The mission of Hopelab is to improve the health and well-being of teens and young adults. Project Milk is their chatbot intervention to address minority stress among youth in the queer community. The project goal for our team was to explore ways to build a lasting service model that fits into Hopelab and Project Milk's mission of improving the health of queer youth.
Research and Insights
We spoke to over 15 different individuals across the categories of queer youth, professional allies, and Northwestern University faculty and staff. Through hours of interviews and synthesis we extracted the following insights:
Time: Professors want to be better Allies but don’t have time to commit to official training.
Artifacts: Novel, physical artifacts, such as more obscure Queer flags, spark curiosity and engagement.
Ally Spectrum: Some professors want to take a more active role in Allyship, while other want to be quiet supporters.
Connection: Professors are curious about the queer space, but don’t feel personally connected.
Prototyping and Testing
The team generated a variety of prototypes for promoting allyship among college professors. We conducted structured interviews with professors, faculty, and staff about the prototypes, while observing the initial reactions to each artifact.
Our prototypes included buttons, business cards, queer flag stickers, a resource handbook, an inclusive sign, among others. Testing revealed that artifacts associated with small gestures of support, like buttons, stickers, and email signatures generated the most positive feedback from a subset of professors we identified and called Supporters.
Our team's service concept was called Project Spectrum, and with this service, we aim to address professors not fully comfortable identifying as Allies, yet want to facilitate meaningful identity-based conversations with students.
Envisioning the future of Project Spectrum, our team hopes it will enable Supporters to assemble tools and resources to empower their students. The goal is a future where no queer student feels a lack of understanding from their professors and mentors. We strive to make it as easy as possible for professors to use small gestures to create supportive environments for queer youth.
My Key Learnings
Usefulness of Sacrificial Concepts: Sometimes it is better to get imperfect ideas out there to generate discussion and feedback. Our team used this tool during the early phase of the project to "get the ball rolling."
Let the Research Be the Guide: Our initial design direction evolved over time as our research uncovered new insights that informed our direction. We had to follow where our research led us, even when it challenged our initial assumptions.