Charity Impact Podcast Episode 7, Paul Irwin, Trylife
THE CHARITY IMPACT PODCAST: EPISODE 7
Paul Irwin on his personal story, from youth work to founding Trylife, making the world’s most complex interactive digital films, gaining 7m Facebook followers and doing a lot of therapy. (#7)
“The power is in your pocket (your phone) to change the world.”
In this episode, we discuss Paul’s story from being put into ‘care’ by the council as a teen which was actually just a B&B, to benefitting from youth work and then becoming a youth worker and going on to create Trylife, which has made a difference to so many disadvantaged young people. We discuss the co-production process, working with professionals and young people to create the most complex interactive film ever made, gaining 7 million Facebook followers, future plans and the deep work Paul has done during the pandemic to address his own mental health.
Scroll down for episode notes with a few approximate time stamps and links to resources.
Paul Irwin has a background in working with disadvantaged young people from around the world. He created an interactive film series “TryLife” aimed at educating young people about the consequences of their actions. If you remember the old choice-based adventure books, TryLife is an interactive digital video version of those books, tackling real issues facing young people:
Episode 1 – drugs, alcohol and sexual health
Episode 2 – knife crime and gang violence
Episode 3 – mental health and suicide
Episode 4 – child sexual exploitation and grooming
Episode 5 – isolation and loneliness
Episode 6 – continuing on from episode 5, characters coming out of Covid lockdown
Episode 7 – teenage pregnancy and perinatal mental health.
Paul’s talent at creating and curating content has also seen incredible success in social media. He has amassed a huge following via TryLife, reaching up to 188,000,000 people per week. In one month, TryLife managed to reach 65% of all Facebook users in the USA with no marketing or advertising spend and using just one mobile phone.
Paul was the very first winner of the HRH Pitch at the Palace awards which is arguably the UK’s most prestigious competition for tech startups. Most recently, he started developing an interactive film with the heads of the Bloods, Crips and Mexican Mafia in South Central Los Angeles with the support of Facebook and the producer of Bladerunner.
As I mentioned in the podcast launch, my plan is to produce a series of say six to 10 episodes and then review whether to continue or not.
If you enjoy the podcast and haven’t done so yet, please do leave a rating/review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or the podcast platform you use; or if you’d prefer to share constructive feedback by e-mail, please do. I would really appreciate any feedback so I can get a sense of whether the podcast is adding value for you or what I could do to improve it.
NOTES AND LINKS FOR EPISODE 7
EPISODE 7: Paul Irwin
From being placed in care aka a B&B and then given a council flat as a teenager to being supported by a youth worker to volunteer at the community centre and then gain sessional work and go on to deliver youth work around the North East, in South East London, then across the world in Jamaica, with young people from Chernobyl, Israel, Palestine, in Bradford after the race riots and then back to the North East working with Barnardos teenage pregnancy team.
Making connections and accepting opportunities
Handing over to young people to manage projects
Following the global financial crisis, cuts to services decimated the support available for young people, and their parents
09:50 This led to the idea for Trylife – finding a way to reach people where they are, which is on their phones and online for a significant amount of time
Take youth work theory and apply it to media
Entering the world of film production
Stigma of young parents and negative media but some of the best parents I know are young parents
I wasn’t trained in film but I’m pretty good at bringing people together and getting the best out of them.
28:00 Social media – using Facebook in the early 2010s, learning to engage rather than broadcast, gaining traction and gaining 7 million followers
Engaging posts – don’t ask how many steps have you walked today, ask you’re walking from the Shire to Mordor how far have you got today?
Combatting negative and hateful media – posting positive content
Working with professionals e.g. police, health workers etc and co-creating content with young people with lived experience
Finding new talent through the Facebook audience – giving opportunities to young people in roles in the production team
Scheduling posts – 6am for when people wake up and 3.30pm for young people coming out of school, college etc in UK and waking up in US
This is the most connected, most diverse generation and they really care about the issues that affect them
Reaching 1 in 3 people in the UK and 65% of all US Facebook users just using my mobile phone a couple of years ago
But now Facebook just wants you to pay for ads to reach people so its harder to get that organic reach
49:00 Young people have sent messages saying Trylife stopped them from committing suicide
More formal evaluation has shown strong evidence – see the evaluation by Sunderland University – e.g. 94% of young people involved in the Trylife co-production developed critical thinking skills; 94% of young people developed decision making skills
Next steps – more issues to cover e.g. gambling coming soon. Also we’ve brought out educational materials (Try Learning) around each issue and these are being taken up in 15 areas – need to roll that out nationally.
Also need to move from being funded per film to having an income to sustain the company year round
Young people are passionate about participation – because Trylife is made by them its not like some rubbish campaign like knife crime messaging on chicken boxes in south London, haway man!
Working with top clinicians, building in health information messages
Multiple awards – innovation awards in health and social care; business youth work, Royal Television Society for film production, placement provider awards with multiple universities, international film awards, HRH Pitch at the Palace.
1:00:00 Presenting in LA for the DTI – meeting the producer of Bladerunner – teaching young people in Compton about using their phones to make films
Working on a budget e.g. no money for getting the aerial shot, film under the CCTV and put in a freedom of information request for the content
Going for beers with the founders of the Cripps, developing a project with the Crips, the Bloods and the Mexican Mafia to produce a film to show how things really are for young people in their area
Pitching to Facebook and almost getting it over the line when the pandemic hit and everything stopped – hopefully this will get back on track
1:04:25 During lockdown – bursary from A Million Realities to support social entrepreneurs led to a lot of mental health support and therapy, including being diagnosed with mania and dealing with buried trauma
Hogan Assessment – recommend this as a starting point for understanding yourself
Its changed who I am. I’ve never been happier. Everyone should have access to this. People are dying because it takes 2 years to get access to some counselling if you don’t have the money to pay for it.
Going to be working on climate action app for kids
If you’re working with young people on difficult issues get in touch…
This podcast is brought to you by KEDA Consulting, where we help charities to develop strategy, secure funding and make decisions to navigate the various challenges and opportunities we face in the sector.
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