Recruiting and training young people as community researchers


Emma Halliday and Michelle Collins are researchers who joined us at the spring event in Manchester to talk about how they’ve been working with young people in West End, Morecambe Big Local area.

Emma Halliday and Michelle Collins work for the National Institute for Health Research, School for Public Health Research at Lancaster University and as part of their research they have been involved with West End, Morecambe Big Local where they have recruited and trained young people in the area to work with them as community researchers.

Emma and Michelle’s research is about developing a tool which can help to collect information on local neighbourhoods so that you can understand what a place is like. The aim of getting community researchers was to involve people who live in neighbourhoods in testing out the tool, and therefore help Emma and Michelle to get the tool right.

When describing their experiences of being involved in the community researcher workshop Olivia, one of the young people explained that:

“it’s been interesting going through the process of developing the record,
especially seeing where it was and where it is now”.

For Carrie, another young person involved, there was something important about being able to contribute her thoughts and ideas:

“nice to be part of it – to be able to include your own input and opinions”.

Emma and Michelle have found their input tremendously valuable. They saw how the map based tool worked well as a starting point. The young people could easily recognise their area and its key features, but they then went on to add to the map a whole other layer of information, showing the location of many things such as where the youth club is, or where well used bus stops are.

Emma and Michelle note that it wasn’t just the wealth of local knowledge that the young people brought in, but the way that the young people helped them to realise the importance of the nuances of that information. For example, it isn’t enough just to know that there are a certain number of benches in particular places. The community researchers pointed out that one of these benches is next to a recycling bin and that sometimes people hanging out there tend to use it as a drum kit and therefore cause a noise nuisance for some of the residents who live nearby.

Each of the young people was given a Post Office voucher that can be used in lots of outlets nationally, in recognition of the time and input that they had given, and the researchers hope that the skills they’ve picked up through taking part in the project will be useful as part of their on-going education, training and work.

Emma, Michelle and the community researchers hope that the partnership will find that the work shows how rich and interesting their area is, and that the information could be used as part of their profile for their Big Local plan.

This case study was originally published on the Local Trust website.

June 2015