Antwone Fisher is an author and screenwriter best known for his autobiography Finding Fish. Growing up in the foster care system, he has been an outspoken advocate for foster youth and alumni. In 2014 Forum One began working with Mr. Fisher and Casey Family Programs to define a vision and strategy for a new organization focused on the challenges people face when aging out of foster care.
I participated in two consecutive projects for Antwone Fisher and Casey Family Programs as the UX lead. For the first project I worked alongside another senior UX designer and we both contributed to defining the project, conducting workshops with Mr. Fisher, comparator research, and making final recommendations.
I wrote the proposal for the second project, recommending user research combined with a strategy for content delivery and marketing. As we moved forward I oversaw the development of the interview and survey questions, then worked with a junior UX designer to ensure she could conduct the interviews. I also led working sessions to consolidate our research findings and produce our final recommendations.
How does an idea become reality? How do you design a new organization from scratch?
I had helped turn ideas into websites, into web applications, but never into a new organization. This was a new design problem for me, and as such, it was equal parts exhilarating and challenging.
After working with Antwone to understand his vision for the organization the next design problem we faced was scope. Many organizations and government agencies already existed which provided resources and services to those in foster care. We had to understand the gaps, where the need was greatest, while at the same time keeping in mind what would be achievable and sustainable for a new, small team with few resources.
Defining the Vision
Our first project with Antwone focused on helping him define what the organization and website could be. He had been thinking about this for a long time but hadn’t yet put pen to paper. To help him work through his ideas we spent two days with him at Sony Studios going through a series of workshops designed to clarify his ideas. These workshops focused on:
- Target audience - Who were they? What common issues were they dealing with? What technology did they have access to? Who did they go to for help or information?
- Features and content - What services and information did Antwone envision providing? What content would be most impactful? Who would create content? What format should it be in?
- Brand - What would be unique about this organization and website? Why shouldn’t Antwone just partner with an existing organization?
- Success criteria - If we look back on the work in a few years, how do we know if it is successful?
Getting Antwone’s input on direction and the target audience
Potential content topics
Verifying with Research
By the end of the first project we had a good understanding of what Antwone was envisioning. Many of the topics he wanted to feature he had already written about in his book A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie: And Other Lessons for Succeeding in Life. What we didn’t know is how relevant these would be to the target audience. So far we had only talked to Antwone.
To fill this knowledge gap I led a user research effort for the second project. This involved interviewing 16 foster alumni and four providers/influencers, followed by a survey of 46 individuals who had been or were currently in foster care. We found that many of the topics Antwone had in mind would be useful but that information around Housing, Education, and Finances would be even more helpful. We also learned that the community was small and there was a lot of concern over dividing it by creating yet another organization. They stressed the need for partnership over just starting something new.
To synthesize all of our research we used IDEO’s Download Your Learnings process. The results were consolidated into updated personas.
We reviewed comparator organizations as well, looking at who their target audience was and what types of resources they offered.
Charting organizations to understand them better. Antwone’s vision would reside in the bottom left quadrant.
We made a number of recommendations to Antwone and Casey Family Programs after our extensive review of the comparators and user research was complete. Quality content was the huge gap in this market and Antwone was perfectly positioned to create it. We recommended he start with a few videos, similar to the It Gets Better campaign, which he could share with partner organizations. He could then use these to help him fundraise. We also recommended he start to name and brand his organization as a next step.