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Co-design and interaction design to prevent the escalation of economic abuse with RMIT University

2020

The challenge

Economic abuse—or financial abuse—is a form of intimate partner abuse that involves a partner manipulating or controlling access to finances. Research from RMIT revealed that 15.7% of women and 7.1% of men had experienced economic abuse in their lifetimes.

Young people, who are new to both the worlds of relationships and finance are particularly susceptible to this form of abuse. They may not even know that it's happening.

Impact opportunity

Our challenge was to give young people—and the people who care about them—the tools to have better conversations about love and money.

Process

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Discovery

We led a workshop with the project team to identify the aim, target audiences, opportunities and challenges for the project. Our next step was to engage young adults to explore the problem so we could find out where and from whom they learned their money management skills, understand how their relationships impacted their money management, and learn what they wanted to know about money.

Content strategy

It was a tall order to introduce young people to the concept of economic abuse in a way that is accessible, approachable and engaging.

Jozica Kutin laid down solid foundations in her PhD, giving us the rich insight we needed to spark the creative juices of young people through co-design. We approached this project with an open mind and a sense of curiosity, and it paid off.

You, Me & Money is a testament to what can be achieved when the worlds of rigorous academic research, fast-paced participatory design, and creative thinking collide.

Getting the tone right was crucial for engaging with young people on what healthy behaviour around relationships and money looks like.

Using insights and data gathered from our co-design workshops, we wrote a content plan and engaged a young adult, Viv Mah, to turn our how-to advice for big life moments into fun, entertaining content that was youthful and impactful.

But enough about what we think, here’s what our co-design participants think of the content:

“It feels like a friend sitting you down and having a chat.”

“Really liked the tone on these, very respectful and understanding while also being engaging. Length is good, content itself is helpful.”

“Man, put that on a t-shirt.”

We visually represented the various money styles available with a range of striking and playful character designs. In addition to being ‘unlocked’ at the end of a quiz, these characters and their respective colours continue to be used throughout the site.

“I think it uniquely encourages young people to reflect on their relationship with money, their money story, values and spending behaviours. It enables money conversations for young people in relationships.” — Co-design participant

Design impact

Intimate relationships are based on love and trust. But relationships also involve money—an inescapable fact.

While we might choose to live our lives differently, no one chooses to be abused, controlled—not physically, emotionally, verbally, sexually, or financially. But we can choose to learn more about what’s healthy and what’s not, and get help when needed.

Young adults are struggling—some worse than others—and it is our responsibility to give them the tools to navigate their path to relationship-based financial wellbeing.

We’re hoping that You, Me & Money is one such tool.

Our aim was to get young people—and the people who care about them—talking more about money in relationships. We looked at different critical money moments in peoples lives and gave them some food for thought to carry into their personal conversations.

“(Being involved in this project) has made me consider where money flows in my relationship. It has made me more confident to approach money conversations with my partner.” — Co-design participant

“Your ability to balance difficult topics with light-hearted humour is unique and so difficult to master...you’ve made something really difficult look effortless” — You, Me & Money Launch attendee

To further support ease of reading, article templates come with an in-built range of bold headings, descriptive graphics and colour-coded sections. The website is coded according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, meaning it is accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities and more usable in general.

Awards

This project was awarded Gold in Web Design and Development, Gold in 
Apps and Software, and Winner in Social Impact at the 2021 Good Design Awards, Gold in the Systems—Social Design category at the 2021 Melbourne Design Awards, Silver in the Service–Community category at the 2021 GOV Design Awards — DrivenxDesign and Silver at the W3 Awards.

Outcome

You, Me & Money was developed by young people for young people and guided by research conducted at RMIT University.

We worked with RMIT and YLab to co-design a digital toolkit to help young people have difficult conversations about finances and relationships.

We worked in collaborative creative sprints, creating a variety of possible solutions and testing and building on them with young people. Working closely with our stakeholders and young people helped us translate the often dry and inaccessible language of economic abuse into an approachable and shareable tool.

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