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Making Scotland an ACE informed nation

Making Scotland an ACE informed nation

Continuing the conversation at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships

ResiliencebyDesign Research Innovation Lab

In this blog, we hear about the work of ResiliencebyDesign Research Innovation Lab, an interdisciplinary team of researchers committed to using applied, participatory research with young people. 

For more information about ResiliencebyDesign, their vision and projects, visit their website: or check out the overview video here (3 min)

Originally posted 23rd January 2019


“Where we conduct research as a method of moving hearts and minds to generate conversations that matter and lead to action”

The interdisciplinary ResiliencebyDesign (RbD) team is committed to applied, participatory research with youth to address the complex and interrelated problems of disasters, climate change, and conflict. Our projects combine capacity building with a range of research methodologies (e.g., arts-based, participatory video, digital storytelling, surveys). We believe in the potential of young people as resilience leaders and change makers. In partnership with youth, we use creative process, innovation and research to explore, connect, and seed new ideas and social change. Our goal is to develop and implement strategies, practices, and policies that improve local, national, and international disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

“It takes away this whole top down approach and it starts with participants and it works with participants to understand what they want to do and what their experiences are”

Creative Action Research Methodology and Process 

“It is the deep potential of research to be transformative in and of itself as a process when you can build in and incorporate capacity building and creatively understand what research is

Creative Action Research (CAR) combines participatory action research, visual and other arts-based research methodologies, and social innovation processes with participants and foregrounds the potential of creative process as a transformative tool in research. This approach combines visual storytelling, arts-based methodologies, capacity and skill-building, and social innovation within the research process to explore key research questions with participants. The CAR process is grounded in collaboration, critical reflection, and creative problem-solving and reflects a commitment to empowerment, action, and knowledge mobilization within and beyond research communities.

Our work is strength-based, centering on resilience as a process and our belief that the journey is as important as the destination. We combine research activities with skill and capacity building in areas of interest to participating youth (e.g., leadership, critical thinking, research, community engagement, social innovation processes), and work to generate and support effective youth-adult partnerships (YAPs). We are committed to effecting changes in how youth engage in policy and decisions that affect them and to co-creating opportunities with youth at local, regional, and national levels.

“Trust in the process: understand it’s going to be messy, it’s going to be complicated, and that is half the fun”

Data generation methods are designed to be creative and experiential, including methods such as PhotoVoice (Baker & Wang, 2006), digital stories (Fletcher & Mullett 2015), and participatory video (Plush 2016). These and other arts-based methods enhance critical reflection, challenge routine thinking, and facilitate the development of creative problem solving skills (Percy-Smith & Burns, 2013). They also emphasize empowerment and action (Conrad, 2004), and support knowledge mobilization (Diamond & Mullen, 1999; O’Donoghue, 2009).

“It actually allows for work to be meaningful not just this creation of publication or good work that we can read but actually changes lives”

Quality Youth Engagement

“And then how can we embed creative process in it and develop a process that actually reflects young people?  What do they need?  What do they experience?  What processes are going to support them to become leaders?” 

Various child participation and youth engagement theories and typologies have been developed (e.g. Lundy 2007, Shier, 2001; Thomas, 2007; Wong, Zimmerman & Parker, 2010) that generally coalesce around five core principles as outlined by Frank (2006): “(1) give youth responsibility and voice; (2) build youth capacities; (3) encourage youthful styles of working; (4) involve adults throughout the process; and (5) adapt the sociopolitical context.” This approach to youth engagement emphasizes the need for YAPs that acknowledge a mutuality of concerns and benefits wherein “[a]dults look to youth to provide legitimacy, on the ground knowledge and perspective, and cause-based passion” while youth want and expect support in the form of coaching, dialogue, and connections to resources and community leaders (Camino & Zeldin, 2002). YAPs encourage shared ownership in decision-making processes and the success and failure of the outcomes. For YAPs to succeed, both youth and adults require skills and knowledge that support sustained engagement and successful group dynamics (e.g., trust and team building, process facilitation, project management, leadership). To spark meaningful youth engagement and leadership to address complex issues requires transformative learning opportunities that support “a consciousness for critical learning and action, not only as citizens, but also as active agents of change in developing more sustainable futures” (Percy-Smith & Burns, 2013, p. 325). Percy-Smith and Burns (2013) and other transformative learning theorists (e.g., Mezirow, 1997) argue that to support young people understanding and addressing global dilemmas requires experiential, transformative learning approaches.

Gen Z and Climate Change is a current project exploring youth engagement in climate change action and disaster risk reduction. We are working to explore what we can learn from youth (ages 15-24) about what they experience as supporting (i.e., drivers) or impeding (i.e., barriers) their engagement in addressing these complex issues. This project is also empowering the youth involved to build from the barriers and drivers they have identified to develop a strategy for enhancing youth awareness and understanding of climate change and disaster risk reduction, contributing to their engagement as stakeholders and agents of change these spaces.

The RbD Lab has been working on a framework for youth engagement in the context of disaster recovery, disaster risk reduction and resilience building. The RbD Lab 4-P Framework emphasizes a youth-centric approach to youth engagement that is grounded in culture and context, and that emphasizes the value of inclusive, creative, and empowering processes to support transformative learning and action. It also recognizes the need to consider People, Place, and Purpose in the design and implementation of youth engagement strategies and actions. This framework is designed to emphasize: (1) the importance of knowledge co-production between youth and adult stakeholders (van Kerkhoff & Lebel, 2006); (2) triple loop learning (Peschl, 2007) that generates an understanding and questioning of the underlying social structures, dominant values and other constructs inherent in complex issues; (3) critical thinking and systems change thinking; and (4) skill development in creative thinking, improvisation and innovation. These characteristics of transformative learning are at the heart of social innovation processes and labs.

