YLab Co-design Challenge COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the systems that shape our lives. This is especially true for young people who are experiencing greater economic inequality than any generation of Australians before them. 

While the current pandemic has impacted all systems across Australia, the work and employment systems that young people rely on have been hit hard. Already experiencing high levels of un and underemployment before COVID-19, young Australians have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic-induced job losses within the casual workforce and industries they often work in like hospitality and retail. 

YLab established the COVID-19 co-design challenge to understand the challenges young people are facing within the context of COVID-19 and design innovative solutions to these problems. 

See the report

Watch the trailer

The Challenge

YLab established this internal project in order to showcase that when given the opportunity to design the future, young people are more than capable of creating innovative solutions to the problems that affect them. Focusing on the employment issues young Australians are facing as a result of COVID19, we’ve shown that there are viable solutions that can be used to create stronger, more equitable structures for greater employment outcomes.

Illustration of four people taking part in a workshop, gathering around a board with several sticky notes stuck to it.

Young people and employment

This report presents insights from a 6 week online project designed as a pilot to test whether YLab’s codesign process could be effectively used in a completely virtual space. The answer has been a resounding yes. Involving 8 YLab associates and 16 young people from around Australia, online workshops and phone interviews were conducted to explore the key issues affecting young people’s employment, build solutions to these issues and develop prototypes that can now be taken further towards achieving real outcomes.

The Process

Illustration of grid with plot points demonstrating growth.

Codesign Online

We took YLab’s methodology completely online, to co-design with 8 associates from around Australia during social isolation

Admire the problem

To admire the problem, build and test solutions and scale these ideas for impact 

Engaging young people

We conducted interviews with 16 young people from around Australia to test our assumptions and validate and iterate solutions as we went


To produce 5 viable prototypes of real world solutions to address the employment challenges young Australians currently face as a result of COVID-19.

THe Problem

6 key problem areas were identified as being the root causes of the most prominent issues faced by young Australians in the context of their employment and COVID-19. As was expected, there were many more that were uncovered. 

These problem areas were condensed down from this large number of issues identified by the associate cohort, using YLab’s frameworks for assessment of complex, large scale problems at a systems level. 

Following the online workshop, Associates conducted interviews with 16 young people from around Australia to test the key assumptions made about these problems and whether they aligned with the lived experience of other young Australians.

Lack of access to support

A lack of access to support both social and economic was identified as a prevalent problem area for young Australians during COVID-19.

Low confidence in Government 

Young Australians aged 18-29 are increasingly disenfranchised with the current political system.

Lack of power in economic systems

Young Australians are disproportionately represented within industries with the lowest amount of work protections and high casual positions. 

Poor mental health outcomes

Young Australians are currently experiencing a significant increase in the proportion of mental health issues resulting from the exacerbating contributing factors that have followed the impositions brought on by the pandemic. 

Illustrated icon of two hands shaking

Discrimination and widening class divide

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have hit those most vulnerable young Australians the hardest.

Illustration of four people taking part in a workshop, gathering around a board with several sticky notes stuck to it.

Lack of representation at decision making level

There is an inherent lack of young people represented within current political decision making systems in Australia. Young Australians feel severely under-represented within the systems that decide their futures. 

THe Prototypes

These prototypes are completely open source, and ready to be taken up by Government, business or community partners.

Lived experience league

A group of young people that consults with young Australians to meaningfully represent and embed their views into local, state and federal policy design.

Behind the News 2.0

An NGO that provides civics education to young people in engaging formats, to educate young people on what the government is doing and how policy affects them. 

Financial futures program

An education platform that empowers young Australians to take control of their financial future by giving them learning opportunities and up to date financial policy information. 

Mental health leave

A pilot program to explore changing leave structures for the workforce to include mental health leave. 

Urban farming projects

An urban garden which teaches and employs young people and sells sustainable produce to the community. 

experiences of young people

The following audio stories share experiences of young people affected by work and employment systems during COVID-19.

THe Prototypes

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