YPAR, Mental Health and Social Innovation
A new paper is published in Action Research Journal by Canas, E., Booth, R., Pervez, R., Cook, A., Taylor-Gates, M., Oudshoorn, A., Norman, R., Hunt, R., & MacDougall, A. G. (2023) is out on The experience of youth-participatory action research in a social innovation lab: A methodological and organizational approach. Co-author Renee Hunt describes the contribution of work…
“The Mental Health INcubator for Disruptive Solutions (MINDS), is the first social innovation lab in Canada to tackle the complex challenges of youth mental health. MINDS employs a social innovation framework allowing for rapid ideation and prototyping of systems interventions. MINDS works alongside youth as researchers using the Youth Participatory Action Research (Y-PAR) framework to co-develop, co-design, and implement interventions aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of youth. MINDS was “created with the express purpose of improving youth mental health in the London-Middlesex community”; a focus selected in collaboration with the broader collective – including youth with lived experience, family and friends, community mental health organizations, community- and hospital-based clinicians and direct care providers, among others.
This paper explores the inherent tensions and logistical requirements associated when with meaningful and authentic youth engagement in the research process. Adult ally researchers and leaders within MINDS were selected to engage in this work because of their dedication and commitment to the Y-PAR process, placing MINDS in a unique position to truly invest in youth participation in all aspects of the research process from ideation to implementation and assessment. All prototypes (solutions) highlighted in this paper provide insight into how the Y-PAR process functions in a space of social innovation, where youth are viewed as the experts and creators of change.
Speaking as a youth researcher working with MINDS, I came to this work with a passion for mental health but limited professional experience.
“I was mentored by adult ally lab members who assisted me as to develop the skills necessary to be work in a research space. They provided me the opportunity to not only engage in tasks typically delegated to research assistants, but to acknowledge my personal experience as the needed expertise – an invaluable component of the work we do. I have worked alongside all members of our team to help determine the direction of the work we do and have been provided the support necessary to bring to life work I am passionate about, motivated by, and can see the importance from a youth perspective. Besides the more practical skills that I’ve gained through mentorship; I have also formed strong and supportive relationships with the adult allies in our lab, and as a direct result of my work in this lab I feel greater efficacy and self-confidence.
The co-authors of this paper memorialize the lead author, Dr. Eugenia Canas, pictured third from left in the above photo, who sadly passed away during the development of this paper. Eugenia will forever be remembered as a champion of youth engagement in the work that directly involved and impact them, and as a brilliant and loving person by all who knew her.
Citation: Canas, E., Booth, R., Pervez, R., Cook, A., Taylor-Gates, M., Oudshoorn, A., Norman, R., Hunt, R., & MacDougall, A. G. (2023) is out on The experience of youth-participatory action research in a social innovation lab: A methodological and organizational approach.
Action Research, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14767503231205238
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