Northwestern University/ Digital Youth Network

Digital Youth Network (DYN) is a research lab focused on designing more equitable systems for youth. We are a team of researchers, product designers, technologists and practitioners that have worked at every level of the out-of-school time space since 2005.

We have led citywide Out of School Time (OST) networks, redesigned how public libraries can engage youth, delivered STEAM programming for thousands and developed a purpose-built infrastructure specifically for OST.

Today, DYN, operating out of Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, is a 18-person research lab focused on leading the following Chicagoland initiatives in collaboration with community partners.

  • Cities Learn: Cities Learn is a platform that helps cities develop equitable out-of-school time  ecosystems to ensure all youth have access to quality after-school and summer programs. Our purpose built platform is specifically designed to support healthy OST networks, connecting trusted providers, youth and families through a unified system.

  • Digital Youth Divas: Digital Youth Divas is an out-of-school program that engages middle school girls, especially those from non-dominant communities, in design-based engineering and computer science activities driven by a narrative story. The program supports girls to develop STEM identities by participating within face-to-face and online spaces to design, create, and re-imagine everyday artifacts (jewelry, hair accessories, music) and activities (dancing and talking to friends) using techniques including collaboration, critique, circuitry, coding, and fabrication.

  • STEAMbassadors: STEAMbassadors is an initiative to train college-going youth as STEAM mentors, in partnership with local two- and four-year institutions, to facilitate STEAM camps, programs, and activities with elementary and middle-school-aged Chicago or Evanston youth.  They are trained to deliver engaging curriculum and have both shared interests and lived experiences with the participants of the programs. The STEAMbassadors program also uses a platform that connects opportunities for mentors, vetted STEAM curricula for youth and a custom gig board to match providers with the mentors best fit for their programs. 

  • MAPSCorps: MAPSCorps is a STEM initiative which teaches youth how to conduct public health research, manipulate and visualize data, and prepare and present public health policy recommendations in response to community needs. MAPSCorps introduces young people to health/healthcare, data science, social justice, and community advocacy.

  • Opportunity Landscape: Opportunity Landscaping is an asset-based model for ensuring all young people have access to quality learning opportunities. Communities are given access to the tools to document their landscape of places, spaces, organizations, transportation systems, and policies in order to develop and implement interventions that provide more equitable access to after-school and other enrichment opportunities for youth. The opportunity landscape toolkit gives community stakeholders the ability to capture critical data, generate unique insights and develop data driven strategies to assure quality youth opportunities are available in the neighborhoods that need them most.