MAC-UK workshop

Working with MAC-UK


MAC-UK is an award-winning mental health charity working with and alongside young people to help them overcome the health, social and economic inequalities they face. Excluded young people affected by gang-related issues are among the 5% who commit 50% of youth crime, while serious youth violence costs society £4 billion a year, yet one in three young people that offend has an unmet mental health need at the time of the offence.


When CEO Sinem Cakir joined the Digital Fellowship in 2017, the charity was transitioning from a face-to-face frontline service provider to a support and training organisation. It was looking for how best to share its tried-and-tested, psychologically informed approach with organisations that could deliver support directly in communities – taking what worked in the clinic out onto the streets.

As a team of just 25 with limited resource, they needed to make careful decisions around what route to pursue, but this often led to paralysis when digital technology was involved. Sinem explained, “As soon as someone said ‘how is digital going to help?’ we threw out everything we knew about testing hypotheses, and thought we had to be experts otherwise we’d get it all wrong.”


Having initially planned to create a learning manual of their techniques, the team paused to test the demand, and discovered through user research that it was specifically co-production with young people that their audience were most interested in. They pivoted to begin creating a co-production toolkit instead, honing their initial target user base to those who expressed the most interest and could become early beta testers.

MAC-UK is approaching its 10 year anniversary this Summer, when it is planning to release a first iteration to potential users of the toolkit. With renewed confidence from the Fellowship, the charity decided to air its early ideas and work alongside users to produce a development brief. The new service will sit at the heart of MAC-UK to help it deliver its new mission as a cascading organisation.

MAC-UK design workshop



The programme has emboldened Sinem and her team to be braver across the board, from experimentation with new internal tools like Xero, which has radically improved the ease and transparency of the charity’s finances, to launching an online petition for the first time through, which calls on Government and police to bring young people into all policy debates and strategies around serious youth violence.

The repeated lessons from the Fellowship action learning sessions to take small steps and learn as you go also gave the team confidence to embark on the redesign of their website, which had been put on hold for a year as they were unsure where to start. They’ve learned to get out and test designs and language with users, even when it didn’t feel ‘ready’, and to see it as a continual work in progress, evolving in response to analytics data and user feedback. The refreshed site has already opened up new opportunities for MAC-UK, such as fundraising directly through the site and having a platform from which to launch campaigns. This includes an exciting new partnership with Secret Cinema that will enable them to take potential donations from the Secret Cinema’s audience of 80,000.

“I learned on the Fellowship that digital doesn’t sit in one part of the business, it’s part of the overall plan for enabling our strategy. Having less of the ‘everything has to be perfect’ mentality and being specific about what we know, what we think we know and what we don’t know has taken the fear out of thinking about what’s possible. We’re now more confident in talking about ourselves as an agile and digitally-principled charity.” – Sinem Cakir, CEO and Digital Fellow

Interested in the Digital Fellowship?

We are hoping to run another Digital Fellowship cohort again soon, and we’ll announce the details through our newsletter.