The UNESCO Youth as Researchers (YAR) Policy Conference on COVID-19, on 25 March 2022, will serve as a complement and follow-up to the YAR Knowledge-Sharing Meeting (held in October 2021). The conference will serve as an opportunity for the YAR participants, along with Heads of State and Ministers responsible for youth, to discuss priority commitments and policy solutions that respond to the ways that COVID-19 has impacted youth. The Conference will take place in a hybrid format, both virtually and on-site. Ultimately, the Conference aims to launch a multi-stakeholder global coalition to address the impact of the pandemic on youth and to secure tangible commitments to a Global Grant Scheme to sustainably support youth-led research and youth-led solutions to the crisis.
Over 16 months, 34 youth-led research teams have been conducting research with youth to explore the impact of the pandemic on them: from mental health to human rights; from learning to livelihoods; and from youth-led action to the role of technology, the YAR has been yielding findings on those aspects of the lives of youth that have been significantly affected. These were presented, at a preliminary stage, during the YAR Knowledge Sharing Meeting (5-7 October 2021) where the young researchers were able to debate and fine-tune their work through exchanges with technical and policy experts from government, academia, civil society and the UN System.
The UNESCO Youth as Researchers (YAR) Policy Conference on COVID-19 will provide a safe space for dialogue between young researchers and Heads of State and Ministers responsible for youth. It will be informed by a set of pragmatic and actionable policy recommendations that stem from the youth-led research and the YAR Knowledge-Sharing meeting. These will be the basis for dialogue and for determining priority commitments to be pursued further, both nationally and internationally, to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on and with youth.
After this conference, UNESCO aims to establish a Global Grant Scheme to promote, strengthen and scale-up youth-led initiatives with social impact for post-pandemic recovery. It would provide support for two main categories of youth-led initiatives: youth-led research and youth-led grassroots actions.
The Youth As Researchers (YAR) global initiative on COVID-19 connects and engages with young people to conduct research on the impacts of COVID-19 on young people and the responses young people have implemented to tackle these. UNESCO and the UNESCO Chairs at the National University of Ireland Galway and Penn State University lead a consortium of youth-led or youth-related actors to support the research through training, mentoring and coordination.
The idea for Youth as Researchers (YAR) first evolved from work being done on empathy in education, through the realization that researchers who can connect with their research topic can bring an added dimension and value to conducting research. When looking at research topics that affect young people, young researchers are well-placed to make this connection and gain an insightful understanding of young people’s experiences and actions.
The program has been designed to give young people the skills they need to conduct credible research based on sound methods and ethical practices. YAR supports young people through training, mentoring and giving advice during the research process to empower them to choose the research topics they want to investigate, design the research and then collect and analyze data. The researchers then use their research to deliver key messages.
Young people aged 18-35 have formed research teams that answer these and other questions. This research is designed by young people, conducted by young people and about young people. The youth researchers will collaborate with a group of like-minded young people, receive training and be supported by a team coordinator to assist with the research.
Five themes define the overall scope of investigations:
- use of technology,
- human rights and
- youth taking action.
A global survey was conducted to determine, within this context, the key issues of concern for young people. Each research team have utilized this information to select their topic, and from there design their research.