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  • Writer's pictureallisonjolester

Where Stars Align: Youth Participatory Action Research & Design Thinking

What happens when two powerhouse approaches like Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) and Design Thinking find themselves seated together at a high school cafeteria? Well, there’s blushing, awkward eye contact, and then – BOOM – they realize they share more commonalities than the number of "likes" on a viral Instagram video. And just like that, a love story begins. So, strap in folkx, for we are about to unveil the magical tale of where these two meet and create something utterly spectacular.

In the red corner, we have Youth Participatory Action Research. This knockout approach says, "Hey, young people! You're not just students; you're researchers, activists, and agents of change." YPAR entrusts young people to research issues that matter to them and seeks their active participation in finding solutions.

And in the blue corner, we have the agile Design Thinking. This approach is all about empathy, creativity, and rapid iterations. It's a step-by-step process for finding innovative solutions, and it loves humans so much that it puts them right in the center.

So, what do these two have in common besides their dashing good looks and magnetic charisma?

  1. They're both head over heels for humans: YPAR and Design Thinking are both human-centered approaches. They value human experiences, insights, and needs, making them the perfect duo to rock the educational landscape.

  2. They cherish the youth: Both approaches place young people at the heart of the problem-solving process, recognizing their creativity, their potential, and their right to shape their learning experiences.

  3. They embrace change: YPAR and Design Thinking are about identifying problems and actively seeking innovative solutions. They're not about maintaining the status quo, but rather stirring the pot for the greater good.

Now that we've gushed about their commonalities, let's switch gears and explore how we can merge these two powerful approaches into educational settings. After all, theory without practice is like a cookie without chocolate chips - tragically disappointing. Here are some exciting activities to get your wheels turning:

1. Youth-led Design Sprint: Adapt the traditional design sprint to include a research phase where young people identify an issue they care about. This activity combines the investigative nature of YPAR with the iterative process of Design Thinking.

2. Empathy Interviews: Encourage young people to interview their peers about an issue at school. The data collected can inform the solutions they propose, embodying both YPAR's emphasis on active research and Design Thinking's focus on empathy.

3. Idea Pitching and Feedback: Have students prototype their solutions and present them to the class. Encourage constructive feedback and improvements, reflecting Design Thinking's iterative process and YPAR’s goal of collective action.

So, as we bid adieu to this extraordinary love story, let’s remember that while YPAR and Design Thinking may come from different walks of life, when they unite, they’re nothing short of phenomenal. Let’s embrace their commonalities, encourage their union, and watch as they guide our youth to be the researchers, designers, and changemakers of tomorrow. Now, isn't that a story worth telling?


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