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.

Recent studies showed that social contacts and relationships play a key role in promoting resilience in unaccompanied migrant youth (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).
This UX research project explored the potential pathways and possibilities for technology-enabled resilience support as part of UMY’s everyday life and social-ecological context.

Research Aim: Exploring Potentials for Technology-Enabled Support

The following aims guide the UX research project:

  • Mapping out technological interventions points to enabled resilience support in the context of UMY.
  • Gaining an understanding of UMY’s everyday life and of their supporters‘ practices & challenges.
  • Exploring the design opportunities and requirements of technology-enabled support for supporting UMY through supporting their mentors

Study 1: Understanding Challenges of Promoting Resilience in UMY


To gain a first understanding of the everyday context of UMY, I conducted semi-structured interviews with five UMY, six social workers, four teachers, three mental health experts, three mentoring program coordinators, and three volunteers acting as mentors.

  • UMY has to deal with many external and internal stressors that are caused by the political situation
  • Political regulations hamper UMY from following their preferred coping strategies and thus coping with their stressors
  • An ecology of adult support workers plays an essential role in promoting resilience in UMY but faces many barriers (e.g., lack of resources, network-related challenges) caused by constraining political regulations.
  • Especially mentors are the contacts with whom the UMY mainly discusses their problems after building trust and overcoming the barrier of mental health stigma; however, mentors need more support in providing mental health support as interviewed mentors indicated that they felt overwhelmed by this role.

Study 2: Co-Design Workshops: Understanding Mentors‘ Support Practices and Challenges


I conducted co-design workshops to further explore how to support mentors in providing support.

The co-design workshops with mentors were framed as being about developing a guidebook for new mentors to provide a constructive, forward-looking way to enable them to articulate and capture support approaches that they found to be successful. This explorative approach aimed to connect with the mentors’ intrinsic “volunteer” motivation to help shift discussions from problems to potential solutions.

The co-design workshops occurred over three sessions on separate days:

  1. Session: Getting an overview and collecting and grouping advice
  2. Session: Deepening advice
  3. Session: Finalizing guidebook: editing and annotating chapters
  • Mentors struggle with dealing with their expectations.
  • Mentors have challenges regarding providing direct mental health support to their mentees (e.g., reading symptoms, and 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:

B1: Facilitate Navigating Resources
e.g., resource sharing platform, updated and organized by exo-system (mentors, program coordinators, and experts)

B2: Facilitate Applying Resources
e.g., a game played by a mentor and mentee to overcome mental health stigma and develop a language to talk about mental health problems

B3: Coordinate Care of the Same UMY
e.g., communication tools including all professional and volunteer support workers

B4: Strengthen the Exchange with Peers and Experts
e.g., technological infrastructure to organize online and offline synchronous and asynchronous exchange with peers and providing the option to easily contact experts

B5: Sustain the Individual’s Capacity and Well-Being
e.g., technology could provide venting space and encourage a reflective practice through private blog posts; Peer support platforms for mentors could include technological features to distribute the workload among mentors;

Publication and Video Presentation

Tachtler, F., Michel, T., Slovák, P. & Fitzpatrick, G. (2020). Supporting the Supporters of Unaccompanied Migrant Youth: Designing for Social-ecological Resilience. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–14. DOI:, Honorable Mention (Top 5%) (Premier HCI publication venue according to Google Scholar, Acceptance Rate: 23,8%)

Video Preview for the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems


Video Presentation for the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

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
  • InDesign
  • Photoshop
  • Premiere Pro