Participatory Tools


Purpose: This project was developed by graduate students at UC Berkeley as part of Professor Malo Hutson’s Community Development Studio class. The class is working to assist The California Endowment, California’s largest health foundation, in determining how to best support North Richmond in becoming a healthier community. Youth represent a critical part of the North Richmond community, and it is important to understand their thoughts, concerns, and perspectives on community matters in order make North Richmond a healthier place for all. In order to have sustainable healthy communities, we have to ensure that youth have the opportunity to be healthy in the first place. In other words, we have to create the conditions necessary for their health. Access to healthy housing, fresh and affordable food options, and safe streets and places to play are basic necessities. The UC Berkeley class has designed a series of hands-on and interactive activities through which youth can participate to share their stories and perspectives on life in North Richmond. Specifically, activities are designed to capture youth thoughts and opinions on their neighborhood physical and social environment, as well as their food environment.

Design: The following activities are designed to learn more about youths’ own thoughts, concerns, and opinions about issues that shape health their community. They represent potential options for how youth can be critically engaged to ensure their voices feature prominently in efforts to improve health and opportunity in North Richmond:

  • Photovoice: Youth are trained in basic photography and invited to take pictures of aspects of their community that mean something to them. Youth then select their favorite photos and narrate them—telling their own story—with guidance from a facilitator. Youth will also discuss their photos in groups. Final photos can be arranged for a community art exhibit, as well as for a gathering for community and elected leaders to discuss how to address concerns raised by the youth in their work.
  • Behavior Mapping and Narrative Walks: Youth are provided with large print out maps of their community and invited to draw walking routes (for example, how they walk to school), and place points (stickers or pins) on all the places that are important to them (for example, a park). Then, youth are invited to give facilitators a guided (and video-taped) tour of their important routes and places, telling their own story about their community. The maps and narrative tours can be compiled into a mini-documentary that can be shared with community and elected leaders. Additionally, identified locations and routes can be developed into community-specific GIS layers that community residents and partners can use for planning purposes.
  • Discussion Groups: Small groups of youth are led in a discussion about their thoughts, perspectives, and ideas about North Richmond and how to improve it. Youth photos from the Photovoice project can be used as discussion starters.

Results: A major goal is to demonstrate what is important to youth, why it matters, and how The California Endowment can best support North Richmond youth. Moreover, each of these activities has the primary objective to promote critical consciousness among youth and drive meaningful social and political action to improve their daily lives. Findings and products (for example, photos, videos, and maps) from these activities can be combined and used for development of an interactive website with social media capabilities for online youth organizing, as well as a formal report. Final findings will be compiled and shared with residents of North Richmond and local groups and partner organizations, including The California Endowment.

Click here to download the participatory tools guide: Participatory Research with Youth


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