There has been increasing donor investment in research to identify the needs of particularly vulnerable youth – or youth in risk situations – in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Youth in LMICs who are in risk situations often include, for example: working youth, trafficked youth, youth living outside of family care, homeless youth, young people affected by abuse or neglect, unaccompanied minors, including displaced, refugee and asylum-seeking youth. While there exists guidance on the safe and ethical conduct of research with children, there remain important gaps to guide research specifically with young people affected by difficult or abusive circumstances. Furthermore, current ethical protocols include relatively little guidance on youth-appropriate approaches to participatory or co-production methods with young people in different risk contexts. Co-production methods are recognised for their benefits for youth themselves, for researchers and especially for action-oriented intervention development. The ethics of participatory research is particularly challenging because current understanding of the mechanisms and influence of co-produced research is still somewhat limited, particularly among marginalised groups in LMICs, such as exploited youth. This programme of work will identify ethical challenges and practices in co-produced research (online and offline) with youth (ages 15-24) to carry out studies with young people (ages 10-24) in risk situations. It will include collaborative pilot testing of the guidance in LMICs to assess and revise essential components. Findings will inform ethical and safeguarding guidance to promote research that is conducted in safe, ethical and collaborative ways about youth affected by risk situations. Further, findings will demonstrate how co-production methods can empower youth and ensure their voices are heard in safe and respectful ways. Throughout this project, the terminology 'young people in risk situations', rather than 'at-risk' will be used to highlight how circumstances are underlying determinants of risks.
Research team: Professor Cathy Zimmerman, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Dr Nambusi Kyegombe, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine