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It's Just Research, Ep. 3: 'Using participatory research methods to amplify young people's voices', with Clare Coultas

The third episode of ‘It’s Just Research: Critically questioning the world we live in’ saw the podcast hosts talk to Dr Clare Coultas, Lecturer in Social Justice at the School of Education, Communication & Society, about her work on comprehensive sexuality education in Eastern Africa and her use of social psychological concepts to understand how young people feel like they belong in the world.

Starting her career in international development and humanitarian settings working in the fields of health, education, and child protection, Dr Coultas joined academia to delve deeper into young people’s needs, interests and priorities.

Interested in interventions aimed at young people, she tells co-hosts Dr Sara Black and Pippa Sterk how participatory methods lie at the core of her research. This means doing research in a way that is more collaborative and democratic than the more top-down traditional methods. There is also an activist element to participatory research: by developing a relationship with people in the community over a long period of time, she could more effectively work with them to understand what is important to them, and support the amplification of their voices.

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“Being a participatory researcher – those moments of being able to work with communities and people and develop those long-term relationships – that for me is the most fulfilling aspect of research.” Clare Coultas, Lecturer in Social Justice, School of Education, Communication & Society

For the past few years, Dr Coultas has been studying comprehensive sexuality education interventions in Eastern Africa. She talks about the many debates that exist, globally, on how best to teach young people about sex and relationships, ranging from abstinence to sex-positive approaches.

In her research, she found that many young people feel alienated by the messages promoted in educational interventions as these are predominantly developed by Western experts and based on Western knowledge frameworks, which makes adapting them to ‘other’ cultures enormously complex.

“The inherent cultural values can be tricky to factor into discussions about agency and sex and relationships, and we now know that the underlying individualism found in Western culture can have harmful effects on people who value themselves in more interdependent ways.” Clare Coultas, Lecturer in Social Justice, School of Education, Communication & Society

To open up discussions on these issues with , Dr Coultas has been working with young people in Eastern Africa and the UK to produce a comic, The So-Called Love, A Youth Perspective. She is currently leading consultations with young people to explore further how young people might potentially feel excluded from, or judged by messages in sex and relationship education.

In this episode, she explores other topics, too, including the importance of social psychology in her research approach, her recent special issue on the Social Psychology of Precarity, and the analytic tools that she uses in her research to capture the dynamic aspects of relationships and interactions between people.

In this story

Clare  Coultas

Clare Coultas

Lecturer in Social Justice

It’s Just Research, an ECS podcast

The It’s Just Research podcast demystifies research while offering a critical outlook onto the global 21st-century challenges we face. Bringing to light the behind-the-scenes of research,…

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