This brief primer provides an overview of youth participatory action research (YPAR), a promising approach for elevating youth voices in mentoring programs to create positive change.
As mentoring programs seek to develop more equitable practices and contribute to societal change, it is important for youth to address conditions of societal inequality that they experience in their personal lives, since they are best positioned to identify solutions. Youth-centered relationships, a cornerstone of mentoring programs, are also a key component of YPAR. This provides a valuable foundation of shared values to build upon for programs that want to incorporate YPAR into their practices. In generating research evidence for social change in which youth learn about and lead change for social issues that impact youths’ lives, YPAR promotes various stages. One stage is relationship building and topic selection. In this stage, youth and adults interact in developing initial relationships and ground rules for working together. Youth then identify an issue that is impacting their lives within the program or their community. Topics could include challenges within mentoring relationships, youth experiences of racism. or a need within their local community, such as greater access to health foods. A second stage in YPAR is research capacity building, in which youth learn what research is and the various methods used to gather information. In this stage they also discuss with adults techniques they would like to use in their research project. Other stages in YPAR are data collection and analysis, action and dissemination, and sustainability. This report then discusses how YPAR can be integrated into mentoring programs, as well as the benefits and challenges of incorporating YPAR within mentoring programs.