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South Tyneside Council

Case Studies /

Virtual Memory Box

Web App Development

A new tech solution to enable young people in the South Tyneside care system to access loved memories that may otherwise be lost or forgotten.

Virtual Memory Box

The Brief

Developed by Nebula Labs, the Virtual Memory Box (VMB) is the result of an innovation call led by South Tyneside Council as part of their Department for Education Partners in Practice Innovation Programme and supported by Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley (NETV). The call sought out a new tech solution will enable young people in the South Tyneside care system to access loved memories that may otherwise be lost or forgotten.

Our Solution

Following a Discovery exercise conducted by the Council, major gaps were highlighted in the care system for young people – many of whom are unable to safely access, and store memories of time spent with foster parents. This makes it difficult for them to understand their own life story. This was found to affect the quality of the care provision – with some young people struggling comprehend the nature of positive moments from the past. 

The Memory Box solution gives young people in the South Tyneside care system access to beloved memories that could otherwise be lost or forgotten. The structure allows them to recall key moments in a variety of different ways – by searching through a chronological timeline, by searching through key thematic ‘tags’ (holidays, birthdays – for example. 

There is also an opportunity for the young people to interact with their carers and social workers on – to further amplify their comprehension of memories stored on the platform. These adult users play a very essential role in uploading the content and providing support by helping to narrate the video, images, etc. stored. They can also help when the young person has an emotional trigger to any content stored within the platform. A safety net has been implemented whereby content can be flagged up and acted upon if the young person has a particularly negative or simply an emotive response. The adult users can work to get the content removed if it is indeed causing distress. Moreover, social workers could help to provide more information to the young person – if content viewed leads the young person to want to discover more information about their background, perhaps even for example, on family members. 

Nebula Labs designed and developed a Progressive Web Application (PWA) based solution. The frontend interface was built using HTML, Javascript and CSS technologies. This enable the platform to be fully supported across an array of desktop, mobile and tablet devices. The backend web service was written in the Python language using the extensible Django framework and utilised RESTful methodologies. Along with this, a lightweight administrative dashboard was created to allow technical support staff to effectively maintain the platform – including issuing invites to new platform 

It is our aim to take this technology to other local authorities and social care organisations so that can benefit from this interactive storage solution for young people. Furthermore, the utilisation of scalable technologies means that VMB can be easily integrated into existing care management systems such as Liquid Logic. This could mean that Memory Box inputs – such as comments on memories from young people could be fed into the care management system and form part of the work of social workers to manage their care plans. We are in conversations with potential clients so that will have the ability to offer an engaging digital storage solution to key service users whilst being simultaneously able to adhere to their statutory responsibilities – and even improve the quality of the outcomes produced. 

In all, the Virtual Memory Box solution is a simple concept, ultimately producing with a profound effect on its users – predominately the young people, but also their carers and social workers. Memory Box is improving the quality-of-care placements, by providing a simple means for young people to view and recall key moments - and giving meaning to their life so far. The living timeline format brings all the young person’s key memories– in an easily accessible format. 

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Our Work

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