The Discovery Process

Ediane Santana de Lima

‘Discovery’ is the process by which we – in an expansive and participatory way – identify the specific areas that matter to local communities and young people. This blog provides an overview of how we are approaching this in Kailo. 

We’re taking an innovative approach to Discovery. Research initiatives have a tendency to start with what is already known as the starting point. Whilst this has the benefit of learning from past experiences and learning from elsewhere, it can risk closing off avenues of inquiry that might otherwise be missed, or that really matter to people locally. 

Design approaches to Discovery are generally more exploratory, listening closely to people and communities, widely exploring what matters to people, then narrowing down. These can really connect with what matters to people, but the risk is that it can miss out on what has been learnt before or from elsewhere. 

Both approaches hold great opportunity and value. They are also each laden with assumptions and risks. 

Blending approaches to tackle assumptions

The Kailo Discovery process seeks to bring together the best of both worlds, and help challenge assumptions. First, it takes an open, exploratory approach to explore what matters to young people, community and system leaders in their local context. Second, it couples this with a solid research underpinning – what existing research, data and evidence can illuminate, and exploring its connection (or disconnection) with the local context. 

Our initial plan for working with local partners in Discovery and Design includes the following key phases:

Early Discovery is underway right now in Newham and North Devon. It’s shaped by exploratory conversations with young people, grounded in three main questions:

We were also asking young people what are the things that influence their wellbeing, and what they would like to change about their local area. We’re working hard to hear a diverse range of voices, in particular those that are less typically heard.This means slowly developing relationships and trust with those living and working in the local community. We have learned a lot about the limitations and challenges around doing this effectively, and how we will need to continue adapting and improving the way we do this. 

That means also speaking to local community and public system leaders – anyone and everyone who has an interest or role in supporting young people and their wellbeing! With these conversations, we have been exploring what they think matters to young people and affects mental health locally. Part of this is looking to identify where Kailo can support, contribute and add value to existing local efforts to address the social determinants of health and wellbeing. We are explicitly looking to identify where we can add value and support, rather than duplicate or add ‘noise’ to already stretched communities and systems. 

All of this has been brought together – through sense-making, thematic analysis and consideration against existing data and evidence – to identify a range of what we are referring to as ‘Opportunity Areas’ – specific areas in which to work locally and build stronger foundations for young people to thrive. We initially surfaced around 12 Opportunity Areas in each place. These are being iteratively sense-checked, refined and prioritised with young people, local leaders and against existing data and evidence. 

What next?

In the next couple of months, we’ll continue to facilitate sessions in order to identify which Opportunity areas we (young people, community and current Kailo team members) will be taking to the next stage of the project. We are doing this by prioritising Opportunity areas with young people, continuing to identify and consider local resources, and systems champions who are willing to support this work. 

We’ll be considering all of these opportunity areas against a ‘systems map’ that charts the wider social determinants of young people’s mental health. This will help inform explorations of the most viable and impactful routes to building strong foundations for young people to thrive. 

The Deeper Discovery phase will commence in February 2023. This will be a much deeper phase of focused research and exploration. We’ll be forming local Discovery and Co-Design teams – including youth peer researchers, wider groups of young people and local partners. These teams will dig deeply into the agreed Opportunity Areas, exploring through creative and participatory approaches, community research, collection and analysis of data and participatory approaches to mapping systems and dynamics affecting young people. This process of Deeper Discovery will then transition later in the year into a process of co-design and strategy development – working with local system leaders to design opportunities for sustainable change. 

So that is a not-so-short overview of the Discovery process within Kailo! You can read about early engagements and Opportunity areas identified in Newham here, and in North Devon here. Stay tuned for further updates as the work progresses.

Above: Annotation here