ARC Project profile: So What App-ens Next

We spoke with Jo Deakin from the University of Manchester to learn more about So What App-ens Next (working title) which is an app supporting young people in the transition from care to independent living.

Q: What’s your background and how did it lead to your venture?

I’m a sociologist specialising in youth justice. Whilst leading a European project on youth action, I began talking to a group of young people who had recently left care. Many of them had struggled with this transition and the difficult decisions that independent living presented. They also talked about the stigma that surrounds looked-after children and how that sometimes translates into problems with the police and other authority figures. 

In addition to this, at the point of leaving care, they were presented with an overwhelming  amount of complex information in order to thrive independently – accommodation, careers, finances, relationships etc. So it felt like a really challenging set of circumstances for them to face and many of them just felt lost. Despite the best efforts of the leaving-care professional teams, the support available doesn’t always get through when it’s needed and young people can feel like they’re on their own.  

Q: How does your venture tackle this issue?

After discussions with the leaving care team at Manchester City Council we came up with an idea for an App that tailors information for young people as the starting point for a solution. The idea is that the App will provide personalised information based on a set of background questions focussing on the young person’s unique situation and needs. The information will take the form of a tailored report with links to relevant and trustworthy sources, first-hand stories and Tiktok-style videos made by other young people with similar lived experience.

Our next stage, which is really exciting, is to share an early prototype of the App with the leaving care providers around Manchester, and groups of young people who have left or are leaving care. They’ll be able to try it out, make alterations and develop the videos and visual elements.  It’s really important that the young people are fully involved in the design, planning and production of the App. They will have control of the content and it will become their space for sharing their experiences and thoughts.

“It will provide a sense of community and solidarity that they may not have at the moment. I want them to trust it and feel that it belongs to them.”

Jo Deakin

Q: How is the ARC Accelerator program supporting you in bringing your venture to life?

It’s been a hugely valuable resource. ARC is intense and really gets to the core of what we need to know, from wider approaches and moral decision-making right down to the practicalities of running a social enterprise. It’s prompted me to think in different ways and about details that wouldn’t have crossed my mind a year ago. A lot of what we do as researchers overlaps so for example, the methods and skills required for market validation and pitching. However, the context is entirely different; you’re working with a different audience and a different purpose in mind. It’s also been great to share thoughts with other budding social entrepreneurs at the workshop sessions and discuss how we can apply our learning to our own ventures.

You can find all the project profiles from the ARC Accelerator here

Photo credit: cottonbro from Pexels

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