Youth Involvement in Programming and Research
How Can We Meaningfully Include Youth Voices in Research?
“In essence, youth are our future, so having programs that are tailor-made for them, for each demographic, is essential to their development, essential to their academic success, essential to their integration into the community. It is the bedrock of their development” – Abdul Alsaidan, The Refuge: Youth Involvement in Research & Community Programs
There are many barriers that keep youth from participating in community programming. These may include differences in perspectives between youth and their parents about volunteering, civic engagement, and community involvement. As well, many ethnocultural community organizations lack the resources to offer programming or services tailored specifically to the needs and interests of newcomer youth.
Cultural identity can be a source of conflict in the lives of newcomer youth. On the one hand, youth have a desire to ‘fit in’ with their peers and underplay or ignore their cultural identity; on the other, participating in and celebrating one’s cultural background can empower youth and offer a positive source of identity formation and support.
NEYCW is a voluntary youth group established by Immigration Partnership Winnipeg to encourage newcomer youth engagement in the community. NEYWC’s goal is to advise settlement organizations, governments, business communities,and schools on the needs and priorities of newcomer, immigrant, and refugee youth. When asked why they chose to join the council, youth cited the importance of civic engagement and a desire to be involved in their communities.
“[Youth] come up with the idea, the topic we’re going to tackle, how’re we’re going to tackle it, when and where and for who. And that shows that the youth will come. The most important thing is for the youth to feel comfortable, and they decide what they will have to do. – Mahmoud Sayed, speaking on the YMCA’s Centre for Immigrant Programs, The Refuge: Youth Involvement in Research & Community Programs
Youth feel that immigrant and refugee youth lack representation in positions of power, such as politics and in the education system, which limits sources of role models for young people.
“For refugees, I think we’re still not there yet in engaging them in decision making and in policy and program development. I think there is a lot to do. And when I try to see the reasons of why we’re not engaging refugees, I always look back at my experience because I, at one point, was a refugee and I used to live in Turkey, for example, I did not have a PR status. And I was always seen as a refugee. And when I arrived to Canada back in 2016, it was a privilege to me to come to Toronto but of course as a newcomer I had to experience some challenges. And I remember the looks of people because people look at refugees and newcomers as vulnerables but they don’t recognize that vulnerability is a strength. This is from my personal experience. Vulnerability is a strength, and we have to acknowledge that.” – Hanen Nanaa, The Refuge – Policy Matters: Why Collaboration Matters
The IRCC Youth Advisory Group (YAG) consists of roughly 20 youth, between 16 to 24 years old, with lived experience as either a refugee, an international student, a migrant worker, or other personal experience with the immigration system. In 2021, the YAG produced a series of recommendations on anti-racism initiatives, which were shared with two federal ministers, the settlement sector, and IRCC senior management.
What Supports do Children and Youth with Refugee Experience Need in School?
Peer-engaged research is a collaborative process in which people with lived experience take part in directing and conducting research. There are three levels of peer-engagement:
- ‘Advisory- peers’ who offer guidance and support (e.g., youth advisory committees).
- ‘Employment- peers’ who are hired as a core member of the team and assigned tasks within a project (e.g., for data collection and screening).
- ‘Partner- peers’ who are incorporated as leaders and decision-makers in the project.
Peer Researchers in CYRRC Projects:
Dr. Alamgir and colleagues engaged peer researchers as 20% of the active research team and involved them at all levels of the research process with full empowerment to influence the process. The peer-researchers were trained on how to conduct a systematic review and the team met regularly to discuss the process.
In Dr. Mbakogu and colleagues’ study, a peer advisor gave input based on her experience as a refugee throughout the project. The youth advisor was also involved in sharing the study’s findings through a podcast and a webinar.
Dr. Oudshoorn and colleagues worked with the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration to recruit seven Syrian youth with refugee experience (age 15-22) as co-researchers. The youth met for a total of ten hours to learn about qualitative research. They then helped host focus groups with Syrian youth aged 15-22. Youth co-researchers also participated in the interview and photovoice parts of the research.
Explore the Research:
Arteaga, M. C., Workentin, M., Abeshu, G., Anene, I., & Alamgir, A. (2022). Role and Level of Engagement of Peer Researchers in Systematic Reviews: A Review Article. Advances in Research, 23(5), 6-17. https://doi.org/10.9734/air/2022/v23i530345