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Group 1 - Newcomer Youth – Summer 2012
Group 2 - Muslim young Women - Spring 2013
Group 3 - Homeless Youth – Summer 2013
Group 4 - Western University – Spring 2014
Group 5 - Cross Canada Social Media – Summer 2014
Group 6 - Exploring Social Media as a place, space, and tool in the youth experience - Summer 2016



Newcomer Youth – Summer 2012

london1The Newcomer Youth group was facilitated in London Ontario by Dr. Helene Berman, Western University, Yasmin Hussain, Western University and Eugenia Canas, mindyourmind.  Ten youth ages 16 to 24 (six male and four female) participated. One member of the group was of First Nations heritage. One member of the group self-identifies as being a person with a disability. Seven members of the group self-identify as newcomers/immigrants to Canada (5 are of Central/South American background, 1 of Korean background, and 1 of south Sudanese background) The group met nine times between June 27th and September 12th, 2012. Sessions were 2.5 hours long.

Participants were recruited using personal/professional connections to youth and to local community agencies, as well as an information flyer shared with London InterCommunity Health Centre, St. Leonard’s, YMAP programme at the YM/WCA, neighbourhood resource centres, mindyourmind, and SACL’s Girls Helping Girls project.

Discussions with the group included:

  • The creation of a “terms of reference” to define the nature of the work ahead, including necessary factors for a safe space and respectful interaction.
  • Experiences of inclusion/exclusion and their effect upon their lives through a body-mapping exercise.
  • A collective poetry activity to explore experiences, realities, impacts, or notions of oppression in the lives of youth.
  • A drawing/writing activity answering the question: “What’s going on in the lives of youth.”
  • Independent and paired projects dealing with themes such as: emotional abuse, racism in schools and in newcomer experience, experiences as a First Nations youth, and sexism through the eyes of an adolescent girl.

Video created during the project:

Photo gallery of the group:


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Muslim young Women - Spring 2013

The participatory action research group involving Newcomer Muslim Young Women was part of the larger CIHR Team Group Voices Against Violence, investigating the influence of structural violence on the lives and health of youth in Canada. This group of 14-25 year old women, all of whom have been in Canada  for less than five years, and all having migrated from conflict zones (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia), met over the over course of 3 months in spring of 2013 in London, Ontario. They talked with each other and used arts-based activities, including photovoice, to more fully express their experience of safety and vulnerability, acceptance and rejection, and health, in various communities (within their family, country of origin, and local religious/cultural communities; in their neighbourhoods and city of London, ON; and interfacing with systems such as schools, housing and transit). The photovoice presentation offers these young women’s rendering and artistic representation of their experiences, highlighting obstacles and avenues to their social inclusion, community engagement and access to services such as education, employment support, housing, peer support and relationships.

Video created during the project:


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Homeless Youth – Summer 2013

London homeless youth group imageIn this participatory action group, youth experiencing homelessness gathered together to explore their experiences of structural violence. Youth focused on various systems they had interacted with, such as the justice system, mental health care institutions, education system, shelters, and the child protection system. A diverse group of youth with a variety of different pathways into homelessness, they chose artistic methods to guide their time and create a space for discussion. Conversation around structural violence tended to coalesce around the child protections system, with most youth having been engaged with the system as children and/or as parents themselves. Together the youth created an arts piece to hang in the local drop-in centre that they felt captured their individual resilience and self-hood in the face of structural violence.


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Western University – Spring 2014

Western group drawingThe Western group of the Voices against Violence project convened youth enrolled as students at Western University during Winter 2014, with the aim of creating a space for discussion of how structural violence affects their lives and health. Through its recruitment under the category of students, this group embraced the multiple social locations and identities youth may hold at once, including gender, race, sexual orientation, and cultural- and socio-economic markers of identity. This was a perfect example of the complexities of identity: the youth researchers held a level of privilege from their education, yet also existed in social locations where there is less privilege.

western university group drawingCentral themes discussed by this group included stress from academics and the pressure to succeed, particularly in the context of fulfilling a designed future or someone else’s plans. They discussed their lack of autonomy to express that they need time and space to figure out their own trajectories, attempt to succeed, or overcome the pressures from school and family.  They viewed this in contrast to representations of youth as apathetic, and discussed the perceptions of mental health issues amongst youth, particularly the feelings of overwhelming pressure and isolation in campus settings.

As part of their discussion, the participants of this group created “policy spirals”, a graphic representation of how system-based decision-making (represented by policies evident through news articles  brought forth by the youth) come to have an impact in the areas of media, cultural and family systems, and ultimately upon the individual body.

The final project designed by this group consists of blog entries showcasing eight themes and policy discussions that highlight the intersection of different experiences of marginalization and discrimination. This series is available here.

To read blog post “Gender and Sexuality” by group participants click here
To read blog post “Family” by group participants click here
To read blog post “Mental Health” by group participants click here
To read blog post “Education” by group participants click here
To read blog post “Culture” by group participants click here

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Cross Canada Social Media – Summer 2014

cross canada social media collageThe social media group for the Voices against Violence is still in progress, at a third stage of knowledge generation that includes individual interviews with youth participants across Canada. This group has convened six young adults from Calgary to the East Coast, who met weekly through online media to engage in discussions about structural violence and social media, as well as their impacts on health and wellbeing. All of the youth participants have had former involvement in this project, ranging from previous partnership in research groups to membership in the National Youth Advisory Board.

In true participatory fashion, the youth themselves have set out the issues for discussion by this group. To date, discussion has included various social media platforms ─ including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr and Instagram. The group have undertaken two sessions of media diarizing, which involved the careful record of all of their media consumption through the course of a week.  Data from these diaries, accompanied by field notes and interview transcripts, will be used for further analysis and discussion by the group co-facilitators and interested youth co-researchers.


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Exploring Social Media as a place, space, and tool in the youth experience - Summer 2016

Social media represents a significant channel of communication and social interaction among youth. The current generation of youth / young adults are native technology users with significant social engagement occurring online and with social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, snapchat.

The interactive sites create a virtual space and place where youth are "meeting" to create community, express themselves, and find solidarity in the fringes of society. Personal reflection from the Voices Against Violence National Youth Advisory Board ( NYAB) reinforces the importance of online social media spaces to enhance and develop their personal identities or where they have witnessed their peers navigate these experiences. The NYAB suggest that limited attention has been given to the importance of Social Networking sites as a means of constructing and understanding self.

The purpose of this Voices Against Violence National Youth Advisory Board based project is to explore the role of social media among youth in creating places to find community, spaces to have their voices heard, and tools for shaping their own definition of identity. Youth will be invited to submit artwork in the form of "digital images" related to their experiences using online social media tools.


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