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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.

Get to Know the Field and Establish Networks

A crucial aspect of recruitment is to get to know the field and establish networks. Visiting schools, youth clubs, and other venues frequented by young people to discuss their concerns, what motivates and demotivates them, and potential recruitment strat- egies is particularly important, especially if the local context is new to the researchers. Being visible to youth in such arenas is also a way to inform about your project idea. Additionally, identifying stakeholders who work with youth in the community and can assist with recruitment is a fruitful strategy. The Danish team in YouCount carried out several field visits to local schools and various events at the beginning of the recruit- ment process to actively engage with youth. In Norway, the research group collaborated with a neighbourhood association to investigate whether recruitment strategies could be co-created with local youth. This led to a network-based recruitment process, where the co-researchers were linked through friendships or family connections.

In Hungary, one of the research teams sent an invitation to the registered hard of hearing students through the University Student Counseling Centre, as well as distribut- ing a Google questionnaire, where the intention to participate could be indicated. They then organised individual face-to-face or online conversations with the respondents. Here they informed them about the project and explored their motivation for joining. They posted the recruitment call in the university Facebook group, and an article about the project was published on the university news page. They also sent out invitation let- ters through various information hubs such as the NGO for the hard of hearing youths. Many months later their first research group – Common Signs RG – meeting was held.

Recruitment Through Established Groups

Another effective recruitment strategy is to identify already established groups of youth within the community who are interested in the research topic. In most local are- as, there are groups organised by the municipality, various organisations, and youth or sports clubs. One advantage of this approach is that the youth already know each other, which can contribute to an inclusive environment during meetings. If these groups have their own coordinator who is already well-known to the youth, involving them in the meetings can be particularly beneficial.

The coordinator, familiar with the youth, can support them during their involvement in the project, ensure the language used is accessible, and facilitate communication during the project. An example from YouCount is the Swedish research team, which had previously worked with the local youth council. They successfully continued this collab- oration by convincing both the youth and their coordinator that participating in the project would be beneficial for their future goals. This coordinator became a valuable asset for both the researchers and the young people throughout the project.

Schools as an Arena for Recruitment

Schools can also serve as a venue for recruiting young people to be part of the re- search project. Contacting the school administration for assistance or organising a visit is one approach. Another option is to reach out to teachers directly. As teachers often have a good understanding of their students, they can help identify young people who have a particular interest in the research topic or way of working collaboratively and ex- ploratively. Schools as an arena for recruitment can be especially effective for getting in contact with youth if the researchers have not previously worked with this demographic. In YouCount, the Lithuanian team collaborated with the administration of upper sec- ondary education institutions (gymnasiums) who approached the target group, namely young people aged 17-19 years. They were also able to organise meetings at the schools, which were deemed valuable to both parties.

Collaborating with Schools

Another strategy is to not only use schools as arenas for recruitment, but to collab- orate with the schools and with teachers throughout the project period. Working with citizen science within the educational arena has been the traditional approach when working with children or youth, but introducing citizen social science is quite new.

The Danish YouCount case, for example, experimented with implementing citizen social science in a high school class to engage local youth to investigate their neighbour- hood and develop social innovations for civic engagement. Introducing citizen social sci- ence in schools has several advantages and challenges. One advantage is that you do not take “free” time away from the youths (outside school). A challenge is that the youths are not participating “voluntarily” but because they need to due to school obligations.

Though there can be a lot of challenges working with citizen social science in schools, we have also observed that it brings a moti- vating and actionable approach to traditional teaching. The involved youth learn about new perspectives and opportunities in their com- munity. If you want to work with youth citizen social science in a school setting, we recom- mend that you are flexible and adaptive in both planning and facilitating classes.

Understanding Motivation as Recruitment Strategy

Recruiting for citizen social science is an organic process, as you might have guessed by now. It has a double aim, to inform about the project, and to find participants. There- fore it is wise to adopt and adapt creative recruitment strategies – in plural. Figure out what the internal and external motivations for joining a citizen science project is. And the best way to do that, is to ask the youth themselves. Locate the gate openers as well as the gatekeepers of youth, you can get surprising help and connections by informing about your project idea. Our general advice: Collaborate with the former and negotiate with the latter. The following example reflects a common recruitment strategy adopted by several cases:

“The help of youth coordinators in the district, active community actors and professionals from cultural centres was used to find the most dynamic young people in the district, invite them to participate in the project, and get them interested in the project idea.” – Researcher from YouCount Lithuania

As part of the recruitment activities, some of the cases in YouCount reported multiple attempts to understand young people’s motivations and answer any queries about the project.

User Type
  • Educator/museum
  • Researcher/research institution
  • Teacher/school
Resource type
  • Case studies
  • Recruiting citizens
Research Field
  • Political sciences
  • Sociology