The Youth Employment Solutions (YES) Digital Ecosystem came in response to notable shortcomings in Information Communication Technology for development (ICT4D) ‘spot solutions’ , and the need to create scalable solutions for education and youth employment. Plan strives to go beyond the status quo of ‘using ICT for ICTs sake’ and seeks to develop solutions with greater potential for scalability and sustainability.
Plan International leverages the full value of ICT by embracing the mind-set, philosophies and practices at the core of ICT innovation. Through this, Plan envisaged a solution of innovative and integrated components; each standing alone, yet working together to create truly unique learning experiences and insights. Plan’ s YES!Digital Ecosystem delivers engaging experiences for learners, more effective tools for practitioners, and more rich and meaningful data for monitoring and evaluation (M&E). The Youth Employment Solutions (YES) Digital Ecosystem is characterized by three core components:
YES!HUB // A practitioner’ s ePortal uses a digital approach to build the capacity of individuals and organizations through a ‘ One-Stop-eShop’ of knowledge, tools and collaboration. This will help professionals develop, design and execute higher quality interventions
YES!ACADEMY // A Learning Management System (LMS) for use in education and skills building for youth employment initiatives; one that engages users by prioritizing User Experience (UX), Gamification, and Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) philosophies and practices.
YES!ME // The development of a Direct Beneficiary Monitoring System (DBMS) that can trace individual beneficiaries for up to five years post-program and measure the impact of the project at individual and aggregate levels. The DBMS is built around ‘ big data’ philosophies and best practice for data collection, analysis and visualization. While each product can be viewed as standalone, the true value lies in the ways in which they work together to create an ecosystem where each component works to support the others.
The YES Digital ecosystem leverages the true value of ICT4D by embracing innovation as a practice and a philosophy, to enhance the effectiveness and increase the impact of Plan’ s youth employment projects.
The YES!HUB is the ecosystem’ s “one-stop-eShop” for YEE professionals and practitioners. TheYES!HUB consists of a range of digital tools and resources, supported by the cultivation of a strong online community.
The first of these digital tools, the market scan, will guide users through the collection of key economic data for countries, regions, target populations, industry and labour markets. By incorporating user-centred design to enhance the user’ s experience and maximize engagement, Plan can increase the accuracy and quality of inputs resulting in more valuable outputs.
Once data has been collected, practitioners can prioritize and weight implications, highlight priority areas and generate reports. This will provide the insights and evidence to better inform implementation of the selected intervention. The development of custom data processing algorithms will enable the system to make market projections, identify opportunities and could be tailored for application in contexts outside education for employment.
The tools within theYES!HUB will enable the global community to tell the story of youth unemployment in more compelling ways through:
+ A deeper understanding of local markets,
+ Knowledge sharing of the tools and resources practitioners are developing and using in their own interventions, and
+ Communicating the extent to which these interventions contributed to to lifting individuals and families out of poverty.
The centrepiece of the digital ecosystem is the Learning Management System (LMS), otherwise known as Plan’ s ‘YES!ACADEMY . This platform, built on the open source e-learning platform Moodle, uses a number of innovative principles to increase user engagement and thus enhance learning for the user, and scalability for the solution.
The YES!ACADEMY employs User Experience (UX) design to maximise student engagement. This includes intuitive interface design, game elements (gamification), and a number of other digital engagement tactics. This is particularly important in an online learning environment to maintain the attention and concentration of youth. These approaches have been used in a number of highly successful online learning platforms including the Kahn Academy, Coursera and The Code Academy – a roundtable of excellence and leadership to which Plan aspires to become a contributor.
The final component of the digital ecosystem is the YES Monitoring and Evaluation system, aka YES!ME. This system integrates with theother two components to gather and present data collected across the entire ecosystem. This is complemented by the mobile collection of data both online and offline, so the system can track and trace individual beneficiaries during and beyond their interaction with Plan’ s programs. Unique profiles will be created for each beneficiary, with a vision to trace them for up to five years post program. Users of the system will be able to access real time data from anywhere in the world to produce reports that are standardized to ILO and World Bank indicators or create custom reports on-the-fly that can be shared across their organization.
Through the aided collection of well-researched data, practitioners will be able to accurately and realistically construct effective programming, responding directly to market demand in the implementingenvironment. The YES!ME will cultivate:
+ Strong linkages with private and public sector actors
+ Enhanced learnings for creditable market data, e-learning resources and, M&E
+ Quality evidence and resource allocation for improved program quality, learning and scalability
Plan adheres closely to four core design principles in the development of ICT4D solutions.
Human Centred Design // Human Centred Design (HCD) parallels the best practices of technology leaders. The HCD process is underpinned by prioritizing needs and behaviours of the people that will ultimately benefit from the solution, to create a more meaningful and engaging experience for the user.
Agile/Lean Development // The Agile Development Manifesto emphasizes people andinteractions over processes and tools. The Agile Development process emphasizes the production of on-time and on-budget deliverables, and products are refined through cycles. These take the form of build, measure, learn iterations: short, intense periods of production with smaller, more achievable goals that build upon each previous iteration. This feedback loop enables teams to pivot based on what users, testers and the market is telling them, while also checking frequently to ensure their work is functional in the environment in which it will ultimately operate.
Universal Access // Fast becoming best practice for many ICT4D initiatives, and with good reason, universal access is ideal for deployment in developing contexts. Its philosophy mirrors fundamental development principles including collaboration, universal access and user contribution/participation. These principles parallel fundamental approaches in community development including participation, community-centred development and individual empowerment, which is why they can be applied so effectively and the form the essence of ICT4D innovations.
Data Driven // through the inclusion of principles found in big data collection and analysis, this digital ecosystem will go beyond standard input/output analysis and use innovative ICT practices including algorithm-based analytics, real-time analysis and digital data visualization. It will allow more in-depth insights to better inform and guide job diagnostics and modelling, as well as long-term impact monitoring, right down to the individual beneficiary level.