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Foundations collaborate to launch unique social research project

THE Young Foundation, Youth Futures Foundation and The Mohn Westlake Foundation have today announced the launch of a unique social research project and collaboration to tackle youth unemployment.

The project, made possible through the Kickstart Scheme, will see up to 30 formerly unemployed young people be trained as peer researchers, undertaking research into issues that affect them and their peers.

The scheme comes at a time when young people are hardest hit by the impact of the pandemic on the economy. Recent job market data confirms a growing trend of long-term youth worklessness. Unemployment for 18-24-year-olds is at a five year high, and 42% have been unemployed for over six months compared to 30% a year ago (ONS Labour market overview, May 2021).

To build an understanding of the challenges young people face, The Young Foundation will provide a cohort of young people across the UK with access to employment that builds confidence, skills and agency in the world of work and in the realm of social and civic action. Trained as peer researchers, they will be supported to forge new relationships with their communities, opening up access to new social and professional networks, people and civil society groups, enabling them to take further action on the issues that are uncovered through their research.

In the first phase of the programme, the Kickstart cohort will undertake research in their local communities, exploring perceptions about the strengths and weaknesses of those communities. Phase two of the research will be commissioned by the Future Voices Group, a group of 13 young ambassadors who act as Youth Futures’ ambassadors and advocates for young people across England on the issue of employment.

This demonstrates the organisations’ shared commitment to putting young people’s voices at the heart of this project to build a deeper understanding of the youth employment system. In phase three, once the cohort have developed their research skills further, they will have the freedom to research issues that are important to them and create a research project of their own. Through the research fieldwork undertaken, the project will document the lived experiences of up to a further 450 young people.

Peer researchers (also referred to as ‘community researchers’) use their lived experience and contextual understanding of a social or geographical community to help generate information about their peers for research purposes. For this project, the peer researchers hired offer a unique perspective on the issues that affect young people and, in particular, those with an experience of unemployment.

Once the peer researchers have been trained and have worked on a commissioned research project through this programme, they will remain part of The Young Foundation’s Peer Research Network and able to access further work opportunities as projects arise.

Helen Goulden, CEO at The Young Foundation, said: 

“This is a unique opportunity to support young people to build solid employment skills and networks, at the same time as tapping into their desire to create positive social change in their communities. We know that the social research sector is nowhere near as diverse as it should be – and this scheme has opened up an entirely new channel to bring more diverse talent into the sector. My hope is that this is the start of something much bigger – and I want to publicly thank our first cohort Kickstart Researchers for bringing so much energy and dynamism to The Young Foundation.”

Anna Smee, CEO at Youth Futures Foundation, said: 

“Our collaboration weaves together youth-led research; insights into the lived experiences of young people at a time of socio-economic change and paid work experience in social research. We’re committed to identifying what works and delighted to be working with young people from diverse backgrounds to generate the evidence. I look forward to following the young researchers’ journey and building on our understanding of how to make the youth employment system work better for them.”

A recently hired Peer Researcher, as part of the scheme, said:

“Getting the Peer Researcher role has definitely had a positive effect on my mood, sense of self-worth and feeling more purposeful. Beginning the training has really solidified that. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m excited about the future of what we will be doing.”

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