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The Study In Action
The Transitions Study started interviews for this research. This involved three structured interviews and three qualitative interviews with each young person, and interviews with a person they considered most knowledgeable about them (PMK).
Several organisations took on the challenge of becoming involved in this exciting youth research programme and they are now keen to share their experiences as part of recognising the huge contribution youth made to the study and also to encourage other organisations that work with youth to consider becoming involved in research in the future.
The organisations who have participated in these reflections are:
What really appealed to Briar was the opportunity for young people to speak. “I sort of recognise so much is done for young people, done to young people, but what do they actually want. That really appealed to me…to hear their thoughts, their experiences.”
Although Briar didn’t know many of the young people well beforehand, she felt they definitely developed strong relationships though the interviews. “The young people loved doing it. They loved being able to share, to celebrate, to be able to have that opportunity to say ‘look how well I’ve done – this went wrong, but I did this’”. Initially vouchers and food may have been draw cards, but by the second interview Briar had young people ringing her saying “Hey bro, when’s my next interview. I want to see where I’m at.”
That recognition of the challenges the young people had come though was important to Briar. And it’s not always about change. “So many of them were doing such a good job of surviving as it was. ‘Cause a lot of that stuff was stuff they can’t change. And that is actually massive in itself. Not giving up, not giving in.”
If a young person expressed a need for support during an interview, Briar would often ‘park’ an issue and come back to it. “Because I think it’s about respecting the information that they are sharing – [to do nothing] I think is disrespectful.” She admits she would have really struggled if she hadn’t been able to give something back. Often young people did not nominate family to be interviewed, instead frequently choosing professionals as the “person most knowledgeable” (PMK) about them. When family were interviewed as Briar said, “it was beautiful, rich information.” For her, the interviews with the young people were a real pleasure. “I loved, – LOVED doing it. It felt like a real honour to share – a lot of those questions are quite intimate, private, personal experiences and what an honour for them to be so open.” “[Those interviews] were such a joy to do. Even the really sad ones.” Sometimes she was “blown away” by the “challenges they had had to face”, yet there was a bright-eyed young person in front of her telling her about their dreams. “I was so humbled by their strength. Then I’d think, of course, it’s a resilience study – that’s what it’s looking at. But it’s so easy not to see that. But having to work through big issues as a young person is what makes you strong.”
While she feels some young people may have struggled to put numbers to some research questions the qualitative interviews were rich and she feels the essence of the young people came through. And for her trust in the researchers is critical. “Some people say ‘numbers, numbers, numbers’, they [the researchers running the programme] say ‘people, people, people.’"
Raechel has been the Manager of KYS since 2004. She saw the research as a great opportunity for young people to be heard. She feels often young peoples' lives are “so complex” and the people that make policies and the general public “just don’t have any idea”. “It’s really hard advocating for the service. It’s just like people don’t get it. They don’t understand all the really big issues young people who come to our service have to deal with” She also saw the research as a way KYS could evaluate their services to ensure they’re “getting it right”.
For her that is “so important.” And as a service the professional development and on-going support has been immensely valuable, she says. “In the past KYS had participated in research and ended up feeling used. This definitely wasn’t the case. [The researchers running the programme] were so respectful of the young people and of us as a service”.
Resilience Research Centre NZ - Youth Research Site 2013