The current generation of adolescents faces a triple crisis: the Covid-19 crisis, the climate crisis and a social inequality crisis. These societal challenges are not limited by national borders but require global collaboration. Our young generation has to face this triple crisis. At the same time, this generation has the potential to lead as agents of change. In a two-year project, researchers of the Erasmus SYNC lab aim to involve adolescents in research and policy. Their aim is that this empowers adolescents to deal with and contribute to solutions of the triple crisis. Within the project, special attention will be paid to reaching underrepresented youth. De Nationale Wetenschapsagenda (NWA) supports the project through a science communication grant of €150,000.
Extending the youth participation platform YoungXperts
Young researchers from the Society, Youth and Neuroscience Connected (SYNC) lab at Erasmus University Rotterdam developed the YoungXperts platform during the corona crisis. In brainstorm sessions with adolescents, they shared scientific knowledge (the Facts), after which adolescents converted these facts into concrete actions (Take Actions). Actions that could improve the future of adolescents during the corona crisis. Dr. Lysanne te Brinke: "During the corona crisis, adolescents were able to use our Instagram to see how they could improve their mental well-being. For example, we shared tips from adolescents on how they could seek as much support as possible from their social environment despite the corona measures. With the grant from NWA, we can develop this platform further. Together with youth organizations, we want to create a national online platform that can voice the needs and ideas of adolescents.
Reaching out to a diverse group of adolescents
Researchers from the SYNC lab noticed over the past years that scientific research does not reach all groups of adolescents, which means that a large proportion of adolescents are underrepresented. Therefore, the researchers also aim to develop a strategy to involve underrepresented youth in scientific research. The fact that science does not reach all groups of adolescents is problematic in combating the triple crisis because these crises can only be addressed if everyone contributes. Finally, research often fails to reach those adolescents that are hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 and social inequality crises. The strategy to reach underrepresented youth is developed in close collaboration with youth organizations and important people around adolescents (so-called ‘key figures’ such as youth workers).
Sharing youth participation lessons with fellow researchers
The researchers consider it important to share their youth participation experiences with fellow scientists. Te Brinke: "Researchers find it often difficult to involve adolescents as citizen scientists in their research. This is a pity, because including the voice of adolescents, may enable researchers to develop projects that fit closer with the needs of adolescents. By using Open Science, we want to map out our steps and experiences clearly and transparently, so that our colleagues can benefit from it."
Collaboration between youth organizations, social partners and researchers
The project will start soon and runs for two years. The YoungXperts team is collaborating for this project with the University of Amsterdam (Dr. Thijs Bol) and Utrecht University (Prof. Dr. Sander Thomaes), various youth organizations (Nationale Jeugdraad, Jonge Klimaatbeweging, studenteninitatief Lieve Mark, Erasmus Verbindt), the program Maatschappelijke Diensttijd (MDT Op Zuid), the Municipality of Rotterdam and science museum NEMO.