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Global Youth


An interdisciplinary research centre that examines what it means to grow up in a global world


Archive for the 'Youth project' Category

New ESRC funded project: The impact of coastal towns on young people’s life chances across the lifecourse

By UCL Global Youth, on 29 September 2022

We are pleased to announce that we have received funding from the ESRC to expand our research on young people living in coastal towns. Starting in January 2023, our Director (Avril Keating) will work together with Professor Claire Cameron, Dr Stephen Jivraj and Dr Emily Murray to conduct a 3 year, mixed method study of young lives in coastal towns.

What is the new study about?    This larger project examines the ways in which growing up in a coastal town can impact on young people’s life chances; that is, their likelihood of having good outcomes in adulthood in terms of education, work, housing, and health and wellbeing. We focus on coastal towns as some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK are now in coastal areas. Coastal towns have attracted a lot of attention in recent UK policy debates, and these discussions often raise concerns about the future of young people in these towns, largely because of the limited educational and employment opportunities. Despite this, there is very little research on the impact of growing up in a coastal town on young people’s experiences, attitudes, or life chances. This project will address this gap by looking at the spatial inequalities in life chances experienced by contemporary coastal youth, as well as change over the life course (as these young people get older) and change over time (ie: intergenerational differences in experiences and outcomes).

Our research questions:   More specifically, this project will address four key questions:

  1. (a) Does growing up in coastal towns, compared to similarly deprived areas in England and Wales, impact on the life chances of young people? (b) Do these inequalities in life chances persist over the life course or narrow in later age?
  2. What are the environmental mechanisms linking growing up in a coastal town to adverse life chances in adulthood?
  3. What personal attributes or experiences can help mitigate the initial drawback of growing up in a coastal town (e.g. parental support, residential mobility, or aspiration)?
  4. What interventions could improve the life chances of young people in coastal communities, based (a) on the results of quasi-experimental quantitative methods and (b) on coastal residents’ own views?

Our research methods:   We will address these questions using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative analysis draws on longitudinal survey data from three different generations that allow us to compare the outcomes of adolescents from the 1970s, the 1980s and the 2000s. These cohort studies enable us to consider: change over the life course (as respondents grow up and move into later adulthood); change over time (inter-generational differences); and changes in geography (intra-generational differences between coastal and non-coastal youth). We can also use these data to test potential policy solutions by applying quasi-experimental quantitative methods.

The project also includes a qualitative strand that will produce original data with current residents of coastal towns. In 6 coastal towns in England and Wales we will talk to younger and older residents about their experiences of growing up in coastal towns and their views about the opportunities and aspirations for young people in the town. Residents will also be asked for their views of what their town needs to do to improve the life chances of young people. Change over time will be further examined by comparing youth aspirations from today with those compiled in the NCDS 1969 archive of student essays.

Part of this strand will be completed using co-production methods that involve recruiting, training, and supporting young people to become Young Researchers in their community. We will also use arts-and place-based methods such as postcard-making, walking interviews, life maps and ethnocartographic methods. For these activities, we will partner with Young Advisors and LivingMaps Network.

Planned impact and outputs:   The findings from these analyses will bring new insights to academic debates as well as new policy proposals for public discussions about place-based disparities in health, wellbeing, employment, and education. Our findings will thus contribute to recent discussions about Levelling Up and addressing regional inequalities (HM Govt, 2022) as well as longer-standing discussions about equal opportunities to life chances (Field, 2010) and health inequalities (CMO, 2021). While various reports have identified the areas of concern, few advanced analyses or youth-focused solutions have been offered, and we expect that this project can contribute to filling these gaps. Local policymakers and practitioners will also benefit from a deeper understanding of how their younger and older residents view their town currently, and how they wish their town to develop in the future.

Find out more about our pilot projects: This new project builds on two pilot projects that we conducted in 2021 (funded by IOE SIB Seed Funding) and 2022 (funded by UCL Grand Challenges). To find out more about these pilots, check out our previous blog posts:


Intergenerational perspectives on growing up in coastal towns: a new project on coastal youth experiences

By UCL Global Youth, on 8 April 2022

By Rachel Benchekroun (Research Assistant, TCRU/CGY) and Pippa Curtin (Voice and influence co-ordinator, North East Lincolnshire Council)

Living in a coastal town in the UK offers unique opportunities, but research shows there are increased risks of poor outcomes in health, education and employment (CMO 2021, HOL 2019, Agarwal et al. 2018). Geographical isolation, limited transport networks and the decline of fishing and heavy industries since the 1970s have been key factors.

Our new project builds on earlier work led by Dr Avril Keating (Centre for Global Youth) with young people in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, and asks about growing up in coastal towns today compared with earlier, more prosperous, eras. We are co-producing the new study with young people and community groups, bringing together residents of different generations to explore their experiences of growing up in North East Lincolnshire. How has life changed in their coastal towns since the postwar ‘boom’ years, and how has this shaped young people’s experiences of growing up? What do residents of different generations see as the challenges for young people in coastal towns, and how might these be overcome?

