Critical Reflections on the Craft of Participatory Research with Young People: Unsettling Dominant Narratives

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Jacqueline KENNELLY, Carleton University, Canada
Cath LARKINS, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom
Alastair ROY, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom
This collaborative paper draws on the diverse participatory research experiences of three youth researchers in Canada and the UK, in order to critically reflect on the limits and possibilities for what we are calling the craft of participatory youth research. By invoking ‘craft’ rather than ‘techniques’ or ‘methods’, we seek to foreground the intuitive, embodied, and often unspoken elements of participatory research, with its inherent unpredictability, inter-relationality, and potential for both generating insights and reproducing dominant narratives and power structures. Recognizing that there is no singular approach that might encapsulate how to ‘do’ participatory research with youth, we nonetheless identify shared themes and dilemmas that cut across our various research experiences. These include: ethical challenges related to institutional IRBs and questions of informed and ongoing consent during the research process; questions of ownership and obligation, or, who does this research belong to anyway?; questions about degrees of influence and what counts as ‘participatory enough’; tensions between the goals of education/community development versus those of research projects; and the role of ambivalence in our research processes. Through vignettes, we highlight the infrequency with which inter-generational relations, the rules of the academic game, and researchers’ own attachment to creative outputs are unsettled. However, we suggest that when the goal of participatory research is to challenge dominant regimes of truth rather than ensuring shared ownership of research resources, the craft of participatory research -- focused on dialogue and layering of reflection and meaning -- still has potential. The paper is built upon a combination of shared conversations and written vignettes that detail specific instances within our respective research; the vignettes serve as case studies through which we illustrate how, despite the ambiguities of ownership and influence, the craft of participatory research with youth can enable moments where dominant narratives are unsettled.