Exalt Youth is a New York City-based non-profit that works with youth involved in the criminal justice system. Through a combination of classes (focused on skills such as critical thinking and creative problem solving) and paid internships, Exalt provides young people with a new perspective and set of tools to change their lives.
In Fall 2017, Exalt partnered with Parsons School of Design to improve their digital presence. The organization asked students to develop solutions that would specifically target potential internship providers, a key constituency to the success of their program, in order to improve Exalt’s recruitment rates.
Web Design, UX, Marketing
Working in partnership with Diana Mejia, we kicked off the project with a round of research and interviews with potential users. We sought to identify both pain points in the current recruitment process and areas for improvement from the initial recruitment through to the end of an internship. We spoke to both past partners with Exalt about their experiences, and professionals who were in a position at their company to hire interns. The findings from these interviews were then combined with research done by other student pairs to create a complete picture of the wants and needs of users.
Several key takeaways emerged from this process. First, users wanted more information about how the program worked, its structure, and the expectations they might have of interns coming in to their organization. Secondly, we found that users were excited by exalt’s core mission, and the possibility of their mentorship making a real difference in a young person’s life. Finally, we found that there were breakdowns in communication between Exalt and internship providers after they had taken on interns—their current system relied on e-mail coordination through one staff member who was tasked with overseeing dozens of internships at a time.
Our solutions were developed directly in response to this finding. We worked on two fronts, providing Exalt with forward-facing content that would incorporate seamlessly into their existing website, as well as a back-end solution for internship providers once they took on an intern.
We redesigned the internship description page on Exalt’s site, using their existing branding scheme with minor tweaks for improved functionality. Based on input from users, we foregrounded the experience of interns, showing more images of past participants and including short testimonials. We also explained more fully the two different types of internships—Core and Graduate—that Exalt offers, to entice employers who may be looking for interns of different skill levels.
We created a new section of the website dedicated to providing information directly to potential internship providers. Based off our understanding of user motivations, we designed a video to emphasize the positive role mentorship plays in young people’s lives and the possibility of creating meaningful impact through partnering with Exalt. We also provided testimonials by past internship providers and an FAQ section to assuage potential doubts providers have about their ability to take on an intern. A call to action to connect with the internship coordinator puts a face to the organization and frames reaching out as beginning a conversation.
In order to improve the experience of providers once they’re hosting an intern, we imagined a dashboard portal that providers could use to track intern progress and manage communication with Exalt staff. The organization’s stated goal is to scale nationally over the next five years, so this solution served as a testing ground for leveraging a digital product to streamline work currently being done by a dedicated single employee.
The dashboard experience includes ways to provide weekly status reports to Exalt, identify any potential problems in an intern’s work (including absenteeism) early on, and schedule site visits from exalt staff. It also provides an easy way for Exalt to put out stories around the wide range of internship experiences its students are having, promoting buy-in from internship providers to Exalt’s core mission and encouraging repeated hosting of interns.