Youth Research: Putting Minnesota on the Map

Published on May 23, 2014 | Written by

by Jorge Rivas, Research Associate and Lizzy Shramko, Storyteller & Online Community Builder

As an intermediary, Youthprise is uniquely positioned to impact the OST field in Minnesota and nationally. We do this by strategically combining funding, capacity building, policy & communications, and research & evaluation. We see all of our work through a unique lens; youth-adult partnerships inform all aspects of what we do. Our Youth Research Team is an example of how our different philosophies and approaches overlap and intersect.

Comprised of youth having experienced many of the negative aspects of mainstream research, our Youth Research Team entered the field with a contentious relationship to its conventions and methodologies. All of us had personally witnessed and experienced the many conventional forms of research that frequently enter into the lives of young people—with or without consent. We saw a serious need for better forms of engagement; specifically forms that are developed and practiced by young people themselves. This was and has remained a central focus of our team: to learn from and build methodologies that are rigorous and critical, but that also make research fun, life-giving and empowering for the youth who participate.

Our Youth Research Team sees our work through a Research Justice lens and uses Youth Participatory Action Research as a key strategy to engaging community stakeholders in the research process. Research Associate Jorge Rivas wrote about their approach and methodology in his blog post, “Research Justice, YPAR & Implications for the Field.”

In the coming months, our Youth Research Team will attend national convenings to share the dynamic research work happening in the Twin Cities and to learn from experts in the field of Research Justice, Participatory Action Research and community organizing. Next week the research team will travel to New York City to participate in a weeklong Critical Participatory Action Research Institute organized by the national research organization, The Public Science Project. This institute, which takes place at the City University of New York, consists of seminars, roundtables and hands-on workshops where team members will learn from national leaders about the history of CPAR, refine their understanding of the methodology, and strategize about the intentional implementation in their work in Minnesota.

In June the Youth Research Team will travel to Detroit with Minnesota-based research partners to present their work at the Allied Media Conference. Along with Youthprise researchers, Youthprise is supporting youth from The Uhuru Black Scholars, Akicita Teca and Neighborhood Hub – in total 20 youth researchers – to present at the conference. The session, “Youth-led Participatory Action Research,” will share how youth in Minnesota are working at the intersection of research and community organizing.

Our Youth Research Team is currently coordinating a series of projects with youth-led research groups around the state ranging from youth in Minneapolis organizing around health disparities to youth on a Dakota reservation organizing a midwifery program. The team is also a part of a national Research Justice Network that shares learnings and strategizes about how to best impact all fields through transformative research practices.

The strategies that we incorporate into our research work at Youthprise are indicative of a larger shift towards engaging the community through authentic and inclusive research. We differ in that we center our research work on individual sources of knowledge coming from marginalized communities that are the most directly impacted by the issues that we all face. Like all of our work, the research that we do models our youth engagement strategies by having young people do the work themselves. In the past months, we have realized that as a team our capacity must increase to respond to the demand for youth-led research.

Owing to Youthprise’s position as an increasingly impactful intermediary in the OST field, we are developing our capacity as a research institution to be a regional hub for youth-led research work. As with all of our work here at Youthprise, we center our work around our philosophy of Youth Engagement. In research that means putting youth at the controls of what we research and how we do it. At Youthprise, we could do no less.

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