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Authors: Aina Landsverk Hagen, Sara Berge Lorenzen, Cathrine Skovbo Winther, Julie Ridley & Maria Turda

Handbook of Youth Social Citizen Science (Borgström, D., Canto-Farachala, P., Hagen, A. L., Norvoll, R., Rådmark, L. & Lorenzen, S.B. (Eds.). (2024). Handbook of Youth Citizen Social Science. Working with Young People and the Local Community for Social Change. Zenodo.

Creating a Safe Space

When inviting young people into a research project, it’s important to establish a productive, fun, and creative atmosphere where everyone feels encouraged to openly contribute their thoughts and ideas. To ensure such a safe environment, dedicating time to getting to know each other is crucial and can prevent attrition and ensure that youth do not drop out. Using icebreakers, and engaging in fun activities are also ways to foster such an environment. Additionally, establishing an informal way of speaking with each other is essential. In YouCount, the ‘splot’ method, developed by researchers on the Norwegian team, was an essential tool in many cases for building relationships and creating a safe space. ‘Splot’ is a drawing method where participants are encouraged to write or draw places, people, and activities that are important in their lives, where they feel good (Hagen & Osuldsen, 2021).

When in a large group of people, some participants, both young and adult, might be reluctant to share their ideas and thoughts out loud. Discussing in a smaller group first can make sharing easier. Therefore, it can be valuable to consistently employ a ‘thinkpair-share’ approach when facilitating meetings. This means that everyone first gets time to think for themselves, then discusses in pairs or smaller groups, before presenting or sharing with the larger group.

Accessibility and the Physical Space

Additionally, it’s important to remember that the meetings must be accessible to the youth. This means that they shouldn’t have to travel far to attend and that the meetings are held after school hours or during the weekend. If the youth live far from the university, it may be preferable to find another venue in the young people’s neighbourhood.

Being in a familiar environment can also contribute to creating an informal and safe atmosphere during the meetings. Be aware and ask the young people about the type of physical space they prefer. Some might find the university or school to be a conducive learning space, while others might prefer a more informal setting. If needed, an informal space can be created through simple adjustments, such as introducing a couch instead

of desks and chairs.


Being Flexible

It’s also important to be flexible during the meetings/workshops by adapting and adjusting the schedule as needed. There are times when a planned task or method does not unfold as expected and you need to switch to an alternative approach. Other times, the youth get really engaged in a task, and it’s valuable to consider allowing them to continue, even if it challenges the set time frame. Having a diverse range of methods available and avoiding overly tight schedules can make implementing this flexibility easier. Furthermore, be prepared for varying attendance levels; some days might see full participation, while on others, many may cancel at the last minute due to other commitments in their lives – as highlighted, young people have busy schedules and their time is precious. In YouCount, some cases have found that arranging predictable, recurring meetings leads to more consistent attendance.


Building Relationships

Being part of a research project also provides an opportunity to build relationships with other youth, researchers, and stakeholders. Sharing food, taking breaks, and engaging in activities unrelated to research can be effective ways to foster these connections. In YouCount, some of the youth who travelled to consortium meetings abroad highlighed getting to know young people from other cases and countries, and spending time together as the most significant outcome of their experience.

In the Spanish case, the researchers realised the significance of contextualising the origin of the project and deepening its justification. Thus, a first work dynamic was carried out with the young people, where they were asked about their expectations in relation to their participation in the project. On a general note, researchers should strive to be open to sharing about themselves and their personal lives with the youth as well and engage in informal talk during breaks.

User Type
  • Citizen scientist/civil society organization
  • Researcher/research institution
  • Teacher/school
Resource type
  • Getting started
  • Projects/project examples
  • Recruiting citizens
  • Step by step guides
Research Field
  • Political sciences
  • Sociology