To help youth identify sustainable livelihoods and advocate for true social justice, we carry out Youth Participatory Action Research (Y-PAR) projects. Additionally, we use research evaluation to investigate the root causes and possible solutions to social issues, as well as capture more complex pictures of development programs’ impact. These services were mainly developed for our programs. However, anyone can utilize them by contacting our team.
Youth Participatory Action Research
Why Y-PAR? Youth Participatory action research is a powerful tool in consolidating the efforts of adults and young people to effectively address community-level social issues. Several studies support this argument. Using case studies, London, Zimmerman, and Erbstein (2003) demonstrate how youth-led research and evaluation can help associate youth and community advancement purposes. The study indicates that youth-led research and evaluation have the potential to join youth and community development in ways that can change and restore the relationships between young people and adults, foster the growth of youth and community members as community stewards, and support the progressive development of sustainable and fair communities. Also, using a mixed-method intervention, Ozer and Wright (2012) examined whether and how Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) has meaningfully affected the interactions and roles of students and adults in two distinctive urban high school environments. The study indicates that the training and data-generating activities of the youth-led participatory research projects enabled innovative student-adult interactions characterized by more collegial exchanges in which students were viewed as experts by themselves and by teachers on matters that extended beyond the “school spirit”. Given these empirical facts, we perceive the approach as an ultimate tool for helping youth grow both intellectually, socially, economically.
A little bit about our Y-PARs. Our youth participatory action research projects are centered on training and facilitating youth on how to perform credible research for their own development. They consist of recruiting youth to participate in a research study, followed by a series of training on how to conduct research, and then a progressive set of activities through which they collect, analyze, develop, and present the research findings to community members. Youth who participate in this project will first gain valuable skills in critical thinking, research methodologies, and community development. Second, these youth will gain insights from key figures in the community about what it takes to be successful in Guinea as well as how to cultivate opportunities for gainful employment and other entrepreneurial activities. And third, the research developed by the youth will be used to help establish baseline data on youth unemployment and identify key areas of education and entrepreneurship that can be folded into larger projects of development actors.
Our research paradigm. We approach projects as pragmatic evaluators and researchers. According to Mertens and Wilson (2012), pragmatic researchers believe that research methods should match the study (they can change according to the needs of the study) and that the scientific method alone is insufficient to discover the truth - instead, research must use common sense and practical thinking. As pragmatic researchers, we use various research methods and approaches depending on the type of subject of our examination. We always keep in mind the pillars of sustainability by Viederman (social, cultural, and economic development) during our evaluations. We see ourselves fitting this paradigm because we firmly believe that research is a means to an end, rather than an end in and of itself - it should be used not only for findings but for informing and learning, and ultimately for sound decision making (Mansare, 2019).
Our research approach. We use mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) research and evaluation to systematically and empirically, through careful data collection and thoughtful analysis, conduct an examination of the root causes and possible solutions to social issues, as well as capture more complex pictures of development programs’ impacts (Patton, 1990). Like most research, our inquiry starts from a contextual framework. Then follows a literature review on the subject matter. Based on the conceptual framework, the literature review, and our own experience, we come up with a list of hypotheses for testing through surveys, interviews, focus group discussions, observations, and so on.
Abstracts of Previous Research
Youth’s Decent Employment in Guinea: Enabling Factors and a Holistic Approach. It is widely recognized that youth unemployment is a significant problem in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), one of the main drivers of young people’s desire to emigrate and go to Europe or the USA. While tremendous work has been done in the literature regarding the causes and consequences of the issue, little is known about the key factors allowing youth to gain decent employment. This paper reports on a mixed-methods single case research study which discovered that 1) aspiration for making a difference in one's life or community, 2) making more than regular effort for education and for networking, and 3) developing strong personal character were the key factors that contributed to the employment success of a group of 43 youth in The Republic of Guinea. Recognizing, however, that even if all youth could become like these youth, decent employment rates would change slightly given the socio-economic context of Guinea, the lessons learned from this study must be combined with the capability approach to entrepreneurship by Dejaeghere & Baxter (2013) in order to craft a new approach to improving youth decent employment in Guinea and in SSA in general.
The impact of the YALI Africa-Based Program Components (Practicums, Mentorships, and Speaker Travel Grants) on the creation and/or the development of the Mandela Washington Fellows-owned businesses. This paper is a research evaluation that investigated the impact of the YALI Africa-based interventions, particularly the practicum and mentorship, on YALI Fellows-owned businesses. In-depth interviews were used to provide context to pre-existing data and offer a more complete picture of the impact. The study found that the YALI practicum is a consolidator of participants’ learning and experiences into tangible skills thus allowing them to start generating income while improving the quality of life in their community. Additionally, the mentorship program helped participants in decision making in their businesses as well as improved their personal and interpersonal competencies which then trickled down to their business. The study concludes that although the YALI Africa-based practicum might not be a necessity for some Fellows, the post YALI experience of some would have been tenuous, given all the expectations a trip to the USA does raise, without the intervention. This study is primarily useful for IREX, the YALI implementor, USAID, the donor, and any other organization or individual seeking to help develop micro-enterprises through programming.