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Young Activists Research Project Update June 2019

We recruited six groups to take part in our research and all groups have given us permission to be named:

We wanted to work with these groups because they are led by and/or have lots of young people involved (roughly aged 18-29-ish) and include activism in the areas of indigenous rights, climate change, economic inequality, and feminist and queer rights. Our participating groups often address more than one issue, and activist efforts and memberships sometimes overlap.

Our interviews and participant observation with these six groups are providing fascinating insights about what issues young people see as the most urgent and the most effective ways to create change.

We write field notes from talking to participants and our observations of groups’ meetings/hui, campaigns/events/protests, social media, documentation and actions. These add to our understanding of how groups work collectively, which complements interviewees’ perceptions of how their groups operate.

Through the one-on-one interviews, we are gaining insights into participants’ sense of themselves as activists (including whether this is a term they use), their experiences within the groups, and how their background has shaped their political commitments. To date we have interviewed 68 young people about the catalysts for joining these groups, and the interviews are currently being coded. We’re using a thematic analysis to categorise excerpts from interview transcripts. Research team members and a research assistant enter the data into a database.

Some of the second interviews have already started with members of groups who were interviewed around this time last year. In these interviews, we are asking research participants to reflect on what’s happened in their group over the past year and what has sustained their involvement (or not). If you have particular questions you would like us to ask of the people in your group please let us know.

We have invited each group to present their vision for the future as a ‘living manifesto’ in whatever way they choose, which we hope might be useful for groups reviewing their vision statements, website messages, etc. We are interested in how groups collectively negotiate their vision and hope the living manifesto might provide an opportunity for us to see these negotiations in action. If groups give us permission, we plan to include these living manifestos on our website.

We are collecting media material relevant to the broad areas our six groups focus on, which will provide information about New Zealand’s cultural and political context over the three years of this Marsden-funded research. This material is diverse, including, news items, blogs, policies, radio interviews, youtube clips, etc.

We have started drafting 2 journal articles:

  1. about the different ways we negotiated research consent with groups, to inform universities’ ethics committees and hopefully make them more flexible.
  2. about the time pressures of activism.

We have also worked with groups to provide research support for various projects they are working on, including:

We will keep you updated on our progress – research is a slow process!

We really value your involvement in our research and welcome feedback on our blog–what you would like to see included and what would be most useful to you?

Karen Nairn, Carisa Showden, Judith Sligo, Joanna Kidman, and Kyle Matthews

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