Co-producing knowledge

We will also explore how co-production methodologies can facilitate intergenerational dialogue on these issues, and we’ll seek to develop shared understandings. UCL researchers, national organisation Young Advisors and NE Lincolnshire Council are excited to develop our collaborative work. This month, we’re training a group of young people as young researchers. Through a series of workshops, we’re working together to design and carry out research with young and older residents.

As a team, we’re developing innovative participatory methods, including community events to host group discussions, in-depth one-to-one interviews using potographic and mapping methods, and walking tours of Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Walking tours will offer opportunities not only for learning about local heritage, but also for finding out about future developments and sharing visions and aspirations. We aim to capture participants’ stories, reflections and ideas by recording conversations and taking photographs during our walks.

We’ll bring participants together to discuss and debate the challenges young people face growing up in coastal towns, and to share ideas for how these should be tackled. Together, we’ll make a plan to share our findings with local and regional stakeholders, such as the Greater Grimsby Board (responsible for overseeing the Grimsby Masterplan), decision-makers from NE Lincs Children’s Services and Adults’ Services, and the Coastal Communities Alliance. Our young researchers will play a key role in sharing findings from this research project. We want to ensure that policymakers are taking account of young people’s views in shaping the future of their towns.

Project partners and funders

Thomas Coram Research Unit, part of UCL Social Research Institute, is delighted to have been awarded funding for this project by UCL Grand Challenges Special Initiatives (under the ‘Intergenerational Dynamics’ theme), as well as additional funding from the Office of the Pro-Vice-Provost (UK). The funding will enable us to build relationships with a range of partners, including researchers at the University of Lincoln. Led by Prof Claire Cameron, and supported by Niccola Hutchinson-Pascal of the Co-Production Collective, we’ve started sharing ideas about co-production with Dr Anna Tarrant and Debbie Taylor of the Grimsby Dads Collective, participatory heritage projects with Prof Carenza Lewis, and heath inequalities in rural areas with Prof Mark Gussy. We’re keen to build on existing partnerships and look forward to developing new partnerships with local and national arts, heritage and community organisations and employers interested in our research topic, including Onside (currently developing Grimsby’s new Horizon Youth Zone centre) and Associated British Ports. This project will run from March – 31 October 2022.

Adolescence and Belonging in Medieval Europe, c.1000–c.1250: A new British Academy Project

By UCL Global Youth, on 11 November 2021

Guest post by Dr Emily Ward, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History at UCL

The two and a half centuries between c.1000 and c.1250 were years of religious, socio-economic, legal and political change across the European continent. Many of these changes directly affected the lives of young people. Expanding urban centres brought increasing opportunities for work, education and social activities. New monastic orders turned to adolescents and youths to invest in their vision and participate in their efforts. The introduction of greater definition and additional restrictions around inheritance, wardship and legal majority altered aspects of rites of passage. My current project, funded by the British Academy (PF20\100057), seeks to illuminate how adolescents navigated the transition to adulthood at this time of wider societal change across medieval Europe. I adopt a comparative methodology to examine the experiences of young men roughly aged between twelve and twenty-five across four different environments: knightly (young squires and knights), monastic (adolescent novices), urban (students and apprentices) and clerical (non-monastic religious).

Pairing adolescence with the politicized concept of belonging draws attention to the impact of change on young people from different backgrounds and social statuses. That adolescence is culturally and socially constructed will hardly be news to those reading the Centre for Global Youth’s blog, but the historical significance of this stage of life is perhaps less widely appreciated. Adolescence is still viewed as something of a modern ‘phenomenon’ even though, both today and in the past, these are years which are pivotal to understanding how belonging is ‘constructed across one’s lifespan’ (Lähdesmäki et al., 2016).

Across the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, adolescence was recognised as a crucial time for forming social bonds, moulding expectations of conduct, determining personality and influencing moral development. During these years, young people often learnt, developed and practiced the customs and skills deemed appropriate to their place in society. Tensions between familial expectations and an individual’s personal will can be brought into sharper focus during adolescence, a time when many young people left home or made decisions regarding the communities and social groups within which they ‘belonged’. When John, the adolescent son of a knight from Northampton, defied his parents’ wishes to join the small Franciscan community in his hometown in the opening decades of the thirteenth century, he did so by publicly communicating his desire to belong to the brethren instead of to his family (De adventu fratrum, ed. Little, 1951).

