UCL East


Case study: Co-designing for better employment outcomes and experiences with young east Londoners

8 March 2021

At the Bartlett, the Institute for Global Prosperity is working with young people in east London to better understand their preoccupations and employment experiences. Hannah Sender, PhD student at the IGP, shares the first outcomes from the project in the case study below.

Storyboard from FUSE young people

Regeneration has negative connotations and has had negative consequences for young east Londoners. Whilst policy-making tools like the UK Industrial Strategy (2017) and London’s Local Industrial Strategy (2020) do briefly mention young people, young east Londoners report feeling under-represented in decision-making and left behind when changes happen to their local area. This has resulted in a feeling of displacement, powerlessness, and isolation.

Fuse works to make regeneration work better for young east Londoners, by supporting young people to leverage design thinking in the local area.

The Fuse team is a group of young design thinkers, researchers and youth workers from east London. It is overseen by youth-led design agency The Plug, Hackney Quest and Hannah Sender from the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL. It is funded by UCL, the London Legacy Development Corporation and the Lottery Fund.

Six young east Londoners are employed as ‘young designers’ to conduct research and create interventions to solve employment-related challenges.

They have been interviewing young people living in Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets, and local businesses based in the four boroughs. They have learned about the complex challenges that young people face in seeking employment, as well as the problems they face in employment.

They have found that many young people are keen to make a difference in the world, but struggle to find businesses and organisations which suit their values. One young woman from Hackney said that she was disappointed to discover that many of her colleagues did not share her values and that she felt isolated in what seemed like a perfect job.

Mental health and wellbeing also emerged as a key issue, both during job-seeking and in work. Young people talked about self-confidence and the importance of feeling that you belong in an industry or organisation, particularly in relation to racial diversity.

They have also learned about local businesses’ understandings of these issues, and how they try to address them in their own organisations.

As of February 2021, the young designers were testing two ideas for services with young residents and local businesses: one focused on value-based recruitment and the other a wellbeing service. The most impactful and successful idea will be taken into a design phase, with the ultimate goal of being implemented in the Good Growth Hub – a recently-announced physical space in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, designed to improve economic outcomes in the local communities.

Learn more about the Fuse project