving young people in co-creating the services and systems that impact them.
Fast forward to now.
mindyourmind’s goals related to youth mental health and illnesses are:
- to share information
- to increase awareness
- to equip people to design for personal, systemic and social change
Recently, we decided that we wanted to explore, capture and understand the details around how these goals are met. This is important because as a program we want to maintain and grow these qualities. As a community partner involved in many mental health projects and youth engagement more widely across Canada and further, we want to share these qualities with others, clearly. If something is working, we have to let others know…that’s how things change for the better, right?
Here’s what we did.
First we took a good look around and did a community scan to see who else was working with youth and how. We read toolkits and browsed websites. We also read academic and research papers on youth engagement. We discovered that researchers use many different terms to describe youth engagement which can make it tough to compare work being done. This knowledge helped us analyze the strengths and gaps of programs with youth involvement.
We choose an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process to explore our own youth involvement work. AI is a way of looking at the best of what already is happening. The idea is that people tend to move in a direction that they are already thinking about, so if you think hard about what is working well, you will continue along that path, and the things that aren’t working so well, will naturally be revealed.
We asked 20 mindyourmind team members (12 staff and 8 involved youth) to imagine this ultimate scenario: the ‘right’ youth are involved, at the right time, in the right way…Then asked, “so what does that scenario actually mean, and how do we get there?”
We asked youth: What are your best experiences/best moment(s) at mindyourmind? What do you value about yourself in what you bring to mindyourmind? What are some necessary things about the mindyourmind youth program that make it what it is? What are 3 wishes you have that would maintain and strengthen mindyourmind?
Then we did a ‘mind dump’. Any contributing factors got written down. We ended up with a mountain of data. We formed an advisory with 3 youth and 2 staff. Over many sessions we examined the responses, now written on cards (there were a lot) and sorted them into piles. We grouped like-ones together, and discussed ones that didn’t fit anywhere. We debated and discussed and finally came up with categories. By this point we had a brain ache but we were starting to see patterns and the steps of a process.
Youth Involvement Model Development
2 youth advisors took the categories away and came back with an idea, a way to visually represent what 20 of us had co-created. They imagined… a smoothie! After quite a few drafts, this is our awesome, amazing description of youth involvement at mindyourmind.
Here’s what one of the co-creators had to say about the process:
“The youth involvement evaluation was one of the coolest, and one of the most important projects I’ve been a part of at mindyourmind. Before working here, I’d been a youth partner for almost 4 years. I’d volunteered at a few places beforehand, but something was different with mindyourmind - I felt like I was truly a part of something special and felt real ownership of resources I helped create. Youth partners are truly the core of mindyourmind and because of that, anyone that gets involved feels connected and a part of the whole program. A year of evaluating the program and why it’s been so successful was really fascinating.”