Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) From Start to Finish: Youth Participatory Action Research and Engaging Young Co-Researchers in a Digital Storytelling Program (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.

698P (see Poster Gallery) From Start to Finish: Youth Participatory Action Research and Engaging Young Co-Researchers in a Digital Storytelling Program

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Caroline Sharkey, MSW, PhD Candidate / Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Background and Purpose: An emerging body of arts-based youth participatory action research in social work has explored shifting to an engagement paradigm that seeks to re/orient power and positioning members of historically marginalized and pathologized communities as passive objects of inquiry. Youth participatory action research (YPAR) utilizes mutuality and power sharing, moving from ‘damage centered research’ to humanizing research frameworks that position young people as assets and local resources who can inform social action within their communities. Yet, there is scant research on the engagement of young people in all stages of the research process, with lesser explored representations of participation in data analysis, feedback, and dissemination stages. This presentation will center the use of a qualitative youth participatory action research (YPAR) methodology with an urban digital storytelling (DST) program to explore how a co-creative research process contributes to the program’s capacity building approaches.

Methods: Young members of a DST program partnered with a university affiliated researcher to chronicle a six-week long digital filmmaking program, including the development of an ethnocinemagraphic film featuring data from daily program film footage, semi-structured interviews, focus groups with current and previous program participants, and archived program materials. Young co-researchers conducted all cinematography and film editing for the final documentary. Interviews and focus groups elicited participants’ perceptions of the program and meaning-making about a sense of community within the program and the broader neighborhood that houses the program. Young co-researchers collaborated to transcribe interview and focus group data verbatim NVivo™ and conducted data analysis using inductive poetic transcription. Young co-researchers engaged in providing feedback in the form of member checking of developed data poems and guiding the editorial decisions for the final documentary and are the driving force in community dissemination in the form of a public film showing and the development of a poetry zine slated for release in early 2023.

Findings: Data analysis and the development of the documentary reveals the importance of an assets-based framework for engaging and collaborating with young people as researchers. Participants reflect on ways that the co-creative nature of this program enhances skill acquisition and community-level capacity building that has broader implications for the neighborhood, including centralizing youth workforce initiatives, amplifying voices of marginalized community members, and localizing social action to inform city-wide policies. Due to the highly democratic nature of the established program, mutualistic research that engages young co-researchers at all levels of the research process was feasible and co-researchers identified potential limitations for generalizability due to their unique power-sharing program principles.

Conclusions and Implications: Social work literature does not expound on the participatory, democratized potential for DST as a creative narrative research methodology and few studies explore the role of youth co-researchers across the full spectrum of research stages. One of the unique outcomes in incorporating DST as an arts-based participatory methodology in a program with established power-sharing principles was the ways that young people viewed the spectrum of research tasks as social capital that contributed to developing individual and collective capacity and stated interactional transformation.