Let Me Say It My Way: Using Culturally Relevant Research Strategies to Explore Young Adults’ Experiences of Social and Economic Health
In this paper I critically examine culturally relevant research strategies that I used to explore young adults’ experiences of socio-economic health in their economically disadvantaged Atlantic Canadian community. Working with young people from varying socio-economic and educational backgrounds, a goal of this critical ethnographic research was to create spaces for young adults to articulate their ideas for their communities’ futures in ways that were meaningful to them. After presenting the theoretical and methodological frameworks for this research, I discuss three culturally relevant strategies in particular: 1) critical dialogue (focus group discussions relevant to the research sparked by media such as music and film), 2) photonarrative (participants’ views expressed through their own photography and verbal narratives), and 3) community mapping (participants’ construction of visual maps based on their experiences in their community). Using specific examples from my research, I consider the potential strengths and limitations of these strategies as empowering research and community engagement educational tools.
Economically disadvantaged regions across Canada struggle to reconstruct themselves in the face of globalization and reduced social welfare. As a community-based and university educator in an economically depressed Atlantic Canadian municipality, I argue that successful community sustainability must reflect the experiences and perceptions of local citizens—including those whose insights are not typically solicited such as youth and young adults. Moreover, in socio-economic disadvantaged regions where outmigration is rampant, young people are vital to communities’ survival. This research is a step toward collaboration with young people to find ways that education can support their culturally relevant efforts to inform decision-making about social justice, sustainability, and regional equity in their communities.
Keywords: Young People, Culturally Relevant Research Strategies, Social Exclusion, Community and Citizen Engagement
Dr. M. Tanya Brann-Barrett
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Cape Breton University