Just Beginning is a program created by psychologist Rachel Barr at Georgetown University and Carole Shauffer, a lawyer and director of the Youth Law Center. MDRC collaborated with the program developers to adapt Just Beginning to be delivered in several fatherhood programs across the country.
The program is focused on helping dads build parenting skills with their young children. During in-person sessions, dads will learn new skills with their child in a friendly interactive environment. Alongside this new program, MDRC wanted to use technology to increase father engagement and the impact of the program outside of the in-person experience.
Insight gained through comprehensive user research was used to design an experience best suited for low-income dads participating in the Just Beginning program. Our approach accounted for the user’s preferred devices, literacy levels and desired level of engagement with the app.
We then developed a cross-platform mobile application that equips fathers with automated program attendance reminders and a simple way to plan how they can apply what they learned the next time they are with their child.
CauseLabs went onsite for a workshop with MDRC in order to gain empathy for our users and validate our approach. During the fast-paced workshop, we developed personas of our users together, built initial prototypes, tested the prototypes with end users and worked to refine the prototypes based on their feedback.
The main theme from our research was that for fathers who are juggling parenthood, fatherhood program activities, and holding down a job or looking for work, it can be difficult to squeeze one more thing into their day.
Our approach in getting dads to more in-person sessions needed to be simple, straightforward, and timely, so we developed an experience that walks the dad through planning how to get to their next session in a minute and a half or less. Automated photo and audio reminders were also designed to be sent at specific intervals to help boost motivation to get to the next session.
In-person sessions were extended through the app to help the dads practice what they had learned earlier in the week. These extensions were automatically displayed in the app at the most appropriate time for each user. Having the app surface relevant content at just the right time was a key value of the app for the dads.
The result of the one and a half day workshop was a validated strategy to move forward with, as well as a prototype app experience with which to rapidly build upon.
Over the next several months CauseLabs developed a cross platform mobile app, as well as a backend program administration platform for Just Beginning and MDRC staff. The pilot of the new Just Beginning program kicked off in the spring of 2017 and we’re excited to continue gathering feedback that we can use to iterate with.