Yes to Youth: Impactful participation with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds

Lead Research Organisation: Coventry University
Department Name: Ctr for Agroecology, Water and Resili


"We've been participated to death round here". Participatory research practitioners promise impact, and may believe they can deliver it. But, in the experience of the vulnerable people who the research is meant to help, such as young adults from refugee and migrant backgrounds, these methodologies are fraught with problems and often do not live up to their promise.

Yes to Youth (y2y) builds on the lessons learned from AHRC Connected Communities, particularly the research project Web of Connections (the PI of which also leads this project). Two pioneering organisations that emerged from RefugeeYouth's research network - Solidarity (Hull) and Nomad (North West London) - devised this new initiative based on their interest in improving the effectiveness and impact of participation and community engagement with young adults from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

We will form a community of practice with Solidarity and Nomad to enable our project's use self-critical use of participatory processes that challenge the conventional role of university researcher and community participant in generating impact.

Since the mid-2000s Hull has become a major dispersal site for refugees and migrants. In 2017 it will be the UK City of Culture, putting the city at the epicentre of cultural activity and debate in the UK. The boroughs of Brent and Harrow in NW London are both in the top ten boroughs in the UK for the numbers of refugees and migrants.

In y2y, our team will engage 40 young adults with refugee and migrant backgrounds who will initiate a process of dialogue. They will be joined in their local community spaces by 10 university-based researchers, several of whom will bring experience from earlier projects in AHRC Connected Communities.

We will also:

1) develop a critical approach to the understanding of the issues they themselves have identified for the project, such as the experience of refugees and migrants in their area, conventional youth participation and community-engagement.

2) gain experience of knowledge exchange between academic researchers and community-based organisations and subsequently join networks of similar initiatives in Hull, NW London, the UK and internationally.

3) contribute to a cultural shift towards increasing control by community members who experience oppression over research central to the design of those initiatives that are meant to bring a positive impact on their lives.

Our approach to participation will be transformative in terms of its impact. Starting from the vision of developing a youth-run café/community spaces in Hull and NW London, we will develop an impact strategy for Hull and NW London - acting as a model for other areas of the UK. We will also demonstrate how our approach can lead to more engaged and impactful research.

By October 2017 we will have:

1) Experienced good practice of participation through two international study trips at the International School of Bottom-up Organising in Jamaica and Colombia.

2) Used artistic and critical participatory practice to establish two youth-run cafés and community spaces in Hull and NW London. These will:

i) support the needs of young people of refugee and migrant background, and

ii) provide a community of participatory research practitioners as a resource for future academic research and partnerships.

3) Held two national workshops, involving twenty young community-based researchers and ten academics, to reflect on the use of participatory research processes and contribute to a critical review of PAR to be published as part of the Connected Communities Foundations Series to be published in 2018.

4) Ensured the long-term sustainability of our local initiatives by strengthening our links with existing partners including the Office of the Mayor of London (Commissioned report, Becoming a Londoner, RefugeeYouth 2010), and the Hull City of Culture 2017 (via Solidarity).

Planned Impact

Yes to Youth (y2y) will put in place some key elements to contribute to a transformation in the practice of participation with young adults - particularly those from refugee or migrant backgrounds.

Young adults of colour, who have been largely excluded from community engagement processes in two UK locations where high quality such processes are badly needed, will gain practical skills in critical participatory approaches.

Y2y will form a community of practice composed of young adults from refugee or migrant backgrounds and academics with experience of participatory research and community-engagement, both committed to transcending traditional academic - non-academic divides.

Learning from past experience:

We will build on three key lessons from the Web of Connections (WoC) research project that was funded by AHRC Connected Communities and in which our team was centrally involved:

1. In WoC academics and community organisations acting as partners had the time to learn, reflect and write, but without many members of the community being involved. In y2y our proposal has been based on discussions led by young adults from refugee or migrant backgrounds and is primarily aimed at supporting them to undertake engagement and impact activities themselves to address their own needs.

2. In WoC the project was over-ambitious in scale (five locations) and the researchers attempted to deliver outputs to quickly. In y2y our objectives focus on, and have emerged from, discussions that are realistic in terms of time, resources and geographic scale, building long-term community capacity in just two locations.

3. In WoC the non-academic members of the project, were provided with additional funds to put on performances in spaces presented to them by academics and funders. The non-academics were not clear for what purpose they were performing. In y2y young adults will be supported to claim their own spaces in which they can explore issues that matter to them. Academics will be invited into these spaces as part of transformative participatory processes with these young adults.

By the end of October 2017:

a) Forty young adults of refugee and migrant background - 20 from Hull and 20 from NW London will have made a significant contribution towards informing the implementation of Recommendation 3 of the Creating Living Knowledge report to make: "efforts to understand and address the barriers that prevent different minority groups from contributing to research projects".

b) the project will have held two national workshops, each involving twenty young community members and ten academics to reflect on the use of participatory processes and contribute to a critical review of PAR to be published as part of the Connected Communities Foundations Series (Series editor: Keri Facer) to be published in 2018..

c) we will have brought the outcomes of this project to participatory and community-engagement practitioners inside and outside academia via People's Knowledge (, a new working group at Coventry University, of which the PI is Lead Practitioner.

Culture shift:

As our community of practice grows, we foresee a culture shift taking place. Where once, only evidence from largely white, middle class professional experts was heard in academic and policy spaces, our project will make a key contribution towards ensuring that the experiences young adults with refugee and migrant backgrounds, along with other vulnerable minorities, are heard and acknowledged as valid.

Long term commitment:

The PI, Nomad and Solidarity's involvement as long-term collaborators with People's Knowledge and synergies with Resources of Hope, another AHRC Impact and Engagement project (AH/P00637X/1) of which Wakeford is PI and which runs concurrently with this project, will ensure that the lessons learnt from y2y will continue to influence local, national and international policy and practice.


10 25 50
Description We are currently compiling a report of these impacts.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services