2014 Youth Narratives Research Report
I was privileged to meet the students, Kate Willis, Alexandra Rose, Anya Rudolphy and the Youth Narratives facilitator, Howard Buckley, when I contributed to last year’s Youth Affairs Network Queensland’s 2014 conference in Brisbane. Thus I am delighted to link to the final research report, which makes for fascinating reading, not least in terms of the Collective Narrative Practice methodology used. I wonder if any of our Higher Education institutions might follow this path in encouraging social science students from outside of youth work, to explore our practice as part of Research Methods? The resonance with our own Story-Telling initiative is striking.
This report investigates the experiences of young people in their contact with community youth services across the Sunshine Coast region in Queensland. The central aim of the project is to determine what difference youth work makes in the lives of young people. Collective Narrative Practice (CNP), a qualitative technique of data collection, was selected as the most appropriate way to engage with this form of social inquiry, as it is participatory and collaborative and known for its appropriateness to obtain insightful and engaging narratives. The data is in the form of 15 youth narratives and 7 youth worker narratives, forming a collection of diverse experiences and voices about youth work and outcomes. Discussing elements of successful practice and the benefits of working according to integrity guidelines, the report ultimately concludes that in encouraging self-worth and providing support, youth work helps vulnerable young people overcome numerous challenges such as completing education, dealing with family conflict, becoming independent and finding employment. The significance of this research is in evidencing the unique value of youth work and highlighting the critical importance of youth workers in supporting, respecting and assisting marginalised young Australians.
This project seeks to reveal the difference that community youth work makes in the lives of vulnerable youth by allowing the voices of young people to come to the fore. In order to do this successfully the Youth Narratives Project depended on a methodology that fulfilled several criteria. Firstly, we desired an approach which avoided an exclusive focus on an individual’s experience and instead situated data in a common social and political context. Secondly, we needed an approach to data collection that did not hide the diversity of experiences and finally, being youth ourselves, we wanted to conduct research according to values of advocacy and empowerment.
Collective Narrative Practice (CNP), a qualitative methodology that recognises the value of individual’s narratives as meaningful data, was chosen as the most appropriate method to guide the social inquiry.
CNP is located within an interpretivist paradigm which understands reality as socially constructed rather than objectively determined. It follows that narrative analysis understands people as active social agents, and seeks to uncover their interpretation of a particular incident and the meanings they have attached to it. This kind of analysis connects narratives to a broader context by creating a body of collective. As Willis points out, “the objective of a narrative approach is to reveal how individuals’ actions and interpretation coexist with broader social structures and patterns” (Willis, 2013, p. 328).
Read the report in full – YOUTH NARRATIVES RESEARCH