Since the COVID-19 crisis started, I have been taking longer walks in my inner-world. Instead of walking on the main road, I have been crossing hills, roaming off-road, traversing valleys and climbing peaks to see wider views. The only constant in quarantine has been the roller coaster: optimism, renewed energy, rest, despair, confusion, lethargy, fear… I have been alternating between feeling spacious and trapped. These rapid cycles of emotional ups and downs are an experience shared by many of my friends and peers during this pandemic.
What happens as we go through these motions? Could they create new space, new possibilities? What will this collective period of introspection manifest when we finally come together again? New visions, new social movements, new ways of seeing the world?
This week, Restless Development and Recrear launched Resilient Realities, a new research project designed to learn about how youth civil society is responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
In designing the methodology for the research, I asked myself what is an appropriate way of researching with young people during a global pandemic?
It’s clear to me that bulldozing with some data collecting tools feels inappropriate right now. In this moment to simply make sense of my own reality I need care, I need attention, a possibility to bridge my isolation and find out how my day-to-day converses with that of other people.
Resilient Realities strives to create dialogue and collectively generate and analyze data. The collaboration between 12 co-researchers spread across 6 continents will seek to understand what it looks like to be a young activist in this moment of uncertainty, confusion, and becoming.
Each of the 12 co-researchers will be reaching out to their own networks and communities to inquire how they are re-thinking their activism and what emotions and ideas might be behind their organising.
Using participatory action research as a methodology of inquiry, this research is not concerned in discovering an ‘objective’ reality. Instead, through introspection, dialogue and reflection, the 12 co-researchers can sense-make their own experience and together create knowledge that inspires action, so that we can shape the realities we want.
To design the research we brought together GoogleDrive, Nearpod, Zoom, Whatsapp – a soup of technology – and added the intention for authentic connection, playfulness and depth by integrating methodologies like painting and movement-based techniques alongside traditional qualitative data gathering.
In itself, the way we research is a reminder that in this pandemic we have the opportunity to become more human. This research aims to support youth organising to be resilient. In its origin, the word ‘resilient’ suggests the capacity to spring back, rebound. As we are invited to connect more intimately to both our vulnerability and our inner-strength, we hope that our leap will be forward. We hope that care, affection, and co-creation can become the pillars for reconfiguring our societies.
Music helps us to express our lived experience, so the 12 researchers have put together a playlist that says a little something about their experience in lockdown. Have a listen and share the music that best expresses your experience in the comments below.
Gioel is in continual pursuit of connection with others. She spends a lot of time thinking about deepening relationships across cultures and sectors. In 2010 she co-founded Recrear.
Recrear’s projects have taken Gioel to learn from young people and practitioners from Ecuador to Bangladesh, to Malawi and beyond.
In 2012-2013, Gioel had the opportunity to join the Jeanne Sauve Public Leadership Program as a Fellow. Since then she went on to do a PhD at the Institute of Development Studies, studying Colombian youth organizations and how they relate to different funding models and organizational culture. Currently Gioel acts as the Director of Research at Recrear. Her latest work has her collaborating with CIVICUS to research how grassroots youth organizations and movements around the world are resourced.