“…a gamified approach that makes learning fun.”
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Our partner Adoptive Families Association of BC has just published a case study on our long-running community engagement program, “AgedOut.com.” Powered by PUG’s award-winning Picnic™ Engagement Platform, AgedOut.com sets a new standard for delivering timely, relevant, accessible content and engagement to a challenging target audience.
A PICNIC™ SOLUTION CASE STUDY
By Taryn Danford and Lucie Honey-Ray
Taryn Danford is the director of child, youth and family services and Lucie Honey-Ray is the AgedOut.com project lead at the Adoptive Families Association of BC (British Columbia). Taryn has led efforts to pilot programs related to community engagement, child rights, youth leadership, and cultural safety and practice. Under Lucie’s leadership, AgedOut.com has tripled in size and has engaged more than 1,500 youth in and from care to lead the continued development of AgedOut.
In today’s world, time is the most precious commodity we have. As we manage our families’ busy schedules, multiple responsibilities, and work, we often lack time for learning, despite a sincere interest in it. At the same time, online resources have grown in leaps and bounds, and the internet has swiftly become the place where most of us go to find information. It provides ease in its 24-hours-a-day/365-days-a-year accessibility: we can access whenever we want without leaving the comfort of our own homes. But it can also be overwhelming to find exactly what you are looking for. We at the Adoptive Families Association of BC (AFABC) recognize this, and know that in a fast-paced world, where finding time for learning is a challenge, there is a need to offer online learning, tools, and resources that enhance busy people’s access to high-quality information no matter where they are.
Shortly before beginning its effort to launch Adoption Basics, AFABC partnered with MCFD to explore the needs of youth and young adults who were in care or had recently left care. We began by talking to the young people themselves about what information they needed and how they wanted to receive it. While we were not surprised to hear what young people needed—support in navigating housing, education, health, and finances—the revelation came in how they wanted this support. Young people wanted a one-stop online warehouse to access the most current information when they needed it.
They also wanted something that was easy to use. Early in our consultations, the youth quickly identified that their top barrier to accessing information about aging out of care was their frustration in wading through dozens of websites to find relevant information, followed closely by them then not understanding how to interpret the information. We know how difficult and time consuming it can be to find appropriate, research-driven, and fact-based information online—youth experience these frustrations ten-fold as they are expected to navigate this difficult online world without training, research skills, or years of experience developing their ability to know fact from fiction.
To counter this challenge and answer the needs of young people, AFABC—in partnership with youth—created AgedOut.com, a unique online platform with relevant information about all things important to youth aging out of government care.
Interactive, Comprehensive Content
Launched in June 2015, AgedOut.com has rapidly become the place for young people in and from care to find up-to-date information about things important to their journey to becoming successful adults. The site contains numerous information and service pages under six topic headings: housing, education, health, finances, ID needs, and personal life. We use online learning quests, which are animated life skills experiences, to educate users on what they need to know in an engaging way. We even go a step further and provide opportunities for youth to learn how to cook, find housing, seek employment, and navigate the education system.
The site has a gamified approach that makes learning fun. For example, youth can use emoticons to state how they feel and collect badges for clicking on information or watching videos. Youth from British Columbia who are or have been in care also have the opportunity to earn up to $150 in gift card rewards from places such as Amazon, the Body Shop, Walmart, gas stations, and grocery stores.
When we began building the site, the young people we worked with provided detailed guidelines about what would work best for them. From the topic headings and name, to the colours and design, young people’s voices were (and still are) central to all developments on AgedOut.com. We learned early in the development stages that youth in care are more likely to respond to messages from their peers. Therefore, all the videos on the site feature youth from care sharing their experiences on specific topics.
Based on their wisdom, AFABC also created a style guide that, to this day, makes the site valuable and responsive to their needs. One example is our two-click-of-the-mouse rule: when we send young people to outside websites, we never use more than two clicks to get them exactly where they need to be. This may sound easy, but we have learned it is not, especially when referring to government websites. Another rule we follow is that everything we write on AgedOut.com needs to be in youth-friendly language—meaning it is simple, easy to understand, and in short concise sentences. Last year, AFABC was challenged to incorporate an Indigenous lens to future developments and has now added this to its style guide with great success.
Today, the site has more than 4,100 users, half of whom are young people in and from care, aged 16 to 29. An in-depth user evaluation, completed in 2018, shows that 93 percent of youth on our site found what they were looking for; and trends in data show they regularly access the site between 6 pm and 6 am. 98 percent of youth surveyed reported the information was easy to understand, and 96 percent found the site easy to navigate.
Based on feedback from youth who use the site, it continues to evolve with new assets, such as information pages and animated quests. We also continue to engage with our provincial government ministries to preserve the site’s reputation as the place for young people in and from care to access current information.
AgedOut.com is highly cost effective. Not including the consultation and development stages, AgedOut.com costs $51 per user per year for 24/7/365 access to information and learning, demonstrating that effective online learning does not need to be expensive.
Overall, we know that technology is a driving force in learning and education needs. We also know that without consulting the communities of which we hope to serve, any educational offering can be tokenistic and easily dismissed. As new generations of prospective adoptive parents emerge and the needs of youth aging out of government care become more complex, it is critical that family- and youth-serving organizations adapt to the needs of our clients.
About PUG Interactive
PUG Interactive is a leader in providing gamified engagement solutions for enterprise, delivering playful, purposeful community engagement to the world’s top brands. By combining proven video gameplay design experience and its proven Picnic™ platform technology, PUG Interactive delivers high-performance retention, loyalty, and motivation solutions for large audiences and enterprise applications.