Young people, aged 10–24, represent 1.8 billion people, approximately 25 percent of the world’s population, the largest cohort of young people in our collective history (UN, 2018). This generation includes young leaders with ambition, ingenuity, and potential address these global challenges and build more resilient futures. Although historically overlooked and perceived as both vulnerable in the face of disasters and climate change (Mitchell, Tanner & Haynes, 2009), and at high risk in the context of human insecurity, young people are both willing and able to contribute to establishing more resilient communities (Peek, 2008). Furthermore, youth are less habitual problem-solvers, more willing to take risks, early adopters of technology and innovation, and have a creative, vibrant energy that can be harnessed for social change. To address the current realities of climate change and disasters, and the uncertain future that awaits young people, requires active and collaborative engagement with young people.

Project Examples:

The RbD lab has been actively developing, applying, and refining the above principles since its inception. Below are a few of our more recent projects.

The “Youth Voices Rising: Recovery & Resilience in Wood Buffalo” project recognizes the critical role of youth in their communities and aims to strengthen youth engagement and decision-making influence in the aftermath of the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire disaster recovery efforts in Northern Alberta. YVR is working with young people (age 14-24) and youth-centred organizations through a Creative Action Research process supported by social media, creative arts and visual storytelling. The project focuses on learning from and empowering youth affected by the wildfire disaster. For instance, the RbD Lab ran the youth-driven, community-wide #youthvoiceswb campaign in 2017 on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram &Twitter that compelled more than 350 youth to creatively answer the question “What would you do to make your community better?” Their answers are connecting to action on issues they identified as important to them: transportation, education, volunteerism, health & wellbeing and participation & activities (view the report at

The Youth Creating Disaster Recovery & Resilience (YCDR­2) was a cross-border initiative aimed at learning from and with disaster-affected youth aged 13-22 in the communities of Joplin, Missouri, in the United States, and Slave Lake, Calgary and High River, Alberta, in Canada. The YCDR2 project used flexible, youth-centric, arts-based research workshops to learn from and foster the inclusion of young people as active and able contributors to disaster recovery and resilience. The project has contributed to a more refined understanding of what places, spaces, people, and activities youth perceive as supportive of their recovery from disasters. It also informs knowledge and practice of research with youth in the post-disaster recovery space and the challenges and opportunities of establishing youth-community-academic partnerships.

Dr. Robin Cox, Laura H. V. Wright, Tiffany Hill, Dr. Tamara Plush, Dr. Sarah Fletcher, Nigel Deans  Contact us at:

Learn more about the RbD Lab and stay up-to-date

Website:  Twitter:





Baker, T. A., & Wang, C. C. (2006). Photovoice: Use of a participatory action research method to explore the chronic pain experience in older adults. Qualitative health research16(10), 1405-1413.

Camino, L., & Zeldin, S. (2002). From periphery to center: Pathways for youth civic engagement in the day-to-day life of communities. Applied Developmental Science6(4), 213-220.

Conrad, D. (2004). Popular theatre: Empowering pedagogy for youth. Youth TheatreJournal, 18(1), 87-106

Diamond, C. T. P., & Mullen, C. A. (1999). The postmodern educator. Arts-based inquiries and teacher development. New York: Peter Lang.

Engeström, Y., Miettinen, R., & Punamäki, R. L. (Eds.). (1999). Perspectives on activity theory. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Lundy, L. (2007). ‘Voice’is not enough: conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. British educational research journal33(6), 927-942.

Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, (74), 5-12.

Mitchell, T., Tanner, T., & Haynes, K. (2009). Children as agents of change for DRR: Lessons from El Salvador and Philippines. Brighton: Children in a Changing Climate and International Development Studies.

O’Donoghue, P. (2009). Research methods for sports performance analysis. Routledge: London.

Peek, L. (2008). Children and disasters: Understanding vulnerability, developing capacities, and promoting resilience—An introduction. Children Youth and Environments18(1), 1-29.

Percy-Smith, B., & Burns, D. (2013). Exploring the role of children and young people as agents of change in sustainable community development. Local Environment18(3), 323-339.

Peschl, M. F. (2007). Triple-loop learning as foundation for profound change, individual cultivation, and radical innovation. Construction processes beyond scientific and rational knowledge. Constructivist Foundations2(2-3), 136-145.

Plush, T. (2016). We’ve raised their voice. Is anyone listening? Participatory video practitioners and valued citizen voice in international development contexts. PhD Thesis. University of Queensland, Australia.

Shier, H. (2001). Pathways to participation: Openings, opportunities and obligations. Children & Society15(2), 107-117.

Thomas, N. (2007). Towards a theory of children’s participation. International Journal of Children’s Rights15(2), 199.

Van Kerkhoff, L., & Lebel, L. (2006). Linking knowledge and action for sustainable development. Annual review of environment and resources31.

Wong, N. T., Zimmerman, M. A., & Parker, E. A. (2010). A typology of youth participation and empowerment for child and adolescent health promotion. American Journal of Community Psychology46(1-2), 100-114.

(ResiliencebyDesign )

(ResiliencebyDesign )


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