Description of the programme
[This is an extract from the Executive Summary of the evaluation report. Further amendments may be made to this Summary, pending review by the Evidence Hub partner]
The MoneyLab model 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 sense of wellbeing. As a result, the project has led to the development of prototype models which are now being adapted at Ravensbourne University London and, it is hoped, other universities.
The project draws on a number of processes from the disciplines of Design Thinking and Social Innovation.1 In this respect, the MoneyLab project builds on a rich heritage which sees design students use their creative skills towards positive social and behavioural change. These practices point to ways that can encourage breakthrough thinking in student attitudes and behaviors around money. The project has achieved this through the use of experimentation, ethnographic ‘people centred’ research, specialist workshop facilitation and the rapid prototyping of student-led ideas for new services around financial capabilities.
In many ways, the co-creation approach of the project has involved working outside of traditional interventions often found in a Higher Education Institution. Traditionally, these interventions focus on the financial hardship that students regularly experience as part of their time at university. Instead, the MoneyLab project centred on the idea of students as ‘co-creators,’ how they perceived and experienced money, what they really felt about money and how their attitudes and behaviours around money shapes their university experience.
To develop a research methodology for the MoneyLab project, we worked with students to build three broad theoretical questions. These were tested in relation to the MAS Financial Capability Framework:
- Can we encourage students to manage money more effectively by inviting them to explore their values, attitudes and behaviours?
- In what ways can a change in behaviour and in attitudes around money be brought about through a co-creation methodology, and what are the lessons for other Higher Education Institutions?
- To what extent does a co-creation approach allow for more active engagement and a deeper understanding of the challenges that young adults face around their financial capabilities?
The Report sets out a series of key findings, designed to provide researchers, practitioners and university bodies such as Student Services and Student Unions with a better understanding of effective preventative approaches to students around financial management and financial awareness.
From our consultation with other universities, we believe that this has implications for the university sector as a whole and the way universities can intervene before financial issues become harder and costlier to resolve. For 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 key findings of the Report therefore are:
- The qualitative evaluation data indicate raised awareness, engagement and, more explicitly, the value of open discussions about finance and the way in which a Higher Education Institution can challenge taboos around money and perceptions of money.
- However, the quantitative evaluation findings of the MoneyLab project do not demonstrate the desired positive impact in the key measures, identified in the Theory of Change.
- Our overarching evidence base points to ways that traditional Student Service interventions can be enhanced using early intervention preventative methodologies and measures around intrinsic motivation, strengths and values in relation to financial capabilities and wellbeing.
- The project provides a point of reference and a practical model for other universities and Higher Education stakeholders to learn from and adapt. This is against the background of a paucity of research and practice in the area of financial capabilities and the use of co-creation methods in the Higher Education sector.
- Designing and implementing an effective engagement and communications programme across an institution is the key barrier to the co-creation process and calls for new approaches found more in the social innovation, health and social care world than in the Higher Education world. Some of these approaches include:
- Calls for Ideas (an Ideas Fund) targeted directly at students mediated through the institution and with the support of research and funding bodies;
- Fully supported and 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 (see BBC’s i-create, Marie Curie’s Tickety Boo platform, Shell’s Gamechanger to Barclay’s Life Skills’) which could allow Higher Educations Institutions to co-design and prototype ideas and approaches with students prior to a formal funding being established
At the heart of these findings is an approach that shows that real innovation and change can come from within the student community itself. The findings point to the vital importance of new forms of conversation, interaction, platforms and opportunities for collaboration between students and institution in an area such as money and financial capabilities.
Points to consider
- Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) – given the limited number of participants involved, the WEMB Scale, as with any other validated scale, was not as relevant to the evaluation of the programme as first envisaged. • Whole institution pre-intervention survey – this presented initial challenges with securing student participation, but with just under 10% of the student population eventually completing the survey it provided strong baseline evidence for on-going project design and iteration.
- Whole institution post-intervention survey – this was deemed successful in terms of participation rates, but did not capture the necessary - and hoped for - evidence of a change attributed to the MoneyLab intervention.
- Project team reflective diaries – this was an invaluable and rich qualitative data source.
- Listening Campaign and student voice – this a more effective qualitative measure than we first anticipated.
- Communication plan assessment – this was absent from our Theory of Change. However, with hindsight, an evaluation of the awareness raising programme amongst the wider student population would have enhanced our understanding of the impact of the intervention.