Shared Spaces: The How, When, and Why of Adolescent Intergroup Interactions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Education

Abstract

Across Europe, old and new ethnic tensions are dominating the headlines as political instability and levels of diversity continue to grow. With ethnically-motivated hate crimes on the rise, understanding how to ease ethnic tensions and promote social cohesion, particularly amongst young people as the next generation, is an urgent challenge.

The UK Government's Integrated Communities Strategy Green paper proposes that children should be prepared for life in modern Britain and be provided with the opportunity to engage in social mixing with those from different ethnic groups. Research from across the social sciences shows that social mixing, also referred to as intergroup interactions, is one of the best ways to promote more positive relations between ethnic groups. The realities of everyday life, however, mean that individuals do not necessarily interact with those from different ethnic groups, even when they have the opportunity to do so. Despite this realisation, surprisingly little attention has been given to how intergroup interactions might be encouraged in the first place. This project addresses this gap in understanding by examining how, when, and why adolescents from different ethnic groups in Bradford and ethno-religious groups in Belfast engage in intergroup interactions.

Focusing on national social cohesion priorities as well as local agendas in Bradford and Belfast, this project will use an innovative combination of research methods that will inform a new theoretical understanding of the factors that influence whether or not adolescents engage in intergroup interactions. We are interested in addressing three key questions: (1) What are the antecedents of adolescent intergroup interactions?; (2) How do adolescent intergroup interactions manifest in everyday life spaces?; (3) How do everyday contexts facilitate and inhibit adolescent intergroup interactions? To answer these questions, we use methods that are often absent from research on adolescent interactions including: (1) a three time-point survey amongst adolescents and their parents, (2) an app-based survey alongside GPS tracking, and (3) participatory photo-based methods coupled with focus group interviews. Together, these data sources allow us to study the dynamics of interactions and acquire new data to move this field forward.

This research is supported by Belfast City Council and will be implemented by academics from the University of Bristol and Queen's University Belfast in collaboration with representatives from Bradford City Council and consultants and Young Research Advisors from the National Children's Bureau, a leading charity that aims to improve the lives of young people and give them a voice to influence policy and practice. Our research findings will be made widely available to an interdisciplinary academic audience via conference presentations and publications in high-impact academic journals, and also to practitioners, the wider public, and policy-makers through popular science events, user-friendly summaries, policy roundtables, and a project website. Given the timely nature of our research, which seeks to understand how we might best promote adolescent intergroup interactions in Belfast and Bradford, we anticipate that this proposed project will appeal widely to academics and lay-people, encouraging a wide uptake of our research findings lasting beyond the duration of the award.

Planned Impact

1.Who will benefit from the research?

Group 1: Adolescents, families, and local communities: It is expected that the research will impact adolescents both nationally and internationally through raising awareness of barriers to intergroup interactions and how to promote more and better intergroup interactions. It will also raise awareness amongst families and communities regarding the needs and experiences of adolescents and potentially inform interventions.

Group 2: Practitioners: The project will help to better explain the ways in which everyday contexts facilitate or inhibit adolescents' intergroup interactions and will be of interest to educationalists and community practitioners nationally and internationally. This will include teachers and lecturers who are facing increasingly diverse classrooms. It will also be of interest to community workers who are interested in how to best promote relations in diverse settings.

Group 3: The third sector: The research will also be of interest to stakeholders such as third sector organisations who are interested in promoting social cohesion and educational opportunities for adolescents and wider society (e.g. Impact Youth, Think Global, the Allen Lane Foundation, Community Relations in Schools).

Group 4: Government and policy makers at local, regional, and central governmental levels (e.g. Equality and Diversity Council, the Equality and Human Rights Commission) in the four UK countries and internationally will also benefit from this research. Specifically, they will be made aware of: (1) the factors that predict adolescent intergroup interactions and (2) the ways in which everyday social spaces inhibit or facilitate social and group dynamics for successful interactions. This information is likely to inform space and environment planning.

2. How will they benefit from the research?

There is a lack of policy-relevant research which comprehensively examines how, when, and why adolescents choose or not to engage in intergroup interactions. This research will therefore provide new knowledge surrounding the key predictors of adolescent interactions, how intergroup interactions manifest in everyday spaces, and the ways in which everyday social spaces facilitate or inhibit interactions, derived from new and high-quality data sources. To ensure reach and significance, the proposed project was co-designed with representatives from Bradford City Council, consultants and Young Research Advisors (YRAs) from the National Children's Bureau (NCB), and is supported by Belfast City Council. Working alongside these key stakeholders will ensure that possible changes to policy and practice brought about or informed by this research are optimised.

Together the project team have substantial experience in working with non-academic beneficiaries and there are 4 key ways in which impact will be achieved: (1) youth capacity building, (2) advisory groups, (3) dissemination of findings to user groups, and (4) policy engagement (see Pathways to Impact attachment for full details). These impact activities are designed to engage with stakeholders and adolescents from the outset of the project to facilitate wider dialogue. Adolescent participants and YRAs will benefit from learning about research design as well as receive expert training in participatory methods and the ethics of research, which they will be able to share with other young people in their respective contexts. The wider project team will work together to produce policy and press materials, outputs for the project website, and social media content to raise awareness of the research to user groups. Policy stakeholders will be invited to a policy roundtable and key findings will be shared with relevant Ministers and senior officials, including the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children (a cross-party group of MPs and Peers who debate and work to improve children's policy), to which NCB provides the secretariat.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Stakeholder group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A stakeholder group was formed to inform on the project and promote project related outcomes and impact. The group comprises key stakeholder contacts and academics. The stakeholder group met once in 2021 and will be meet bi-annually to support with the design of the project, the dissemination of findings and the planning of impact activities associated with the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Youth advisory group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Youth Advisory group comprised young people `who were engaged with our research partner, the National Children's Bureau (NCB). We held 1 meeting with the group in 2021. The meeting enabled us to discuss and get feedback on the research team's plans for data collection and the draft survey. We are continuing to work with this group to develop plans and materials for reporting and disseminating findings in a young-people friendly way (e.g., through blogs and animations) building on their existing experience and support from NCB.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021