Have a couple of questions for us? Take a look below to see if we have addressed your concerns already. If not, send us a message at email@example.com, and we will assist you as best and as promptly as we can.
01. What is CFCL's approach to YPAR?
Youth participatory action research, or YPAR, is an approach to research and community change that centers young people. YPAR gives youth tools and support to transform their community in partnership with allied adults. Youth team members identify and shape an issue they want to research and address to improve their school and/or community. YPAR engages young people in youth-led research and action that builds their skills and fosters strong, just communities and institutions. The ideas that underlie and inspire this work can be traced to several different fields, including popular education, participatory research, counterstory-telling, and youth development grounded in social justice and organizing.
The Community Futures, Community Lore approach to YPAR assumes that young people are embedded in intergenerational communities and that they are important participants in their communities’ evolution. Our approach supports and celebrates young people’s participation in the long arc of this evolution.
02. Where did CFCL's approach to YPAR come from?
Community Futures, Community Lore's field-tested approach grew out of decades of work and the wisdom of hundreds of communities, dozens of trainers and thousands of youth researchers and their allies. A highly-diverse team of young people drove the initial development of this work and these materials through a youth-founded organization called Youth In Focus (YIF). YIF was among the first YPAR innovators and practitioners in the United States and even the world. YIF (initially known as the Intercultural Oral History Project (ICOHP) and then Community LORE), which was launched by young people, developed a model known as Youth REP (youth-led research, evaluation and planning) and centered its work on organizations that served youth and communities typically marginalized by mainstream policies and institutions. In particular, it offered YPAR support through collaboration with youth of color, immigrant youth, tribal youth, LGBTQ youth and low-income youth addressing a broad range of issues (e.g. enhancing public health, strengthening after-school programs, reforming the juvenile justice system, improving public schools). By the time the organization closed its doors in 2010, YIF had trained more than 30 staff and thousands of youth and adult partners in YPAR. Many of the organization’s staff and youth and adult partners went on to be leaders in YPAR and related fields and to use and adapt YIF’s original materials. This work also inspired development of resources to support youth use of data maps through the Putting Youth on the Map program at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change; some of these materials are also incorporated into the CFCL website.
03. Can I do YPAR in combination with other kinds of youth leadership and organizing efforts?
Yes! YPAR is often a really important, complementary component to other strategies that support youth leadership and organizing. YPAR has been used to support youth organizations and campaigns, youth governance (school and local government), youth engagement in philanthropy, community design and development, project-based learning in schools, program evaluation, and more!
04. Where is YPAR effective?
YPAR, especially the CFCL approach, is effective in many different settings and communities. The main thing that will determine success is your community, organization or institution’s capacity and ability to support, collaborate with and incorporate the work of youth leaders.
Our approach has been adapted to projects that focus on education (both project-based learning and school change), public and community health, food and nutrition, youth development programs, community development and design, community history and cultural survival, environmental justice, sustainability and stewardship, and more!
05. How old do young people need to be to do YPAR?
YPAR is appropriate for many different ages; however, you will need to meet young people where they are and adapt your approach for the age you are working with. Our projects have included students ranging from elementary school (4th to 6th graders), to middle school (7th to 8th graders), to high school (9th to 12 graders), to young adults (ages 18 to 25).
06. Do youth need to lead EVERYTHING in a YPAR process?
YPAR emphasizes the role of young people as leaders and agents of change in their communities; however, they can’t do that alone. Adults and intergenerational relationships play critical roles in YPAR projects. In the CFCL approach, we emphasize the importance of intergenerational collaboration in YPAR projects. Adult partners play varied roles - from helping to define the initial purpose and parameters of the project, to collaborating on research design and analysis, to developing a strategy for action. The key, however, is to always center and create the conditions for young people to lead.
07. What is the role of adults in YPAR?
Adults play a variety of important roles in YPAR projects, from working to define the initial parameters and purpose of a project in a given context, to creating the conditions for successful youth leadership and healthy intergenerational partnerships, to collaborating with young people to put the findings of youth research and the goals of youth-informed strategy into action. Adults often operate as coaches, thought partners, advisors, content resources, and/or trainers on projects. Sometimes they are facilitators, supervisors and network builders. Most importantly, the role of adults in YPAR projects is to be fully engaged partners with young people in learning how to establish and renew healthy intergenerational relationships in our communities, organizations and institutions.
08. How do you know if you are ready to take on a YPAR project?
The most important indicators of a group’s readiness to engage in YPAR are 1) your willingness and capacity to dedicate resources to this process over some time (e.g. dedicated time, space, support, access to decision makers to ensure the project’s success, etc.), 2) authentic, trusting relationships among youth and between youth and adult allies (or the commitment to building them), and 3) your openness to grow and learn from the process and your team’s findings and priorities for action/change.
For a more detailed exploration, look to Stepping Stone 1 which is dedicated to organizational and community readiness.
09. Do I need access to a lot of technology to do YPAR?
You do not need access to any specific technology to do YPAR. We have provided options in each section to go high tech and to keep it low tech. The true power of YPAR is the cycle of inquiry and action that it supports in a community.
10. What if young people come up with controversial findings?
It happens! And, it’s often a sign that the YPAR team has gone into some real, juicy questions that the community as a whole is grappling with. The best advice we have is to prepare the youth team, facilitators and decision makers along the way. Consider how you want to be as a community and how you can support and model healthy conversations about challenging topics as a group.
11. Who else has done a project? Where?
So many different groups and organizations have done projects in communities across the United States and around the globe. Check out the list of projects and stories that we have compiled on the Stories page of our website.
12. How long do projects take?
Typical projects can be as short as 3 months, and as long as a year. The length, in part, depends on the purpose and goals of your project and the frequency with which the team is meeting (for example, is this group meeting every day as a class, or once a week as an after school project?). For longer projects (beyond 1 year), we recommend organizing your project into cycles of inquiry and action that build on each other, rather than a single, long project.
13. What costs and resources do I need to think about?
YPAR projects can benefit from additional dedicated funding, but funding is not required to do a YPAR project. A dedicated team of volunteers can be just as, or even more, powerful than a paid team, depending on their passion and commitment. For those of you thinking about securing additional funding for a project, we have provided an example project budget in Stepping Stone 1 (1.17 Resources).
Resource and material needs may vary based on a project's research method and strategy but core resources that most YPAR projects will need include: meeting space, funding (if possible, but not required), adult and youth staff time, equipment (such as a video camera, camera, laptop, etc.), materials and supplies (such as snacks, office supplies, etc.).
14. How many team members do you need?
The number of team members depends on the purpose of your project and the context you are working in. In theory, there is no limit to people, as long as you have a clear purpose and appropriate support for the team. Less than 4 team members often feels too small, while more than 20 can feel unwieldy. A good size is often somewhere between 8 to 12 team members; this allows you to develop team rapport, share clarity and have a broader impact. For larger groups, plan to have additional facilitators to support small group work.
15. Can I do a YPAR project if my group can't meet in person?
Yes! Sometimes it's hard for people to be in the same place at the same time, but you can still find creative ways to make a YPAR project happen. Whether you're planning to work remotely for all or part of your project, the broad frameworks and values of YPAR and positive youth development still apply. For assistance translating these practices into a virtual environment, check out our Tips for Remote YPAR.
16. How can I get more support?
Contact the Center for Regional Change at UC Davis for current resources, trainers, and support people: firstname.lastname@example.org
For additional guidance facilitating YPAR and related approaches, we also recommend the following resources: