Methods: Photovoice methods were employed with 11 adolescents (11-14 years old) attending an out of school time (OST) program with the partner nonprofit. Focus groups to identify topics for exploration occurred with 1) staff and social work students 2) parents and 3) youth participants. Focus groups served to guide session themes. The project included 10 picture-taking and critical dialogue sessions and 12 critical consciousness development and social action planning sessions. Youth identified field trips and experiences necessary to help better understand issues of concern, using these experiences to build critical consciousness and develop action strategies of 1) creating digital art collages, 2) creating social media message campaigns, and 3) creating and sharing videos.
Results: Youth described experiences with gun violence and environmental concerns, such as poor lighting in neighborhoods, few playgrounds, and excessive garbage. Despite experiences often associated with inequities, youth expressed feeling these concerns existed in all communities. Youth described general lack of awareness, racism, and poverty as reasons for inequities. Participants described their ideal communities having both good and bad elements, indicating “ideal” communities free of crime and other societal concerns could not exist. Youth expressed the need to view their communities with objectivity rather than pity, also emphasizing the strengths that exist in community.
Conclusions and Implications: Researchers must consider the appropriateness of their methods with the populations served. The education system often fails to provide youth facing inequities mechanisms to understand systemic factors undergirding problems, requiring intentionality on the part of researchers to embed opportunities to explore these concepts while maintaining equitable relationships. Researchers must consider the ethics of engaging in projects under the pretense of making community change. The literature speaks to the popularity of PV methods but speaks less concretely to how social action led to substantive change in circumstances. Participants were not interested in formal art displays, reflecting the need to potentially reassess dissemination strategies.