Best Practices for Youth-Led Participatory Research Projects

Posted April 16, 2024
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A young Black man and a brown woman chat animatedly in an office setting, a laptop on the table in front of them.

A new guide, Lever­ag­ing Best Prac­tices to Design Your Youth Par­tic­i­pa­to­ry Action Research Project, pro­vides resources and rec­om­men­da­tions for plan­ning and under­tak­ing projects led by young peo­ple. Fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, the guide pro­motes youth par­tic­i­pa­tion in the cre­ation of research that focus­es on the chal­lenges they face. This is an effec­tive approach to encour­ag­ing their growth and abil­i­ty to improve their lives.

Down­load the guide

A team of youth-led schol­ars and prac­ti­tion­ers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, cre­at­ed Lever­ag­ing Best Prac­tices, which notes: One of the goals of YPAR is to cen­ter the voic­es, expe­ri­ences and knowl­edge of young peo­ple them­selves, includ­ing the youth who are often ignored in the devel­op­ment of pro­grams and policies.”

Con­duct­ing Youth-Led Research

Lever­ag­ing Best Prac­tices pro­vides infor­ma­tion for edu­ca­tors, youth-pro­gram coor­di­na­tors, social work­ers or pub­lic health pro­fes­sion­als who are plan­ning youth-led research. In these projects, adults typ­i­cal­ly part­ner with young peo­ple to iden­ti­fy issues rel­e­vant to their lives to study. Adults then train youth on con­duct­ing research, pro­vid­ing sup­port along the way. At the project’s con­clu­sion, they use their find­ings to for­ward change on these issues.

The guide iden­ti­fies four key themes in the YPAR approach:

  • Youth are involved in key deci­sions at all stages of the research (though how they are engaged in research activ­i­ties can vary across projects).
  • Those engaged in this work must be trans­par­ent about deci­sion-mak­ing roles and power.
  • Youth uti­lize a range of research meth­ods for data col­lec­tion includ­ing arts-based meth­ods, focus groups, inter­views, map­ping and observations.
  • These projects engage research and action cycles (e.g., research leads to action as well as eval­u­a­tion of action and so on).

Plan­ning Con­sid­er­a­tions for Youth-Led Research

The guide offers sev­er­al rec­om­men­da­tions and tips to pro­mote imple­men­ta­tion of YPAR with integri­ty and for sus­tain­able action. For exam­ple, orga­niz­ers should answer a range of ques­tions, such as:

  • What is moti­vat­ing this project?
  • What change are the youth are seek­ing through this work?
  • What resources are need­ed and available?
  • How long will it take?
  • How will youth be recruited?

There are a lot of great how-to guides out there about youth-led research, but this guide address­es what pro­grams should con­sid­er before start­ing on this path,” says Bethany Boland, senior research asso­ciate for at Casey.

Youth-led Par­tic­i­pa­to­ry Action Research Resources

The guide also iden­ti­fies addi­tion­al resources about youth-led par­tic­i­pa­to­ry research projects, including:

This is a more high-lev­el guide for pro­grams that want to begin involv­ing youth in their research as lead­ers — not just the sub­jects being stud­ied — and can help build a case for invest­ing in this impor­tant work,” adds Boland.

Read about the val­ue of youth sur­vey data

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