Celebrating the launch of the Voices of Refugee Youth research publications

Celebrating the launch of the Voices of Refugee Youth research publications

By Jigsaw and REUK

We’re delighted to announce the launch of the Voices of Refugee Youth research publications, which represent the culmination of a four-year research study.

Led by Jigsaw and Refugee Education UK – in partnership with UNHCR and funded by Dubai Cares – this research initiative focused on building the evidence base for post-primary refugee education, while also increasing young refugees’ access to and representation within education research. It acts as a prototype research study for GERE: the first of a series of research studies which position refugees at the centre of evidence-building.

The full set of research publications from Voices of Refugee Youth can be found here. This includes: the full research report; an executive summary of the findings and recommendations; two youth-authored education advocacy reports, one focused on Pakistan and the other on Rwanda; a toolkit for conducting participatory research; and a policy brief.

On Wednesday 18th October, to celebrate the launch of the research publications, Jigsaw and REUK hosted a webinar to share the findings from Voices of Refugee Youth and reflect on its participatory methodology. We were also delighted to be joined by Cirenia Chávez Villegas from UNHCR and Salim Salamah from FCDO. If you were unable to join us and would like to listen to the webinar, then please follow the link below.

Reflections on co-authorship in academic research

Reflections on co-authorship in academic research

By Rebecca Daltry

Participation is at the heart of the Voices of Refugee Youth study. From the outset, we have sought to find ways in which the youth researchers in Pakistan and Rwanda and Jigsaw/REUK staff in the UK can all make valuable contributions to every stage of the research process. Recently, this has involved the co-authorship of a journal article (currently under review) reflecting on the experience of delivering a participatory, youth-centred research study. This blog outlines the learnings which emerged from the process of writing the article, in the hope they can inform other efforts to increase diversity and representation in academic literature.

How did we approach co-authorship?

Producing a co-authored journal article has been outlined as a key output of the study since its inception. We began by determining the authorship team. Since it would not be feasible to include all 31 youth researchers in the team, they were invited to submit an application. Four youth researchers (two from Pakistan and Rwanda respectively, split evenly by gender) were selected, based on the quality of their application, experience of producing written reports and level of written English. They were joined by a sub-group of the Jigsaw/REUK researchers who work on the Voices of Refugee Youth study. 

To begin the process of writing the article, the youth researchers were sent a series of questions/guiding prompts related to the article’s topic, in response to which they each produced several paragraphs of writing. This stage was collaborative – the Jigsaw/REUK team worked closely with the youth researchers by providing feedback and suggestions, and their writing went through several stages of revision. 

The final written output from each youth researcher was then used as the foundation for the first draft of the article. The Jigsaw/REUK team undertook a process of linking together the different points and structuring the article accordingly. Having threaded together the argument, based on the youth researchers’ contributions, the Jigsaw/REUK team then added the framing material for the article and wrote any additional text required to complete the draft. As with all academic articles, this then went through several stages of editing – including a review completed by the youth researchers – before a final draft was submitted to the selected journal. 

What did we learn from this approach?

While this approach enabled collaboration and written input from all authors, it was not without challenges. This arose primarily from the asynchronous nature of the different written contributions. While youth researchers contributed the main perspective of the article (through the production of written paragraphs on key topics), the Jigsaw/REUK team were tasked with threading together the different contributions and structuring the overall argument. This led to conversations over how best to frame the pre-written content. Quoting it verbatim seemed the most authentic way to represent each youth researcher’s voice and perspective. However, treating the youth researcher’s writing as quasi-interview data seemed to diminish their role as co-authors. Moreover, a certain amount of editing and combining of voices was required to produce a cohesive overarching argument. 

These questions about editing together different written contributions were linked to discussions about the article’s tone of voice. Understandably, all authors have different styles of writing, and co-authorship is always a collaborative process in order to achieve a blended voice. This is exacerbated when the co-authors have varying levels of proficiency in the chosen language (in this case, English). Creating a cohesive tone of voice for the article therefore required a certain level of editing and threading together of different voices. However, there was wariness of editing the various contributions to the article to the extent that certain voices (particularly those more confident in writing in English) were at risk of dominating others.

These debates about collaboration and voice ultimately centred around the question of what constitutes authorship. At the beginning of the process, written authorship was primary. The youth researchers wrote paragraphs on the key topics of the article, which were treated as foundational to the argument. However, by the end of the editing process and the many discussions about the cohesion of all authors’ voices, we began to understand authorship as a broader process. In particular, spoken contribution and collaborative discussion was viewed as much a part of authorship as written contribution. These forms of contribution were seen to enable the representation of all perspectives, even when the article itself presented one cohesive voice. To underpin this representation, we also chose to include a selection of quotations from all authors within the article: this was viewed as a way to highlight individual voices and show their contribution to the collective whole. As a result, a careful balance of individuality and cohesion was struck in our approach.

What would we recommend for future approaches to co-authorship?

