Young people with migration experiences who are Peer Researchers in the MIMY project came together online this spring to meet and share experiences. As Peer Researchers young migrants are important collaborators within national research teams and have been actively involved in co-creating, delivering and analysing the project’s community-based research.
Peer researchers and their University-based colleagues joined from Luxembourg, Sweden, England, Poland and Hungary. The meeting aimed to build connections between Peer Researchers living in different European countries, and to create a foundation for future cross-context engagement in the next phase of the project. In doing so we learnt about the motivations for, experiences with and aspirations for the MIMY project. These insights can not only inform our ongoing work together but provide lessons for other researchers working collaboratively through a peer research approach.
Motivations for becoming a Peer Researcher Our session started with Peer Researchers sharing in the group what motivated them to get engaged in this type of project and work. The main motivations of this group of active young people included:
- a curiosity toward understanding how other young migrants experienced the process of building their life in a new country, and why this works out differently for different young people.
- a desire to give back to young people with similar experiences, in particular those facing hostile and difficult circumstances, and the hope to make a positive difference in the lives of other young people.
- Wanting to carry out an enriching experience to develop both personally and professionally. This included getting to know their lived context through different eyes, develop connections with practitioners and researchers and learn how to act in a professional environment. The expansion of personal and professional landscapes was seen to support personal development and empower young people to recognise their own skills and the value of their contributions. As reflected by one young researcher, the experience in the project had been validating in that it helped her to have the space to see her purpose, within her own learning journey.
Insights from research with previous generations of migrants Our reflection on the research findings centred on the intergenerational focus groups that the Peer Researchers were integrally involved in. These focus groups were reflective discussions with people with migration experiences who had been building their lives in the local context for over five years. Important lessons learnt between generations included:
- The label of migrant or immigrant can create a questioning of one’s place in society, however people’s persistence in building their lives in the face of oppression shows that we are part of a longer term struggle to live freely, and should continue to build on this.
- Looking over the longer term supports understanding of changes over time, for example positive changes in openness of the wider local population to refugees. Recognising that change.
- It also helps you to understand why certain structures have emerged, for example refugee communities developing their own civil society organisations and solidarity groups where the wider system provides inadequate support.
- The focus groups prompted reflection on personal experiences and how this intergenerational learning was motivating for young researchers to see that change was possible in their own lives.
- Looking back also helps us to understand changing contexts and the need for research, policy and practice to adapt and respond. This also helps us to look forward, and is something that we need to do together within the project with particular regard to the war in Ukraine.
Further reflections from Peer Researchers on doing research with previous generations can be read on the MIMY Youth Blog.
Reflections on doing research We also had space to reflect on some of our experiences of doing research and engagement work within communities.
- Important insights were shared by Peer Researchers on the intersectionality of people’s experiences, and on the different realities people face, even when coming from the same country, and the importance to draw this out in the research.
- Another topic was around engagement of participants in the research projects. One of the research activities Peer Researchers led on was in-depth interviews with young people who hold positive and generative experiences of building their lives in their new society. It was reflected that when inviting young people to participate in these interviews the fact that the focus was on positive narratives was much more motivating for participants than a focus on the negative, or what might be seen as lacking in people’s lives.
- Peer researchers also shared that the changing of circumstances due to the pandemic created challenges, such as the fracturing of communities and their relationships with services. This made it more difficult to build on past networks and engage with services in the project. This challenge also taught us something about the local context young migrants were building their lives in.
Further reflections from Peer Researchers on doing research in the MIMY project can also be read on the MIMY Youth Blog.
We look forward to future collaboration and reflective learning together within the MIMY project, including within the 2022 IMISCOE conference where we will be running a workshop on Peer Research within migration and integration studies. Follow the news section of the website and the MIMY Youth Blog to stay connected with this journey.