The nine-month project aims to find the best ways to help young people communicate their resilient responses and to find ways that adults, governments and young people themselves can ‘change the odds’ which put young people at risk. It is seen as the foundation of what is hoped will be a larger research project in the future.
Four other academics from the University of Brighton’s College of Life, Health and Physical Sciences are taking part in the research including Professor David Nash and Dr Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse.
University of Brighton researchers will be collaborating closely with international partners including the community organisation Khulisa Social Solutions in South Africa which supports youth-led health and social care interventions. Young people with lived experience of adversity from the UK-based social enterprise Boingboing, which undertakes resilience-based research and practice, are also involved. Other academics joining the research include Dr Clare Kelso from the University of Johannesburg, Professor Liesel Ebersöhn, Dr Ruth Mampane and Professor Linda Theron from the University of Pretoria (UP). Professor Theron is leading the South African team.
Professor Nash, the University of Brighton’s Professor of Physical Geography, said: “Drought is a recurrent environmental hazard in sub-Saharan Africa and poses particular challenges for communities in South Africa where precipitation levels in the summer rainfall zone have progressively declined over the last hundred years.”
Professor Hart said: “We will use a blend of approaches from the sciences, arts and social sciences, and we will use information from archived newspapers, colonial records and rainfall data to produce a time-line of droughts from the mid-19th century.
“What is particularly exciting is that young people from the South African municipality of Govan Mbeki will be co-researchers, exchanging knowledge with Boingboing’s co-researchers. Working with community partner Khulisia and masters students from the University of Pretoria, we will work with young co-researchers from Govan Mbeki. We will use arts-based activities to explore and communicate their personal, family, community, cultural, and environmental responses to times of drought. Armed with the timeline of drought severity, each young person will also be asked to talk to one adult to gather historical narratives of drought-related changes to their community and explore how the community coped with these changes.”
Professor Theron added: “A number of UP students completing their professional Masters degrees in Educational Psychology have committed to working in this project. The research focus, arts-based activities and partnerships with local and UK youth researchers will support these students to develop the necessary skills to be practitioners who are responsive to the needs and strengths of young clients challenged by the impacts of climate extremes and structural disadvantage.”
The academic team, students, youth and community organisations will use the data generated from these activities to co-produce a strategy to support the resilience of young people to drought-related challenges.
Lisa Buttery, a young co-researcher from Boingboing, said: “Our strategy will use drama to share knowledge and develop collective approaches to environmental challenges and opportunities. We will work alongside the South African youth researchers and a youth activist, learning from them. They will be identifying a creative medium of their choice through which to communicate their emergent resilience strategy to relevant stakeholders. As a UK artist and co-researcher whose been working with Boingboing for years in the UK, I’ll be learning a lot from being involved in this exciting new venture.
“We intend to use the approach and findings of this study as the basis for a future large-scale investigation that will assess the relevance of our results to young people in other drought-stricken communities in South and sub-Saharan Africa.”
The GCRF award is one of a series of new grants aimed at helping communities in some of the poorest regions of the world understand, prepare for and manage a range of natural and man-made environmental hazards, as announced by the Economic and Social Research Council.