Overall, the process of co-authorship was a highly positive experience. It not only sought to enrich a historically inaccessible academic space, but also facilitated greater dialogue and discussion around what constitutes representation. This will serve as a strong basis on which to approach the dissemination of findings for the Voices of Refugee Youth study, as it enters its final year. 

Specifically, the process of facilitating and debating co-authorship provided two key learnings for future approaches, which we hope can be of benefit to others publishing in the academic space. Firstly, we would recommend the recognition that authorship need not be limited to written contribution. Processes which enable discussion and spoken contribution can help to facilitate co-authorship amongst a team in which there are differing levels of proficiency in the language of communication. 

Secondly, and relatedly, co-authorship can be strengthened by a structured and regular process of discussion and feedback. In the process of creating and refining the article, we found that the greatest progress was made when all authors were involved in responding to queries and contributing to the draft in a structured manner. This helped to facilitate a process through which each author could feed in their perspective and draw upon their specific skill set. Placing a high level of emphasis on discussion should therefore be foundational to enable equal contribution across the team. 

Co-authorship has been a crucial means through which to explore participation in all stages of the research process. The lessons we have learned and recommendations we have proposed are not exhaustive, and we recognise that our approach has been in itself exploratory. We therefore welcome feedback from others seeking to engage in discussions around the implementation of participatory approaches to carrying out and communicating research.

Reflections on using a youth-centred methodology

Reflections on using a youth-centred methodology

By Katrina Barnes

Previous blog posts have discussed the value of using a youth-centred approach to research and how to use this approach effectively. In this blog post, we will build on these previous posts by reflecting on our experience of using the youth-centred approach. With the project now in its third year, we have learnt a lot about the successes and challenges that adopting a youth-centred approach can entail. We can also begin to use this experience to suggest ways of honing this way of working in future projects.


A key benefit of the youth-centred approach has been its facilitation of mutual learning experiences. The youth researchers at the centre of the initiative have had the opportunity to develop core research skills through an accredited course, which they report has increased their confidence and future employment prospects. In parallel, the Jigsaw and REUK researchers have gained valuable new insight into young refugees’ educational experiences, which has been significantly enhanced by the fact that the young people themselves are collecting the data and telling their communities’ stories first-hand.

Through the youth-centred approach, some youth researchers have not only become voices for their communities, but also advocates for their communities. We have recently heard how some youth researchers have been using what they have learned during Voices of Refugee Youth to make the case for improving education for refugees at university conferences and events. This makes us even more excited to see what they are able to do after the final unit of the training course (due to run this year), a part of which will guide youth researchers through how to use research to advocate for change.

We have also been struck by the capacity of the youth-centred approach to enrich sector knowledge. Youth researchers report that being young community members helps them to gain the trust of young research participants during data collection. When participants feel confident that they will be fully understood, they are more likely to answer questions truthfully and fully, leading to higher quality data.

In addition, an important aspect of our youth-centred approach has been to collaborate with youth researchers in the presentation of research findings. A team of Jigsaw, REUK, and youth researchers has recently submitted the initiative’s first academic journal article for publication. Adding youth researcher voices to academic journals will increase young refugee representation across an historically exclusive and inaccessible space, and simultaneously enrich that space with new perspectives.


Despite its considerable potential, the youth researchers’ dual identity as both investigators and community members may introduce limitations to the youth-centred approach. These issues are sometimes hierarchical; youth researchers report that their perceived lower status due to their age has led to challenges to their authority during data collection, with some school principals insisting on youth researchers conducting interviews in their presence, therefore denying their participants confidentiality.

Other youth researchers have noted that they have had to remain extremely vigilant against data collection bias. While their deep contextual knowledge often helps them to connect with participants, there is also a risk that youth researchers will assume their participants’ meanings or inadvertently ask leading questions based on their own experience. This highlights the need for rigorous training to ensure that youth researchers are able to remain impartial during data collection.

Finally, while the youth-centred methodology enables youth researchers to have significantly more input into the initiative than enumerators in conventional research would, their lack of research knowledge and experience, especially at the beginning, has limited the extent to which they are able to take on decision-making roles within the research process. The Jigsaw and REUK team continues to consider this point carefully, particularly in light of different research deliverables that are due in the coming year. It is hoped that there will be greater scope for youth researchers to become involved in data analysis and presentation tasks, especially given that their skills and experience will have increased throughout the training process.

Final reflections

Occasional challenges aside, the youth-centred methodology has overall proven a highly successful and enriching approach. It has led to significant learning for all researchers involved, increased the quality of the data collected, and given youth researchers a springboard for creating meaningful, long-term impact within their communities. Our biggest lesson learnt so far is the paramount importance of quality training to ensure that youth researchers are properly prepared for their work. It is hoped that this solid foundation will also enable youth researchers to become increasingly active as decision-makers in the latter parts of the project, with a view to magnifying their voices further still.