Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Youth Reflexivity as Participatory Research in Senegal: A Field Study of Reciprocal Learning and Incremental Transformations

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Abstract:  There is now widespread appreciation that children are capable of functioning as key protagonists of their own development, and that this capacity can be enhanced if they are afforded opportunities to participate in forms of inquiry that stimulate reflexivity amongst themselves and with outside researchers. There is likewise common acceptance that youth participation in research on issues that relate to their well-being can contribute to evidence-based knowledge that has multiple benefits. Rather more ambiguous, however, are questions concerning the nature of youth–researcher relationships and whether—or to what extent—youth participation in research can be characterized as a transformative process. Such questions are particularly salient in countries of the global South where the notion of youth participation tends to run counter to the persistence of hierarchical power arrangements, and where there are substantial socio-cultural differences between youth participants and professional researchers, many of whom are associated with international aid. This article addresses these questions by recounting a field study that engaged eight groups of youth living in rural communities and urban neighbourhoods in Senegal. Through processes of reflexivity that entailed analysis of issues they deemed to be socially problematic, and through subsequent dissemination of their analyses in narrative performances of their choosing, the youth attained a remarkable degree of project ownership. As a result, the field study also fostered a process of reciprocal learning among the participants and the researchers that contributed to the genesis of incremental transformations.

Keywords:  incremental transformations; learning-by-doing; participatory research; reciprocal learning; reflexivity; Senegal; youth



© Richard Maclure. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.