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MoneyLab New approaches to spending money

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

The MoneyLab programme is a design-led ‘co-creation’ project based on improving the financial skills of students. The project has provided students with a platform to tackle financial issues drawing on their own experiences of money and how these experiences relate to their wellbeing. The project draws on a number of processes from the disciplines of Design Thinking and Social Innovation, with design students using their creative skills to foster positive social and behavioural change.

The MoneyLab target population was students at Ravensbourne University London, with the focus on those who were more likely to be struggling financially. The aim was for students to share and communicate learning about financial issues through conversations and advocacy, research, content generation (blogs and digital content), the dissemination of institution-wide surveys and graphic design, video content and digital communications. The project also used experimentation, ethnographic ‘people-centred’ research, specialist workshop facilitation and the rapid testing of student-led ideas for new services concerning financial capability.

The study

This 2019 evaluation from Ravensbourne University London had the following overall research question:

If we were to adopt a design-led co-creation methodology with a view to positively influencing behaviour change through collaborative interaction and immersive learning, in what ways would this allow us to improve our understanding of financial capability for undergraduate students with a focus on those in their first and second year of studies?

The evaluation employed a mixed methods approach, involving:

  • Pre- and post- intervention questionnaires with students from the university population with 219 respondents completing the pre-intervention survey and 287 completing the post-intervention survey;
  • Pre- and post-intervention wellbeing questionnaires with workshop participants;
  • Qualitative reflections from students and staff on the process and outcomes;
  • Capturing the ‘student voice’ through a ’Listening Campaign’ involving 50 students;
  • The logging and collation of process information by project management staff, including a series of diary entries.

Key findings

  • The qualitative data indicated that the intervention had achieved some of its aims relating to raising awareness, engagement and the value of open discussions about finance and the ways in which higher education can challenge taboos concerning money.
  • However, these positive effects were not supported by the quantitative findings from the surveys.
  • Overall though, the evidence suggested that traditional student interventions can be complemented and enhanced by using early intervention preventative methodologies and measures around motivations, personal strengths and personal values in relation to financial capability and wellbeing.
  • The authors believe that this approach has implications for the university sector as a whole and the way universities can intervene before financial issues become harder and costlier to resolve. They state that the project provides a point of reference and a model of good practice for other universities and stakeholders to learn from and tailor to their own needs.
  • They suggest that there is a scarcity of research and practice in the area of financial capability and the use of co-creation methods in the higher education sector.
  • The authors state that ‘although this speculative approach is often referred to as the ‘fuzzy front end’ of an intervention when no clear outcome or endgame is in sight, it is this fuzzy front end which is crucial to a genuine co-creation and student-led approach’.
  • The evaluation suggests a number of approaches to overcoming the barriers to employing the co-creation process in the design and implementation of financial capability interventions. These include:
    • Calls for Ideas (an ‘Ideas Fund’) targeted at students and mediated by the institution with the support of research and funding bodies;
    • Regular ‘ideas’ surgeries and workshops to allow students to formulate ideas and articulate their needs which could then be presented to research and funding bodies;
    • The creation of a digital platform which could allow Higher Education Institutions to co-design and test ideas and approaches with students prior to formal funding being established.
  • Several recommendations were made for when implementing similar projects, including:
    • Engaging students and staff at the earliest opportunity;
    • To recognise the importance of the transition stage (moving towards adulthood and independence);
    • To remain flexible as a project team, particularly when engaging in co-creation.

Points to consider

  • Methodological strengths/weaknesses: The detail on some aspects of the methodology is limited, and further methodological information is required before making an assessment of the robustness of the methods employed.
  • Generalisability/ transferability: The evaluation is of significant interest to those interested in implementing an alternative approach to financial capability interventions, and in particular to those aiming their interventions at students.
  • Relevance: The intervention took place in one University, so findings do not necessarily represent the rest of the UK’s University population.

Key info

Client group
Activities and setting
A series of listening campaigns, active engagement platforms and workshop modules. It explored student attitudes around money, the design and prototyping of services and interventions that a specialist Higher Education Institution (HEI) can ‘co-create’ with students to improve their financial capabilities.
Programme delivered by
Ravensbourne University London
Year of publication
Contact information

Ravensbourne University London