As mentioned and described in a previous blog post, “Youth Engagement Webinar”, a crowdsourcing contest was organized by 4 Youth By Youth (4YBY) in collaboration with Adolescent HIV Prevention and Treatment Implementation Science Alliance (AHISA) to solicit ways in which adolescents have been involved in HIV-focused research in Africa.
A webinar was held on Thursday, April 22, 2021, at 2pm-3pm WAT to hear from our four finalists and review themes submitted to the crowdsourcing open call.
The webinar commenced with brief introductions from AHISA and 4YBY and an overview of the five-step crowdsourcing open call approach followed by presentations from the top four finalists and an analysis of the submission themes and typology of youth engagement.
The finalists were highlighted in the webinar and will partake in the co-creation of a peer reviewed manuscript as co-authors. Our finalists and their youth-focused research are as follows:
In Cameroon, Carine Oum, alongside her team, developed a study of youth participation and evaluation of HIV among 15 to 35-year-olds. The study is a part of a follow-up of young students on HIV and adoption of youth-friendly behaviors in schools and universities. While the study is conducted in rural areas, Carine and her team wanted to emphasize the importance of the sero-prevalence rate among young people, particularly among young girls living in rural areas, and how the rate of HIV continues to increase in both rural and urban areas. Their vision is to replicate in other cities to truly understand the evolution of HIV among young people and effective solutions. Carine and her team will use innovative data collection tools, and to collect the maximum amount of data, additional leadership with the help of doctors will be needed. The research team will be trained in data collection techniques, and mobilization efforts will happen in the country and at higher education institutions. Implementation plans will be executed, and the team plans to also recruit young girls and boys to train and carry out HIV prevention activities and awareness, especially as it pertains to this study.
Mandi Tembo’s team conducted research to engage youth in sexual and reproductive health in Zimbabwe through the Youth Researchers Academy (YRA). Youth were inclusively recruited throughout the community and centered in the design and implementation of the research. Using diverse approaches, youth were included in the research strategies and received the ability to learn by doing throughout training, participate in the co-development of projects, experience valuable mentorship throughout the course of their design and research, and present their findings at national and international conferences. The YRA proved to have a great impact on the youth participants. Currently, Mandi’s team is conducting their YRA for 2021 and anticipate YRA to be an annual research event.
Nicola Willis and her team have been working in Zimbabwe on the ‘Zvandiri’ program that includes peer-led HIV research and services with a focus on young people living with HIV. They have been engaging young people in research activities and processes (design, implementation, and scale-up) throughout the past ten years. Nicola presented a few studies which have involved youth-led research through creative arts based methodologies: digital storytelling and body mapping. All studies concentrated on young people aged 15 to 24 years old participating in inventive workshops, co-created operations, and dissemination projects. In 2015 and 2018, Nicola and her team conducted a study employing body mapping. The first study was centered on depression, while virological failure was the primary focus of the second study in 2018. In 2012 and in 2020, studies consisted of adolescent digital storytelling including the full storytelling process from writing their stories to recording to creating a storyboard illustration and finally finishing with film production of their stories. Storytelling was found to be influential in young people’s lives and within research and allowed the adolescents to dive deeper to discover more about themselves and challenges they face through a different lens: a healing approach. Nicola’s team plans to continue to use these creative arts based methodologies to foster youth engagement in research and enlighten the provision of HIV services for young people.
With her research based in Eswatini, Takhona Hlatshwako and her team administered the very first Eswatini HIV crowdsourcing contest from May 2019 to June 2019. The crowdsourcing event engaged young men and encouraged them to find out their HIV status and seek HIV services for early treatment. Using digital and mass media sources, Takhona’s team gathered participants for their organized workshops and contest so that they could begin to talk about different approaches that could be used to improve HIV testing rates and inspire young people to actively test for HIV. Of the 144 submissions received, about half of the entrants were youth aged 18 to 24 years old. The engagement in the crowdsourcing contest was widespread with submissions coming from all four regions of Eswatini. The youth-led contest centered around young men highlighted advantageous strategies and produced effective messages that are valuable for HIV awareness and testing efforts.
To evaluate our own findings of the crowdsourcing open call, we conducted a thematic analysis and identified emerging themes from the participants’ responses surrounding 1) youth engagement and 2) digital application use.
Furthermore, typology for youth engagement was described. Extent of engagement included tokenistic, minimal, moderate, and substantial engagement. We found from our open call that adolescents and youth are in fact involved in various research projects throughout Africa, and digital use is often applied throughout the research operations. It’s important to aim for substantial youth engagement in research, as we have discovered the achievability and the significance of giving youth the voice and power to investigate and develop their findings.
We highly encourage you to view the webinar to hear our finalists’ innovative, youth-engaged, research presentations and the impact their research has had, learn more about the crowdsourcing open call, and dive into the specific themes of the submissions. The video to the webinar is provided below:
We are consistently overwhelmed by the unique, unconventional ideas and youth-based and -led research that our entrants put forth. We continually want to inspire young people and implement practices of 4 Youth By Youth because meaningful engagement is necessary in research design and throughout the research process. We thank AHISA for the collaboration and our participants for providing us with enriching perspectives on approaches in which adolescents have been engaged in HIV-focused research in Africa.