I had the privilege of spending the last week with a great group of undergraduate researchers and my colleagues at the Public Science Project for their annual Critical Participatory Action Research (PAR) Institute. Thanks to a grant from UVA’s Jefferson Public Citizens program, we were able to bring our community partner, Sibley Johns, director of Charlottesville’s Music Resource Center with us to brainstorm our youth PAR evaluation project that begins this summer.
Rising fourth-year students Becca Christensen, Allie Cooper and Courtney Fox joined me in a week of workshops designed to help us engage the critical methodological and ethical issues of PAR while simultaneously developing and improving our own project.
Participants in the institute came from many places including local NYC organizations, OISE Toronto, researchers from Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, and even Ecuador. Everyone came with projects in various stages of development and together we had many discussions about PAR and worked together to refine our projects. Workshop topics ranged from the nuts and bolts of research methods, to participatory digital technologies, mapping methods, and participatory survey design and critical statistics.
While at the institute we were specifically working on our YPAR (youth PAR) project with the MRC that begins this summer. In this project, we hope to work with MRC participants as co-researchers in conducting an evaluation of their experiences at the MRC. We hope to have a few products come out of the project including some sustainable data collection methods for the MRC as well as a multimedia project that highlights the impact and effectiveness of the MRC for Charlottesville area youth. YPAR is based on the idea that when youth are brought to the table as co-researchers the research that results is more reflective of their experience and ultimately more beneficial to the organization because it builds capacity both within the program and encourages even more youth investment and involvement. We are very excited to assemble a team of co-researchers that will consist of MRC youth and alumni, UVA researchers (including Billie Binion, our fourth team member and Nancy Deutsch, our co-advisor) and MRC staff to better understand what success looks like to youth at the MRC.
Sibley, Courtney, Allie, Becca and I left with many many ideas and we definitely have our work cut out for us! Personally, it was great for me to be back with all of my Graduate Center, CUNY colleagues and a real joy to bring the next generation of researchers, activists, and scholars from UVA to learn more about how to put together a great research project. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on our project!