29 November 2023
Researching with peers: A volunteer’s journey with Explore
Explore is a program that supports a partnership between young people, youth practitioners and researchers to strengthen meaningful youth participation in research and enhance the relevance and responsiveness of research and post-research outcomes to young people and their communities.
With initial funding support from the Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies (CRIS), the Explore program has provided two cohorts of young people with training and development opportunities, industry connections and practical learning to support their participation in research, consultation and evaluation. Michelle Lim has been an Explore youth researcher since 2022 and has already had her hands full with opportunities.
Michelle discovered CMY and Explore in an “amazing accident.” Michelle was in her second year of studying a Bachelor of Global Studies at Monash University and looking to expand her experience. After a bit of research and googling, Michelle came across the Explore program and applied instantly.
“Before that, I hadn’t heard about CMY. I didn’t know what CMY was,” says Michelle.
“It really did align with me and my own identity as a migrant. I’m also multicultural and bilingual, so I thought that CMY sounded like everything I was looking for.”
Michelle stressed that the success of Explore and its 2022-24 cohort is the young researchers’ tight-knit friendships and closeness.
“I don’t think the program would have gone as well as it did if not for the group of young people who despite coming from different backgrounds, had a lot in common,” says Michelle.
“Without the group, I don’t think I would have enjoyed Explore nearly as much as I did.”
Michelle and her colleagues in the Explore program were given specialised training to prepare them for their new roles. Covering topics like research ethics, how to work with other researchers and communication skills, Michelle thought that the training provided by CMY and its research partners was crucial and supportive.
“The training that we had to go through was very helpful because a lot of us didn’t have any research background,” Michelle says.
Following training and induction, CMY connects Explore youth researchers with organisational partners and their experienced researchers. Michelle joined a collaborative project with researchers from Deakin University and the Young and Resilient Research Centre, a part of Western Sydney University, entitled the Enhancing Digital Participation Amongst Refugee and Migrant Background Youth project. Through the project Michelle has gained practical research opportunities as well as mentorship and guidance.
Recently, Michelle also co-facilitated at the Youth Co-Research Masterclass series. Representing youth researchers and the Explore program, Michelle presented her own advice from personal experience directly to organisations and researchers on how they can engage meaningfully with young people in their work.
“The series has been pretty good,” says Michelle.
“The participants are quite diverse. Each masterclass has brought a new discussion. I’ve found it really interesting and being able to learn from different people has been great.”
The masterclass presented practical strategies and tools from the Youth Co-research Toolkits that Explore youth researchers were directly involved in creating alongside CRIS research partners. The toolkits act as a practical guide for researchers looking to co- develop, create and work with young people in meaningful ways. Michelle thinks the toolkits are invaluable for researchers who want to fully understand the different ways in which they can approach co-research with young people.
“It makes sure that you’re staying true to the purpose of your research and different things you might need to consider,” Michelle says.
“For instance, power dynamics and the importance of embedding peer-to-peer learning throughout the research, particularly in the early stages and also understanding young people’s perceptions of their current capabilities and skills I think is also a really important one.”