From education to employment

A project that helps students into digital careers

Student software developers, mentored by Google volunteers, create a digital annual report “A Year of People Doing and Making” for a mental health charity

Mental health charity the Restoration Trust has collaborated with digital storytelling agency Muddle Up and Medway-based social enterprise futureCodersSE to create inclusive annual report, A Year of People Doing and Making.

Seeking to build an engaging connection between the public, funders, and the people they work with, A Year of People Doing and Making uses audio to give a voice to people with mental health problems. With mentoring from GoogleServe Volunteers and Space Between, student software developers have gained valuable work experience by building the Web-based interface.

The Restoration Trust helps people engage with heritage and culture so that their mental health improves. Projects at Stonehenge, Norfolk Record Office and Norwich Arts Centre are co-produced with participants, so it is appropriate that participants themselves speak freely about their experience and the impact that Restoration Trust projects have had on their lives in a direct communication with the public and funders who support the charity’s work. These audio interviews play throughout the report. Director Laura Drysdale says: ‘We wanted our annual report to embody our values – we have to produce an Annual Report, so why not make it beautiful?’

The budding developers at futureCodersSE have created a web-based, digital interface that uses browser-based programming and implements extensive photo galleries, audio playlists, video and evolving graphics. Two students, Anthony Funai and Jamie Knott, worked on the software project from start to finish, took part in Agile project planning, team-based code development and review, and employed various testing methods, including unit and regression testing.  

Karen Scott, Founder and Director, explains the importance of the project for the students: “Young people leaving full-time education, but not planning to go to university, find it very difficult to get a foot on the career ladder in the software industry.  After 20 years of teaching talented programmers, I set up futureCodersSE to help students gain experience, confidence and a personal network. This is more effective when delivered outside the education setting.”

Karen continues: “Having a supportive client such as the Restoration Trust, has given us room to allow Anthony and Jamie to have as much input into the digital report as possible. They have both developed important technical and soft skills, and both now have an increased portfolio of code showcased on their own code sharing sites.  Zoe has been a key player and has communicated Laura’s vision to help us to produce a report that meets the requirements of the charity.  Both Zoe and Laura have been an accessible source of information for our young developers and this is so important.”

Laura Drysdale, Director, Restoration Trust: “We are delighted to be communicating with everyone who has a stake in our work in such a fresh, accessible way. It has been brilliant working with the young developers at FutureCoders, and we plan to make a game app together. Thanks to Muddle Up for joining the dots!”

Zoe Tipler, Content Director, Muddle Up: “We wanted to help the Restoration Trust build a report that spoke with the people they support rather than about them. By leaving the audio unedited we have been able to show people the respect that their words deserve. Working with futureCodersSE gave us the opportunity to test the ideas of the report with a degree of flexibility that would have been prohibitively expensive in another setting. We want to thank the people from the Restoration Trust who have lent us their words and stories. Without them the whole project would not have happened.”

A Year of People Doing and Making is designed by digital storytelling agency Muddle Up. The audio format and immersive digital experience speaks to a multifaceted audience as well as being a long-term asset for the Restoration Trust. “The Restoration Trust challenged us to be as inclusive as possible with the report design. Audio meant that we could tackle participants’ concerns that people with mental health problems aren’t listened to. Through futureCoders we worked directly with students Anthony and Jamie, who contributed their ideas to the design and user interface.”  

The digital report project was born through the RSA where Laura Drysdale (Restoration Trust), Zoe Tipler (Muddle Up) and Karen Scott

About futureCodersSE: futureCoders provides high-quality, meaningful, project-based, work experience for young people aged 16-19, to produce skilled and confident software developers. Our projects create affordable, much needed software to help charities increase their digital presence.

We help talented coders get a foot on the ladder of a career in software development, without necessarily going to university. Our activities include: working with colleges, schools and youth centres to encourage and identify suitable students for work experience; working with employers to develop work experience programmes and to make assessments of young people’s skills; running monthly networking events for students and software professionals.

We are keen to work with more charities to identify software needs and to develop exciting projects to help with their work. 

About Restoration Trust: The Restoration Trust works in partnership with heritage/arts and health/social care bodies to help people with mental health problems enjoy heritage, art and culture in a safe, effective way.  We call it culture therapy. We use resources and expertise from archives, archaeology, the historic environment, museums, visual art, music, creative writing and digital arts.

About Muddle Up: Muddle Up is a digital storytelling agency founded by journalists. We work with charities and NGOs to develop content that helps them tell the story of their impact. We collaborate with the people organisations support so that they have control over their own story and the way that it is told. As a social impact storytelling agency our goal is to create content that bridges the communications gap between donors and beneficiaries. Our content drives new audiences and raises public awareness.

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