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CodeArc is a learning platform aimed at transforming the lives of young people experiencing homelessness. Homelessness is a problem that affects hundreds of thousands of people across the UK every year. In Northern Ireland alone 8,531 households presented as homeless from January to June 2023. This is a 4.7% increase from the previous year.

Homelessness can happen to anyone. The Simon Community, Northern Ireland’s leading homelessness charity, reports an increasing number of young people from family units experiencing homelessness. Half of the clients at The Simon Community NI do not conform to the common stereotype of a homeless person. They are healthy, young and live active lifestyles, yet they still struggle with homelessness.

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The Process

My project started with extensive research into the problem space, focusing on sustainable solutions to help people experiencing homelessness achieve independent living and financial stability. I conducted user interviews with professionals supporting homeless individuals, including youth workers, social workers, and leaders from the Simon Community. Additionally, I gathered insights from organisers of entrepreneurship programmes, providing me with a comprehensive understanding of effective teaching methods and content delivery strategies.

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To analyse the information I gathered, I conducted affinity mapping using FigJam, which helped me identify key themes and prioritise user needs. I was then able to use this information to create empathy maps, user personas, and user journey maps. I found these to be essential tools in understanding the mindset of users which was important as I moved to brainstorming potential solutions. From here and through additional online research I narrowed my focus to developing an online learning platform that would teach users how to code that could be accessed through libraries and local youth centres. This was a good solution as coding and software development skills are highlight sought after and in this way the platform can also help meet the needs of tech companies seeking a broader hiring pool.

Additionally, I also conducted a thorough competitor analysis to explore existing training programmes and identify gaps in the online and in-person software development training space. This analysis informed my decisions on branding and the structure of the training programme. Through brainstorming sessions and iterative design processes, I developed detailed service design blueprints for both participants (people experiencing homelessness and using the platform) and business partners (those involved the hiring of software developers at tech companies). This provided me with the key features that would be needed within the platform.

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With key features identified, I created user flows, information architectures, and site maps to provide clear requirements for the platform. I developed wireframes and iterated upon them based on feedback from software developers and engineers, ensuring a refined design approach. From here new insights emerged such as the opportunity from the inclusion of mentoring and the important of delivery content through the lens of a problem centred approach.

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I began prototyping with low to medium fidelity mock-ups, which evolved into high-fidelity designs. Usability testing with participants and mentors, alongside reviews from industry professionals, provided me with critical insights that shaped the final platform. This process ensured that the platform met user needs effectively and facilitated a positive learning experience.

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The Outcome

The final product, CodeArc, is a high-fidelity prototype of an online learning platform designed to empower young people experiencing homelessness by teaching them how to code. The platform features:

Accessible Learning Materials: The platform provides comprehensive coding education accessible through libraries, community centres, and dedicated training centres, ensuring that all participants have the tools they need to succeed.

Mentorship System: CodeArc partners with local and global companies to offer paid internship programs and establish a network of mentors. These mentors provide guidance, feedback, and support, helping participants navigate their learning journey and build confidence in their coding abilities.

Career Pathways: By collaborating with tech companies, CodeArc ensures that the learning materials are relevant to industry needs. This partnership creates a direct pathway for participants to secure programming internships, leading to well-paid employment and independent living.

Flexible Learning: The online delivery model allows participants to learn at their own pace, fitting education around their existing commitments. This flexibility is crucial for young people who may have jobs or other responsibilities

CodeArc represents a significant step forward in addressing the issue of homelessness among young people. By providing accessible education and clear pathways to employment, it offers a sustainable solution that empowers individuals to break the cycle of homelessness and achieve financial independence. The project, rooted in thorough research and user-centred design, demonstrates the power of technology to create positive social impact.

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