Collab Lab brings together six teens from across the US with tech practitioners from platforms including Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube, to integrate youth co-creation into the technologies in a way that drives youth wellbeing.

As part of its effort to build economies in which all people and communities can contribute, benefit, and recover quickly from hardship, SecondMuse powers the technology and youth wellness innovation program, Headstream. Headstream accelerates innovations and builds platforms to support LGBTQ+ and BIPOC teens as they navigate digital landscapes and thrive on a more beautiful internet. 

Collab Lab: Sharing Youth Voices in Digital Development

Headstream’s frame-breaking Collab Lab project brings the transformational potential of youth co-creation directly to the social media and gaming technologies they use daily. The aim of the program is to alter the paradigm of digital places from harming the mental wellbeing of young people to strengthening it. 

Collab Lab matched six teens from across the US with tech practitioners from platforms including Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, Roblox and others, to integrate youth co-creation into the technologies in a way that drives youth wellbeing through a lens of equity and justice. 

The six young people designing and facilitating Collab Lab workshops are part of Headstream’s Youth 2 Innovator (Y2I) program, which provides various opportunities for youth to build and influence social technologies that enhance the Human Experience of youth online. Y2I Leader Nathan Asher shared, “Collab Lab was an incredible way to get involved in making a change with social media platforms and gaming companies. I’ve never before had an experience where people in positions of power within these companies were truly listening to me and wanting to make a change.” The tech practitioners in Collab Lab comprise different roles at their companies, varying from Vice President of Trust and Safety to a UX Designer to a Responsible Innovation Manager. They see the potential impact of building the next generation of technologies with young people.  

Collab Lab provides young people with a platform for their voices to be the ones of teachers as they design and facilitate the program. These young people are acting as direct changemakers to the largest social technology platforms affecting youth most.

Y2I Leader Megha Sharma says Collab Lab offered a mechanism for a deeper understanding of co-creation. “It also served as an interactive discussion and knowledge-exchange platform. As someone who is going into the tech industry upon graduation, this is the way of thinking that I want to advocate for as we design technical solutions,” she said.

Flipping the Script So Youth are Leaders

“The hunch we have confirmed through Collab Lab is that professionals who work for social tech and gaming platforms are hungry to work alongside the youth who consume and create on their platforms,” said Puja Butail, Headstream Program Manager. “We flipped the traditional power dynamic between young people and adults. Youth participants lead tech practitioners through workshops, build understanding and awareness while  thinking through strategies on how to improve these digital spaces.”

Most technologies used by young people are designed by individuals and corporate entities without prioritizing the human experience and wellbeing of the user. Collab Lab offers these young leaders a chance to transform the way professionals building social technologies create new products while providing a window into the needs of today’s youth.

“This is new and dynamic work that we’ve never seen done before,” said Butail. “Youth are the main users of many of these spaces; they should be empowered and have the agency to make the change that impacts them. This is a dynamic we’ve embraced at Headstream. We believe it can transform the way we create new products, programs, and ways of working.”

Fitting into the SecondMuse Ecosystem

Collab Lab is an exemplar of SecondMuse’s “Yes, And” philosophy, that key global challenges are interconnected and can be addressed together. Collab Lab tackles the tech sector’s impact on the emotional and psychological health of youth while emphasizing the outsized influence it has on those with the least power and voice – specifically people of color, Indigenous, Latinx and LGBTQ+ youth.

The six youth participants include high school and college students of color and neurodivergent gender identities from around the U.S. Tech practitioners represent Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and other influential digital companies.

Upon its completion, the two-month, four-workshop Collab Lab will have collectively identified and defined vital digital wellbeing principles for youth, and tech professionals will have developed new skills and tools to increase authentic collaboration with youth as co-creators in the digital space. “I have never experienced or even imagined a more effective system of co-creation. Collab Lab was facilitated in such a way that every member of the team was able to both contribute to and learn from the process” shared Y2I Leader, Harini Sridar.

Today’s youth deserve a digital ecosystem that empowers and inspires them for societal good.

Ina

Ina