Over the past couple of months, a small team from the University of Exeter’s Social Innovation Group has been working on adapting HAIRE’s Guided Conversation tool for use in youth work. Two interns, Matilda Ferguson and Lewi Connor, have been involved in this process, and Matilda very kindly agreed to write a blog about it. Read on…
The HAIRE project aims to support older people in rural areas. One of the systems tested by the HAIRE project is Guided Conversations. These take the shape of a semi-structured discussion, prompted by images, general themes and talking points such as the local area, relationships, interests and community. Using the Guided Conversation tool, the HAIRE project has been able to explore the isolated situation of older people in rural areas, and identify their needs and desires. The Guided Conversations became not only part of a study into the rural isolation experienced by older people, but a tool for combatting it.
We have been working alongside In The Mix to explore implementing the Guided Conversations tool into youth work in rural areas. The In The Mix Project (ITMP) is based in the small town of Wiveliscombe, Taunton Deane. However, the charity provides youth and community services across Somerset. ITMP offers informal educational, activities and positive opportunities programmes to provide learning, skills and experiences, which supports young people’s personal, social, emotional and professional development, as well as boosting self-esteem and confidence. Their approach to youth work is flexible and based on issues and values prevalent to young people, their communities and their environment.
Working alongside the charity’s project manager John Hellier, we have tailored the prompts and structure of the HAIRE Guided Conversation to fit the focus of ITMP and context of youth work. Our version of the Guided Conversation covers three themes: place-based’, ‘people-centred’ and ‘empowerment’. We have also adapted the tool into a new format: an app. The app shows participants these themes, as well as some sub-topics, image prompts and radars which shows how positively they rate the topics discussed.
We hope that the Guided Conversations will help us to understand the situation of young people living in rural places in terms of the issues and relationships they have with their areas. This research will help youth work in rural areas to be responsive to young people’s needs. As well as this, we hope that like we have found in the HAIRE project, the Guided Conversations themselves will not just be research tools. The discussion provides opportunity for people to open up, share, connect and be heard. This itself will combat isolation and prompt discussion about solutions. The app also provides the opportunity for action through its ‘signposting’ feature, which will allow young people to find existing services to support them.
Over the last week, Lewi and Matilda went up to Exeter to meet with John to try it out. Our practice guided conversation lasted almost three hours and was a great way to understand how the tool would work in practice. After a few adjustments, the app is ready to be tested and we look forward to trying it out at ITMP sessions over the next couple of weeks.