Abstract: Digital Storytelling and Collective Efficacy: Arts-Based Youth Participatory Action Research and Constructing Community (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Digital Storytelling and Collective Efficacy: Arts-Based Youth Participatory Action Research and Constructing Community

Friday, January 13, 2023
Estrella, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Caroline Sharkey, MSW, PhD Candidate / Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Background and Purpose: What stories do young people hold and how do they experience their communities? This presentation will center chronicling a youth digital storytelling (DST) program as an active ‘youthspace’ utilizing a youth participatory action research (YPAR) framework to explore how a co-creative process of digital storytelling impacts young peoples’ meaning making about developing a sense of community and reclamation through storying. This presentation will explore the ways that a sense of community and collective efficacy are perceived and experienced by young people in a high-poverty/high-crime mid-sized city. Where sense of community theory explains the relationship between member participation and the ways members identify with their neighborhood, collective efficacy explains the relationship between member participation within the community and the overarching beliefs and judgments within the defined community. As the first study to document the experiences of young people in this DST program, this presentation will highlight the program’s innovative approaches to creative, transformative, participatory practices in the form of a macro/meso-therapeutic intervention facilitated in a collective, community space as pivotal to understand how community cohesion promotes positive youth development and mitigates the impact of trauma for young people living in city contexts.

Methods: This study utilizes an arts-based youth participatory action research (YPAR) conducted in collaboration with a convenience sample of young people ages 10 to 24 (n = 25) residing in three identified high-crime/high-poverty neighborhoods in a mid-sized city in the northeast, US. Digital storytelling is an emerging creative narrative research methodology that draws from democratizing, participatory methods of research rooted in ethnographic multimodal inquiry that seek to amplify counternarratives with individual and community level impact. This study incorporates focus groups, semi-structured interviews, and a process-oriented digital documentary using ethnocinema as the primary methodological framework.

Results: Participants identify key components of the concept of sense of community as prominent themes, including emotional connection, belonging, and having their needs met in a shared youthspace. Participants express that the program’s creative medium provides a foundation for collaborative work that allows for self- and collective expression about the ways young people experience the world around them. Participants generally expressed that the community they fostered together increased reports of collective efficacy expressed both creatively and in the form of varying acts of civic engagement in their broader community that increased a sense of lived citizenship.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings highlight the significant role of belonging, trust, and social cohesion in fostering a sense of community that enhances collective efficacy and promotes positive youth development and civic engagement. Safe and supportive youthspaces rooted in bi-directional power sharing provided opportunities for young people to work together to identify shared values and perspectives that bolstered a sense of community and belongingness that young people stated was absent in other domains in their lives, such as school. Findings demonstrated that it is imperative that research attend to community-level interventions promoting social cohesion to enhance positive youth development and collective efficacy to mitigate the impact of high-poverty/high-crime neighborhoods for young people living in city contexts.