Last month, Harry travelled to De Montfort University for a meeting to plan the latter part of his third and final year as an Associate Research Assistant (ARA) at the Centre for Social Action.
Harry has been involved with the University’s pioneering scheme of employing young people as research staff, since July 2009.
As Associate Research Assistants (ARA) Harry and the others in post travelled across the country visiting projects, meeting the workers who co-ordinated them, and the young people that were supported by them. They were briefed with the task of evaluating the different projects’ abilities to genuinely engage with young people and impact their lives. Listening on the one hand to the positive experiences they’d had, and on the other, to the concerns they’d raised.
Closer to home, Harry was involved in a number of conversations with young people living in the De Montfort University Square Mile. An area surrounding the University in which it is currently acting to introduce community projects, activities for young people and social spaces, in conjunction with local residents. By working with the local community, DMU believes it will build links with local people whilst making steps to better their lives.
Embryonic in principle, this scheme is matched by no other University in the Country.
Following this, Harry contributed, again, with the other ARAs to a chapter in a book reflecting on the involvement of young people in the research process. The chapter is a structured conversation had between ARAs over their period of working for the Centre for Social Action.
When published, it will give a great deal of insight into the benefits of employing young people in what is understandably an ‘adult dominated environment’, and the value added to pieces of work when young people offer their own unique interpretation.
Later this year, Harry will be taking part in the recruitment of new Associate Research Assistants, short-listing applications, interviewing candidates, appointing the successful and conducting training with them.
He commented “The University, more specifically, the Centre for Social Action, from the outset, ensured that the Associate Research Assistants were both comfortable in completing the tasks required of them, but also challenged by the research and evaluating activities they were responsible for. With an onus on learning and reflection, the Centre for Social Action allowed its ARAs to both consolidate existing knowledge and seek further information where gaps arose. The ARAs had a mixed degree of involvement. From conducting site interviews, contributing to the Centre’s newsletter and wider publications, speaking at conferences, publishing evaluations and conducting topical research. The position no doubt leaves us all more willing to approach the world of research and analysis, more confident and much more experienced than before. Employment was also made relatively smooth by the progressive, modern and forward thinking nature of the staff at the Centre.”