Center of Digital Youth Care (Center for Digital Pædagogik)
Young men in the age 13-25.
It’s a fact that men, especially the younger generation, finds it difficult to open up, reach out and seek counselling compared to their female peers. For this reason, MitAssist has been developed with the purpose of helping young men open up and talk about the problems in their life. Whether it’s about girls, how to look good, loss of virginity and so on, MitAssist encourages men to talk about whatever they may need to talk about.
MitAssist.dk is an initiative developed by the Centre of Digital Youth Care in 2015 in a partnership with TUBA Denmark and with financial support from the danish fond, Velux Fonden. The initiative is launched in the spirit of creating an alternative counselling to the more traditional youth counselling that has a hard time attracting boys in general. During the development phase, we visited young boys and men in their places of studying to find a better understanding of why men are so badly represented in the social counselling offers, and how the ideal ‘boys counselling’ should work.
We found out that a lot of boys perceived the usual and widely used ‘acknowledgement-pedagogy as being very feminine. Therefore, MitAssist relies on providing concrete advice that the young men can choose whether or not to use. Our research also indicated that a lot of boys prioritizes experience over professionalism. This has meant that MitAssist includes ‘life experience’ in the counselors’ profile description. These descriptions are, by themselves, a new way of counselling which came to be by the knowledge that men has a higher need to build bonds of trust than girls before they open up. Today, the site has 732 active users, 656 of which are men.
MitAssist is Denmark’s first online community for young men. On the website, they can give can write blog posts where they can talk about dilemmas in their life and receive advice and counselling.
MitAssist has been tailored especially for boys since most of the existing online counselling are dominated by girls. Typically, only three out of ten visits in the Danish online counselling are boys. Even though the primary intent is to make young men help each other, they also have the opportunity to ask for advice (in this context called assists) from youth counselors (in this context called coaches). This way, the young man can not only receive advice from their peers, but also from ‘adults’ who can support with health-professional inputs.
Furthermore, the website also offers various podcasts and articles developed by the team behind MitAssist that revolves around subjects usually present in the life of young men.
The aforementioned activities requires the development of an innovative platform with interactive functions based on gamification so that the young men can get into contact with each other and the councillors. Also, it is required to hire volunteers or hired workers and educate them in giving online counselling. Furthermore, the offer is dependant on a pedagogical workforce who can secure a continuous, high-quality and professional counselling. Finally, continuous funding is required to finance the website. It might prove a challenge to cover the expenses since the offer is free-of-charge to the user.
Since the beginning of MitAssist, the website has had 188.099 unique visits, there has been 350 questions for the councillors, and 1.100 assists has been given.
MitAssist offers young men the opportunity to send feedback to the team behind MitAssist. They are free to write about good things about the site, what could be improved or, if there are any problems on the site.
In the period 2015-2017, the website was evaluated by an extern partner. The response to evaluation was positive and concluded that MitAssist has managed to reach the proper target audience and has gotten young men in dialog with a high-quality and alternative counselling offer. The report is in Danish.
By offering counselling to young men where, instead of conventional terms like ‘advisor’, ‘help’ and ‘health professionals’, they use more masculine terms like ‘coach’, ‘assist’ and ‘leaderboard’ (A type of scoreboard where young men can see how many assists they have given others), MitAssist has created an online room where men are more encouraged to open up and share their problems compared to an ordinary consultation service, physical or online.
www.mitassist.dk (Website for MitAssist)