The story in a few words
Youth researchers and placemaking
Youth researchers and placemaking
Nabolagshager created a youth research team as part of the PlaceCity – Placemaking for Sustainability Thriving Cities project. Their aim for the youth research team is to create exciting green jobs for minority youth and equip train them in becoming researchers and critical thinkers about society, urban places, and sustainable futures. The Nabolagshager team believes that green future jobs can also be within humanities research. They highlight that they aspired to learn new perspectives from the young people as they have first-hand experience and a broad tactical understanding of how it is to study, live and use the area they worked in.
“Our youth researchers get trained in quantitative, qualitative, and participatory methods.” (Youth research mentor Clara J. Reich)
1. Take time to explain your project including the aims, objectives, and research questions, and why the youth’s research is important. This may be an entirely new world for the young people you are working with and perhaps takes a couple of explanations. It’s worth it as the youth will be motivated once they understand that their work matters and isn’t just occupational therapy.
2. Map the youth’s experience and expectations. This can help you later in better understanding your data and to follow their individual development and navigating their expectations through the process.
3. Be patient. It may take some time at the beginning for young people to get into how to format a text in word, how to do calculations in Excel, and how to organize data on a cloud. Walk them through all steps and lay a good foundation. You’ll see next time they’ll be quicker and proud they have gained new skills and are ready to work more independently.
4. Create a space for the young people’s ideas and critical questions about methods. They may have thoughts to make the work more effective and/or innovative in ways you would have never thought of.
5. Develop a good feedback culture. Start with a short round on what they know about commenting on each other’s work and if necessary add the importance of constructive and balanced feedback. This will help you and the youth to reflect on your ongoing research process and in improving the research processes.
6. Introduce a standard template on how to write research reports and let them discuss what goes into which section and how they want to split the work. This will create a great structure and enable them to work more independently on their research. Once you facilitated the decision project a couple of times you can ask the youth to facilitate this process themselves.
7. Ask questions instead of giving answers. If you think they are missing out on a point you could direct your questions. Your youth will start understanding how to think like a researcher and which questions to ask. Most importantly the young people will learn that their voice, and perspective matter and that they are the experts. This will make them own their research and strengthen their confidence and make them more professional.
8. Provide snacks. When it comes to writing reports snacks can bring some energy especially if your youth researchers had a long day at school.
9. Engage them in practical implementations. It’s rewarding to see that the research leads to physical changes of a place.
10. Be passionate about research. If you as a mentor don’t care about the research the youth most likely will not care either as you are their role model.
11. Connect on a personal level. Building a good relationship with your youth is key. Listen to what is going on in their lives and share yours. This will make working together more fun and you will know when they have a rough day.
12. Write them a reference letter and give them a crash course in how to present their new skills on their CV. This will contribute to them getting more opportunities to work with similar jobs.
The research reports created a solid foundation for the PlaceCity project shedding light on people’s uses, needs, and wishes of the area. This created a great base to select and use placemaking tools that fitted the place. The research process also opened up for the development of placemaking tools. The project managers Helene Gallis and Laura Martinez developed the sticker democracy tool and tested it together with the youth to engage the local community and learn about their preferences. Ingeborg Njøs Slinde developed and tested the pictogramming tool which the youth successfully tested to map different uses of the area.
The youth enjoyed learning new methods, contributing to an EU project, and they were proud to learn new skills. The young people became more critical in asking questions and self-confident about their expertise. Several researchers were surprised by the quality of the research reports and could almost not believe that high schoolers wrote them.
Youth researcher Tharchanna shared during a final project evaluation “Now I feel prepared for the job market. Having learned how to use Excel and Word was very helpful.”
The youth research team agreed that learning about how social science research could look like and contribute to placemaking processes with the fun and more tiring aspects was a great experience and value in considering future career opportunities. They quickly found out which methods and tasks suited them best. One young research was happy to talk to people and interview them whereas another youth very much enjoyed calculating and working with empirical data. The young people supported, motivated, and complimented each other during the entire workshop process and showed the benefits of successful teamwork.
Zeinab, another youth researcher added “I got a better grade in Norwegian. The feedback rounds and learning how to write precisely and clearly made my writing more structured. The research work was a lot of fun and sometimes tiring to write so many reports.”
Exchanging with a researcher and a mentor with research experience at first seemed a bit intimidating to them. However, after understanding that their work was valued and acknowledged they enjoyed getting positive feedback from experts and guidance on how to improve their reports and process.
Critically reflecting on how the research process could have been improved and how these learnings could be used for further research seemed at first challenging and unfamiliar. Nevertheless, after the first reports they young people developed an outstanding degree of reflexivity and critical thinking demonstrating their quick learning process and development in becoming better researchers.
Photo credit if not indicated differently: Julie Hrnčířová
The story was first published on Nabolagshager's website. Read the whole story and learn about the different process steps and Nabolagshager's work
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