I was speaking with a Kosovar colleague about the Innovations Lab By Youth For Youth projects, and he presented an interesting challenge for us to think about.
Whenever you get “youth” together in a context of projects, proposals, social change, or speaking to possible donors, there is a danger that they lose their youthful vigor.
The colleague pointed out that if he were (still) a young Kosovar trying to design an innovative project, he would organize a text-bombing campaign where a politician’s phone would constantly ring with text messages coming from all sorts of different young people. He thought this would let youth vent innovatively, but also point out the incredible communications costs a politician’s phone is associated with (especially compared to average Kosovo salary etc.)
And at the same time, he told me that he would be extremely surprised if youth in the Innovations Lab came up with an idea like this. It reeks of youthful vigor, and a fondness for pranks. But whenever you get youth in a room and have them think about projects, even innovative projects, they tend to think more straightforwardly, by the books so to speak. They forget their needs sometimes, their creativity at other times.
This is highly related to the problem in participatory design where “participants absorb the values of the design team to such an extent that they lose touch with the requirements of users not involved in the design process.1” It is one of many in participatory design. But since my colleague (who has worked with plenty of projects with Kosovar youth) explicitly pointed to this one, we will thinking about how to avoid it in the Innovations Lab. Any hints from projects before, or thoughts in general, are welcome in the comments.
 – Designing for social justice – people, technology, learning; page 23, under “Doing participatory design.”