It’s important to remember that ‘young people’ covers groups of people at many different ages and life stages.
We recently completed a project working with young people aged 16-25. This age range encompasses: school pupils, those studying at sixth form or college, university students and those in full-time work, amongst others.
When working across such a diverse group, it’s crucial to offer as much flexibility as possible to account for varying availabilities and schedules. In the past, for example, we’ve set up polls allowing those taking part in research to register their preferred dates and times to attend a focus group or forum, rather than deciding specific dates beforehand.
Of course, it might not always be possible to cater to everyone’s individual schedules (especially on projects involving many participants), but allowing this degree of flexibility will help young people plan taking part in the research around their busy lives.
On projects with multiple elements, consistency can help create a safe space for participants to share honestly.
Ensuring that the moderator remains the same throughout the different methodologies, and that the groups themselves are made up of the same young people can help those taking part to feel comfortable with each other, increasing the likelihood that they’ll feel able to share and give honest feedback.
Ensuring participants are of a similar age to one another may also help create connections and rapport through shared experience.
Using online chat groups or setting up WhatsApp groups as part of projects with young people can be really effective. Using systems participants are already familiar with helps create feelings of ease; we’re meeting young people where they already are.
Using WhatsApp or another online chat system also removes the need to be on a video call (which can make some feel nervous to speak up and share their thoughts) and allows young people to answer prompts in their own time, further increasing the flexibility built into the research.
However, it’s important that the right permissions are in place in order for these groups to be safe for young people to join, and for the research to adhere to MRS standards. If conducting a WhatsApp group as part of a research project, or using this platform to reach out to participants, ensure a detailed consent form is in place, which includes:
Ensuring young people feel like active contributors in the research, rather than passive participants can help foster feelings of ownership and greater engagement and prevent ‘switching off’.
On past projects, we have achieved this sense of ownership among young people using a variety of methods:
If your organisation has an upcoming research project centred on young people and you’d like to get in touch, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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