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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.

Make it Relevant for the Youth

Ensuring that participation in the project is relevant and meaningful for the youth can be an incentive for their involvement. By co-creating the project and research aims, the topics investigated become important in the youths’ lives, not just within the research community. To keep the focus relevant to the youth, it’s crucial to listen to them throughout the project and allow them to lead the data collection. This principle is central in participatory research with youth, as elaborated in the chapter on data collection below.

Arranging living labs, where local stakeholders, researchers, and young people can discuss the research and develop ideas that will make a difference both short-term and long-term, is important. In these settings, they see that their participation can lead to positive outcomes, not only in their own lives but also in the lives of other young people. The involvement of stakeholders is also a way for the youth to expand their network within the community, creating opportunities for them in both the short and long term. In the Norwegian case of YouCount, one of the stakeholders provided part-time jobs for three young people as a result of an informal conversation during the first living lab.

Make it Social – Food Always Works!

Serving or making food together is essential when involving young people in research projects. Not only does it contribute to an informal atmosphere and facilitate relationship-building, as mentioned above, but it also provides a much-needed energy boost. Arranging meetings after school or work means everyone, including the researchers, is likely to be tired, so this boost of energy is crucial. If in doubt, ask the youth what food they prefer and remember to inquire about any allergies, dietary or religious restrictions they might have. When we discussed this with some of the young people in YouCount, they told us, “If you serve food, we’ll be there”. The research team in Norway started their days of training by serving healthy snacks like energy bars, fruits, and iced tea. This was done for two reasons: to give extra motivation for the youths to show up, and to strengthen the collectivity. “Youths often describe food as important when giving feedback on participatory work.” (Norwegian case, D. 2.3: Ridley et al., 2023:34)

Salaries, Rewards and Prices

Challenge the systems that define citizen science as purely voluntary activity! Being a citizen social scientist requires time and effort, and paying them hourly salaries should be prioritised. Young people often seek paid employment outside of school and university settings, and voluntary participation in the research project may not be a top priority if they secure other employment – remember that young people’s time is precious.

Despite restrictions from the EU funding requirements, some YouCount cases managed to provide some form of monetary incentives to support longer term engagement. The Danish team hired a young person who helped with recruitment and engagement, while the Norwegian team collaborated with a stakeholder who engaged local young people who took on “paid communication assignments”, like recruitment, visual documentation or outreach. In the Swedish case, young people were commissioned to use the App for one week. Most researchers felt that the young citizen scientists could have benefited and been incentivised by monetary rewards (D.2.3: Ridley et al., 2023:36).

However, we recognize that financial compensation may not always be possible.

Offering prizes such as vouchers for cinemas, other activities, food, or transport can be an alternative form of appreciation.

The UK team introduced a one-to-one mentoring scheme, including matchmaking, career guidance and plans for personal development, to support their young citizen social scientists, when they were inhibited from paying the salaries Personal future possibilities are an empowering asset, since the combination of networks, skills, and certificates lead to increased future opportunities for further education and work. Stakeholders, too, tried to raise awareness of the issue of remuneration already in the beginning of the YouCount project.

User Type
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  • Researcher/research institution
  • Teacher/school
Resource type
  • Getting started
  • Projects/project examples
  • Recruiting citizens
  • Step by step guides
Research Field