Exploring the CCC-CATAPULT approach to co-production
Written by: Caroline Wilson
Published: 22nd June 2021
Young people are at the forefront of campaigns on climate change such as the Fridays for the Future movement and the Youth Strike for Climate. At the same time levels of climate anxiety also appear to be on the rise among young people. A recent survey for CBBC Newsround found most of the 2000 children surveyed were worried about climate change and two thirds said leaders weren’t listening to young people’s views (1). This echoes Greta Thunberg’s statement to the UK parliament: ‘I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children’ (2). The Challenging the Climate Crisis: Children’s Agency to Tackle Policy Underpinned by Learning for Transformation project, or CCC-CATAPULT for short, aims to get young people’s voices heard.
The CCC-CATAPULT project uses a co-production approach, which recognizes young people as experts on their own lives. The universities taking part – Bristol UWE, The University of Tampere, The University of Genoa, and the National University of Ireland Galway – will provide training to empower young people to be fully involved as partners in the research process. These young people will be recruited in Youth Actions Partnerships (YAPs) across the four international research locations (UK, Ireland, Finland and Italy). As YAP members, young people will have the opportunity to learn how to gather information about young people’s thoughts on and experiences of climate change (the data collection bit), how to make meaning out of data gathered with young people (the data analysis bit) and how to share their results by presenting at events and producing creative content (research outputs bit).
The co-productive approach being used by CCC-CATAPULT project will differ from traditional research where the professional researcher makes the big decisions, and decides what they think the research participants are trying to say. Instead co-production will involve professional researchers working together and sharing power with young people, with YAP members being involved in research decisions and co-leading research activities (3). Co-production recognizes different types of knowledge as an asset to research and young people’s lived experience will be as valuable as academic’s knowledge in the CCC-CATAPULT project. Likewise, professional researchers and young people will both be able to learn from each other in this co-produced research.
The CCC-CATAPULT project, rather than focusing on the ‘Greta’s’ (young people already engaged in climate campaigning), is recruiting a diverse group of young people to take part in the YAP groups. In addition to contributing to the research process itself, YAP members will be exploring their ideas and feelings about climate change by keeping reflective journals. These reflective journals will use a variety of media such as digital story telling, photography, artworks or writing. And an important part of co-production is that research gets shared widely, rather than gathering dust on a shelf in a university. Young people, with support from the project members in each location, will be able to use the CCC-CATAPULT’s website, Twitter, and Instagram pages to take the conversation about climate change out into the world.
A co-production approach aims to create change not only by broadening who does research and who gets to see the research but by changing the lives of those taking part in the research. The CCC-CATAPULT project will allow young people to influence responses to the climate crisis by creating an exchange between YAP members and important decision makers. The CCC-CATAPULT project will enable this exchange by bringing together professionals with expertise and influence to form Local Stakeholder Groups and an International Project Advisory Board. These groups will then liaise directly with YAP members about the research process and findings and will increase the impact of the project.
As can be seen, co-production involves more of a commitment than just filling in a survey or taking part in an interview. However, young people lead busy lives. Thus, the CCC-CATAPULT project has been designed around young people’s changing priorities: young people will only be asked to take part for 6 months initially and overtime it is expected that young people may leave the project and new people join. To allow for this changing group membership the universities will provide the same induction for all new members no matter when they join.
The effort and energy of co-producing research will reap rewards for those young people taking part. The project offers experience of collaborating with young people from places with different cultures and world views. As well as collaboration skills, YAP members will develop skills such as how to lead focus groups and produce research content. All this experience makes for an impressive CV that can be used in work or academic applications, alongside a certificate of participation and references from CCC-CATAPULT. But the rewards are not limited to what you can pop on your CV, young people will gain confidence in speaking about climate issues, develop their critical thinking skills, and, most importantly, see how they can bring about change both now and in the future.
CBBC Newsround. (2020). Climate anxiety: Survey for BBC Newsround shows children losing sleep over climate change and the environment. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/51451737 [Accessed 19 May 2021]
Wired. (2021). Greta Thunberg: How one teenager became the voice of the planet. Available from: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/greta-thunberg-climate-crisis [Accessed 19 May 2021]
Hickey, G., Brearley, S., Coldham, T., Denegri, S., Green, G., Staniszewska, S., Tembo, D., Torok, K., and Turner, K. (2018). Guidance on co-producing a research project. Southampton: INVOLVE.