By Preeti Dhillon
In a previous post we discussed why a youth centred methodology is important, and in this post we share our learning so far of how to work effectively with youth in research. Through the Voices of Refugee Youth we are learning a lot about how to work effectively with Youth Researchers, and would like to share five reflections for researchers that want to use a similar methodology.
We designed the research with a focus on youth participation. As part of the literature review we reviewed existing toolkits with a specific focus on refugee youth, and looked for examples of research from which we could learn. Some of this literature is reflected in our learnings so far.
Here is our current best thinking on how to use a youth centred methodology:
1. Provide adequate training, and qualifications
Working with new researchers requires adequate training for effective participation. Training should cover more than just the what of the research, but engage youth in the why and how. Training which results in a qualification is a way to provide appropriate and useful recognition of the skills acquired through participation. We conduct an intensive four-week participatory training on social science research methods which leads to an internationally recognised accredited qualification from John Carroll University.
2. Value and utilise existing skills
Value the existing skills that Youth Researchers have, and draw on them where you can. Ask potential researchers to specify their skills as part of the recruitment process and build these into the methodology. The Youth Researchers we work with have skills in journalism, technology, design, public speaking and much more that we have used in the research.
3. Remunerate Youth Researchers appropriately
Youth Researchers should be remunerated for training and data collection. Decide what constitutes ‘appropriate’ remuneration in conjunction with the Youth Researchers and other research partners.
In addition to appropriate remuneration, there are other considerations to keep in mind:
- Refugees cannot legally work in many host countries. This may affect how remuneration is classified e.g. a ‘stipend’ rather than a ‘wage’.
- Refugees may not have bank accounts. Establish an accessible and accountable method of transfer from the outset.
- Be clear from the outset what the remuneration covers and what can be claimed as an expense e.g. does the remuneration cover transportation costs incurred as part of the research?
4. Be sensitive to power dynamics
All good research considers power dynamics between researchers and researched. Working with Youth Researchers involves additional power dynamics to consider: between Youth Researchers themselves, and between Youth Researchers and their community. We have learnt about these dynamics through talking with Youth Researchers outside of the training and data collection and keep this at the forefront of our minds throughout the research.
5. Remain committed to continuous learning
This methodology is relatively new to the sector. To facilitate learning it is key to acknowledge and share limitations and challenges of approaches and methodologies and not only the successes. This will be explored in relation to Voices of Refugee Youth in a future blog post.
A key output of the research is a policy toolkit for researchers and practitioners that want youth to participate in work on education in emergencies. It will be led by the Youth Researchers and will include actionable methods for effectively engaging with young people. To explore some of the existing resources on youth participation in research, see Want to Find Out More.