Supporting Young People in Research-Practice Partnerships

Posted November 15, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Woman stands in front of a screen and series of windows

Can young people’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in for­mal col­lab­o­ra­tions with edu­ca­tion researchers and prac­ti­tion­ers strength­en research? The Nation­al Net­work of Edu­ca­tion Research-Prac­tice Part­ner­ships (NNERPP) seeks to demon­strate the val­ue young peo­ple can add by sup­port­ing six projects that will inte­grate young peo­ple into research-prac­tice part­ner­ships. This Stu­dent Voice 4 RPPs pro­gram is fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

What Are Research-Prac­tice Partnerships?

Research-prac­tice part­ner­ships (RPPs) are long-term, for­mal col­lab­o­ra­tions between researchers — typ­i­cal­ly from uni­ver­si­ties, research insti­tu­tions or com­mu­ni­ty groups engaged in research — and prac­ti­tion­ers in youth-serv­ing sys­tems, includ­ing child wel­fare, juve­nile jus­tice and edu­ca­tion. By join­ing forces and bring­ing their unique exper­tise to the table, the part­ner­ships can pro­duce more rel­e­vant research and improve the use of research evi­dence in their deci­sion mak­ing — ulti­mate­ly lead­ing to sig­nif­i­cant gains for kids and youth. The young peo­ple con­tribute feed­back, con­text and life expe­ri­ence from those who will be most affect­ed by part­ner­ship efforts.

Increas­ing­ly, researchers and prac­ti­tion­ers are engag­ing young peo­ple in their col­lab­o­ra­tive activ­i­ties, rec­og­niz­ing that their research is more like­ly to be rel­e­vant and pro­mote equi­ty when stu­dents from diverse back­grounds par­tic­i­pate,” says Senior Asso­ciate Ilene Berman of Casey’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group. Through this NNERPP pro­gram, more young peo­ple will have oppor­tu­ni­ties to devel­op mean­ing­ful evi­dence, and the com­mu­ni­ty of research-prac­tice part­ner­ships will ben­e­fit from the lessons and tools produced.”

Research-Prac­tice Part­ner­ship Projects Focus on Stu­dent Voice

Stu­dent Voice 4 RPPs sup­ports projects that have a strong inter­est in or are cur­rent­ly involv­ing young peo­ple in their efforts. Select­ed from NNERPP-mem­ber appli­cants, these projects have pro­posed a range of strate­gies that incor­po­rate the voic­es of young peo­ple and address equi­ty-relat­ed youth issues.

Six 2021 awardees will receive $7,500 each to devel­op, expand or strength­en their approach to stu­dent involvement:

  1. Dig­i­tal Promise. In Ken­tucky, Dig­i­tal Promise — a nation­al, inde­pen­dent non­prof­it that works to improve learn­ing through the pow­er of tech­nol­o­gy — will work with edu­ca­tors on design­ing inter­view pro­to­cols to help teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors con­duct empa­thy inter­views with their students.
  2. Equi­ty Imple­ment­ed Part­ner­ship. The RPP between the Cen­ter for Edu­ca­tion­al Trans­for­ma­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North­ern Iowa and Water­loo School Dis­trict will estab­lish infra­struc­ture to ensure that under­served youth of col­or can par­tic­i­pate in and ben­e­fit from the RPP — specif­i­cal­ly through a new Emerg­ing RPP Schol­ar pro­gram focus­ing on stu­dent voice.
  3. John W. Gard­ner Cen­ter. Stan­ford University’s Gard­ner Cen­ter, which spe­cial­izes in RPPs to improve and strength­en the well-being of youth, will advance its ongo­ing part­ner­ship with Oak­land Uni­fied School Dis­trict through a new youth action research intern­ship. The intern­ship will engage high school seniors and focus on stu­dent per­spec­tive and exper­tise in research.
  4. Geor­gia Pol­i­cy Labs (GPL). GPL, an RPP between Geor­gia State Uni­ver­si­ty and a vari­ety of gov­ern­ment agen­cies, will use funds to plan for the long-term involve­ment of youth as part­ner­ship team­mates. Team­ing up with Achieve Atlanta for this project, youth schol­ars will be com­pen­sat­ed for par­tic­i­pat­ing in inter­views to bet­ter under­stand the oppor­tu­ni­ties and bar­ri­ers stu­dents expe­ri­ence in engag­ing with the RPP and col­lab­o­rat­ing in par­tic­i­pa­to­ry action research.
  5. Orange Coun­ty Edu­ca­tion­al Advance­ment Net­work (OCEAN). Rep­re­sent­ing a net­work of part­ner­ships between K–12 schools, non­prof­its and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, OCEAN will exam­ine stu­dents’ expe­ri­ences dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, posi­tion­ing them as experts and shapers of the research through the devel­op­ment of their own research pro­to­cols, pri­mar­i­ly focus­ing on men­tal health and well-being.
  6. San Fran­cis­co Uni­fied School Dis­trict (SFUSD)–University of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. SFUSDUC Berke­ley will con­tin­ue work­ing togeth­er to strength­en cur­rent youth involve­ment in dis­trict ini­tia­tives by map­ping exist­ing stu­dent groups in SFUSD and describ­ing rec­om­mend­ed meth­ods for embed­ding youth voice in dis­trict deci­sion-mak­ing processes.

Projects will be imple­ment­ed through May 2022. In June, awardees will share project obser­va­tions and lessons through webi­na­rs, arti­cles for NNERPP Extra and more.

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