In addition to exploring adolescent belonging from a personal perspective, my project also considers facets of political and institutional belonging, while remaining aware of the need for flexibility to encompass the often overlapping and intertwined nature of these two aspects. Because adolescence was deemed to be a time when young people could still be moulded by those around them, adolescents often faced constraints on their speech, actions and behaviour. I will be considering questions such as: how did different areas of medieval society attempt to exclude (or include) young men? How did adults exert control over adolescents’ social, romantic and sexual relationships, their physical and psychological development, and their life choices and independence? And what can we determine of adolescent acceptance, or resentment, of the political, legal or institutional restrictions and expectations imposed upon them?

Examining adolescent experiences and notions of adolescence throughout medieval Europe poses several challenges. Participatory research – a crucial aspect of modern youth studies – is, of course, impossible when centring on the lives of young people who lived several centuries ago. Consulting a wide variety of surviving sources helps overcome this by shedding light on different aspects of adolescence over the period. Letters and autobiographical writings recall some of the conflicting expectations and social pressures adolescents confronted. Chroniclers and biographers stress adolescence’s significance as an educationally formative phase of life when young men learnt their roles in a military environment, often testing themselves against their peers. Collections of exempla furnish a range of moralising tales and cautionary stories of young adolescents in monastic communities which can be revealing of adult attempts to regulate adolescent behaviour. Similar efforts to influence and control young people’s sense of ‘belonging’ can also be observed in pedagogical tracts which present ideals of adolescent conduct. Literary works further augment this impression through representations of fictional adolescent lives which were intended to resonate with the experiences and emotions of their audiences.

Examining the multifaceted ways in which ideas about belonging entwined with concepts of adolescence and adolescent experience provides a valuable lens through which to consider young people’s place in medieval society, elucidating facets of wider societal change between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries.

About the author:  Dr Emily Joan Ward is a medieval historian and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow based in the Department of History at UCL. Her first monograph, Royal Childhood and Child Kingship: Boy Kings in England, Scotland, France and Germany, c.1050–1262, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press (2022). Her research interests include life cycle and gender, rulership and authority, and documentary culture and historical writing.

Youth attitudes towards mobility and migration: Exploring the dynamics of globalisation in coastal communities

By UCL Global Youth, on 5 November 2018

This project is funded by UCL Grand Challenges’ GCCU strand, and led by Avril Keating (CGY), Johanna Waters (Geography) and Claire Cameron and Abigail Knight (TCRU).

The aim of this project is to identify research methods and cross-disciplinary intersections that will give us greater insight into how the dynamics of globalisation are shaping youth aspirations and attitudes in coastal communities in England. Coastal towns are of particular interest because the dynamics of globalisation mean they are experiencing greater inward flows (tourists, ex-Londoners seeking cheaper housing, EU migrants) and outward flows (young people leaving to access further study/ work). At the same time, many of these towns are struggling to attract the kind of resources (e.g. good teachers, new jobs, transport investment etc.) that enable young people and coastal communities to flourish.

We will focus in particular on the impact of these dynamics on young people’s attitudes towards, and aspirations for, mobility and migration. It is often assumed that young people are highly mobile. This is a life stage in which young people become more independent and, it is assumed, start to explore new aspects of their communities and countries without assistance from adults. However, contemporary youth are doing this at a time when their communities are changing rapidly, through a combination of: cuts to youth services and transport links; inward migration of immigrants; and the closure of high street shops (which removes both job and leisure opportunities and spaces for young people).

Through our previous research, we believe that there are many unexplored tensions, contradictions, and inequalities in young people’s access to, and attitudes towards, mobility and migration. In this project, therefore, we will examine how new cross-disciplinary connections and new research methods might shed more light on these tensions.

Project Objectives

Our goals are to:
1. Bring together researchers from across UCL to exchange knowledge about the different definitions and theories of belonging, community, mobility, and migration that are being used in different disciplines (sociology, politics, psychology, geography and the Built environment);
2. Explore the relative merits of different data collection methods for tapping into youth experiences of and attitudes towards belonging, community, mobility and migration (e.g. walking interviews; local community ethnographies; arts and visual-based interventions; Big data and social media data);
3. Develop research instruments that enable us to test out how some of the suggested research methods could be used to address our research problem.
4. Consider the ethics of these different methods, particularly given the strictures of the new GDPR regulations; and
5. Lay the foundations for an interdisciplinary and mixed-method funding bid that allows us to extend this work and our understanding of young lives in coastal communities.

Action Plan and Timetable
To achieve these goals, we plan to:
1. February 2019: Conduct a preliminary literature review to identify the range of recent research on the impact of globalisation on coastal communities and key gaps in the field.
2. March 2019: Organise an inter-disciplinary Knowledge Exchange Workshop that brings together researchers from across UCL to share theories, methods, and research design ideas.
3. May 2019: Pilot 3 different methods of data collection in one coastal town, with young people aged 16-18.
4. June 2019: Organise an inter-disciplinary Dissemination and Reflection Workshop to report the results of the pilot and refine our methods.
5. July 2019: Produce a short project report and blog posts