How did we design the Journey4Life?

One year ago, we started our new empowerment model: the Journey4Life. Dance4Life colleague Nina Pavlovska got the complex assignment to lead on the development of a curriculum that aims to empower young people to make safe and healthy choices and feel confident about their future. In this blog, she tells about this challenge and she shares the first result of our Journey4Life! Written by Nina Pavlovska

“Little did I know when I was a child that when I “grow up” I will have the chance to impact the world by harnessing the power of co-creation.

As a learning experience designer at Dance4Life I had the opportunity to lead the development of an innovative learning experience that aims to empower young people to make safe and healthy choices about their lives and feel confident about their future. A complex assignment, given that this learning experience needed to be rolled out in different countries around the world while embracing the diversity of culture and youth. To bridge this challenge, one thing became obvious: the experience needed to be co-created with young people who come from different countries, but also contextualized to the local needs and culture while keeping its empowerment effect.

It was time to play and co-create the Journey4Life! An empowerment curriculum for young people to make healthy and safe choices about their lives and feel confident about their future.

Based on what took place “behind the curtains” of the design of the Journey4Life, I’ve drawn eight key principles that really catalyzed this co-creative process. The steps listed below depict how this empowerment curriculum came to this world within six months time, involving seven young leaders from five different countries.

  • Inspire with the “WHY” behind the opportunity to co-create. Inspire yourself and your co-creators with the product/service itself and the impact it could have. This is the big WHY behind the process! Making the WHY clear starts the engine for the work to be done and fueling the will to succeed. Remember, every co-creation is a unique opportunity for a unique group of people. In our case, we carefully selected young leaders from 5 different countries. We considered the realities we are all coming from and understood that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for all of us to co-create something that can have the ripple empowerment effect we wish to see in the world!
  • Enable collaborative creativity. So once the will is there it’s time for the SKILL! Train your co-creators in creative thinking and human-catered design thinking and skills. Together with RedZebra, we trained our co-creators to design activities which are experiential, fun and relevant to young people. We boosted our creative confidence and built a community with a culture to embrace the uncertainty of what is about to co-evolve from our joint efforts.
  • Set the destination and the travel guidelines. Agreeing on a goal and a clear structure of how we want to co-create enables a strong sense of joint ownership of the process and product. Holding everyone accountable to the agreements and remembering the WHY kept us going!
  • Provide resources and involve everyone in prototyping and learning. For the ideas that were generated we made sure there was enough motivation and support to make them and test them with young people in different countries. Everyone as co-creator had the chance to design and prototype youth focused activities which were experiential and relevant to personal development and SRHR (sexual reproductive health and rights). In addition, within Dance4Life we had the chance to involve the whole team. This meant everyone saw not only the final outcome (the Journey4Life curriculum), but also got to experience the HOW of its co-creation.
  • Putting the puzzle together. One person needs to be leading the co-creation process, putting together the pieces of the puzzle that have been created. As elements were designed and prototyped, they were selected, adapted and put into one cohesive learning experience. Getting additional help and feedback from other experts at this stage provides new perspectives on what is coming together.
  • Make and test your MVP. No matter how much effort goes into co-creation, it always feels like the product is never quite ready. This is why creating the MVP (minimum viable product) and putting it “out there” takes courage. Embrace the possibility of failure for the sake of learning. Testing is the best way to learn, so just do it!
  • Refine, copy and design. Key insights will emerge from the testing of the MVP. Use them! Incorporate the lessons learned and make the necessary changes based on the user’s needs. For the next edition, copy-writers and designers can make the product even more appealing.
  • Co-creation never ends. The first version of the Journey4Life was co-created, yet it continues to be re-created with its pilot and implementation in many countries worldwide. It was built as a dynamic tool that can be contextualized and used while keeping its power to build youth leadership and promote sexual health and wellbeing.

The Journey4life is out there now, creating ripples of empowerment around the world. So far evidence has shown that the Journey4Life can boost confidence and self esteem, influence gender equal attitudes and drive youth leadership. I strongly believe that the collaborative creativity which has been invested in the design of this learning experience is what makes it so unique and powerful.

Finally I would like to acknowledge evereyone whose contribution has been indespensable in this co-creative journey: first and foremost my team (Jorik van Enck and Judith Buitenhuis) and colleagues from Dance4Life, the Trainers4LifeRed ZebraButterfly WorksElena Gramatikovska and Elise Griede. Thank you for being part of the change we want to see in the world!”