Co-Designing Technology-enabled Support for Unaccompanied Migrant Youth’s Social Ecology
Promoting Resilience in Unaccompanied Migrant Youth by Supporting their Supporters
This UX research study was conducted as part of my PhD research and a four-year Innovation Training Network (ITN) – Technology-Enabled Mental Health for Young People (TEAM) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) initiative. This training network focuses on different challenges of technology-enabled mental health services for young people. My PhD research focused on vulnerable groups among young people, particularly migrant youth who arrive in the EU unaccompanied by a responsible adult or who are left unaccompanied after their arrival.
Due to the high number of refugees arriving in Vienna in 2015, the PhD project was located in Vienna, Austria.
Unaccompanied migrant youth are exposed to many mental health risks (Höhne, van der Meer, Kamp-Becker, & Christiansen, 2020; Hodes, Jagdev, Chandra, & Cunni, 2008), and even after arriving in the country of destination, they experience many stresses such as continued unstable educational and living situation (Hodes & Vostanis, 2019) and discrimination (Fazel & Betancourt, 2018). Unaccompanied migrant youth could benefit from developing strong psychological resilience to adapt to this adverse situation, which, in turn, could prevent the onset of mental illnesses (Zolkoski & Bullock, 2012).
Recent studies showed that social contacts and relationships play a key role in promoting resilience in UMY (Horlings & Hein, 2018; Rodriguez & Dobler, 2021; Scharpf, Kaltenbach, Nickerson, & Hecker, 2021). In the research field of Human-Computer-Interaction, there is an increasing interest in the potential role of technology in supporting informal caregivers (Ammari & Schoenebeck, 2015; Lederman et al., 2019; Yamashita, Kuzuoka, Hirata, & Kudo, 2013; Yamashita et al., 2018).
Thus, this UX research project explored the potential pathways and possibilities for technology-enabled resilience support as part of unaccompanied migrant youth’s everyday life and social-ecological context.
Aim: Exploring Potentials for Technology-Enabled Support
The following aims guide the UX research project:
- Gaining an understanding of unaccompanied migrant youth’s everyday life and of their supporters‘ practices & challenges
- Mapping out technological interventions points to enabled resilience support in the context of unaccompanied migrant youth
- Exploring the design opportunities and requirements of technology-enabled support for supporting unaccompanied migrant youth through supporting their mentors
UX Research Methods
- Semi-structured Interviews
- Co-Design Workshop
- Thematic Analysis
- Mind Mapping Activities
- Ideation Methods
- Development of A Design Framework
- Conceptualization of Design Examples
- Dedoose - a Web-Based Application for Qualitative Analysis
- MAXQDA - Software for Qualitative Analysis
- XMind - Mind Mapping Software
- Premiere Pro
UX Research Process
Semi-structured Interviews with Unaccompanied Migrant Youth and Their Professional and Volunteer Support Workers
To gain a first understanding of the everyday context of unaccompanied migrant youth, I interviewed:
- 5 unaccompanied migrant youth,
- 6 social workers,
- 4 teachers,
- 3 mental health experts,
- 3 mentoring program coordinators, and
- 3 volunteers acting as mentors.
Potential Pathways for Technology-enabled Resilience Support
Through the mapping process and analysis, I identified potential areas where more support is needed and thus potential pathways for integrating technology-enabled resilience support:
- (α) Providing resources supporting unaccompanied migrant youths in coping with their situation that does not cause additional stress and pressure on the UMY.
- (β) Supporting mentors in providing support.
- (γ 1) Creating more beneficial exchanges with peers.
- (γ 2) Supporting professional support workers in providing long-term and individual support.
Co-Design Workshops with 8 Mentors and 1 Social Worker
I conducted co-design workshops to further explore how to design for pathway (β) Supporting mentors in providing support.
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I conducted thematic analysis by Braun and Clarke and continued mapping out the social-ecological systems of UMY and mentors, their interplay, and how technology could support this interplay in order to support promoting resilience in unaccompanied migrant youths.
Key Findings of the Co-Design Workshops
- Mentors struggle with dealing with their expectations.
- Mentors have challenges regarding providing direct mental health support to their mentees (e.g., reading symptoms, discussing mental health).
- The quality of coordinating care influences mentors‘ ability to provide support.
Building networks and exchanging information and resources between mentors and experts support overcoming challenges.
Design Framework and Design Directions
Pathways for technology-enabled support for mentors to provide support: