What do young people in Rotterdam-South think are the most important lifestyle challenges? What factors do they see as barriers or motivators to life healthy? And what role do their environment and social media play in this? Dr. Roel Lutkenhaus of Erasmus Movez Lab investigated these questions during the project 'Influence'. For six weeks, he worked with the Chance to influence Foundation and the TalentzSkool Foundation to gain insight into what extent young people find their living environment healthy. Now that the project is completed, Lutkenhaus hopes he can inspire others to see youth not as research objects but as part of the entire research process.
"In this project, I applied the Participatory Action Research method. This research method is about the process and what you can learn from the process. The young people took the lead in coming up with social media campaigns, and that's how we got a lot of new insights because we didn't have fix frameworks in advance" says Lutkenhaus.
Discussions through self-designed T-shirts and raps
The study involved 20 young people who were provided with several creative assignments over a period of six weeks. These assignments ranged from designing shirts or hashtags to inventing raps and creating social media challenges. By means of this, Lutkenhaus could discuss with the young people what social issues they find most relevant and what reactions they received. He also discussed with them the role a healthy lifestyle plays in their social and physical environment, particularly the significance of role models and social media.
Collaboration is the key to success
Lutkenhaus sees the project as a fruitful experiment: "Through Participatory Action Research, we have gained new insights. Above all, we learned that we, as researchers, look differently at the reasons for an unhealthy lifestyle among young people than the young people themselves. You’ll only learn about this when you sit down with the young people themselves. The collaboration with existing initiatives such as the Chance to Influence Foundation and the TalentzSkool Foundation also worked out well. Lutkenhaus: "The knowledge and experience of the two foundations enabled us to develop a program that really appealed to the young participants. In this way, we were able to motivate the young people to take action. I hope that in the future, we can inspire other organizations with our methods and thus help even more young people to live a healthier or happier lifestyle."