A new report from Young Women’s Trust highlights why peer research is not only beneficial to those conducting it, but also a powerful tool for understanding the lives of young women beyond the limitations of traditional research. Peer research is research that is led and carried out by people with lived experience of the topic being studied. Whilst peer research is gaining momentum it remains an underutilised source of evidence amongst policy and decision makers.
The Research Centre for Young Women’s Economic Justice trains young women as peer researchers who conduct in depth interviews with young women from diverse backgrounds. This report involved a series of surveys and workshops in which Young Women’s Trust peer researchers and research participants described peer research as a mutually empowering process that builds connections and amplifies the voices of those furthest from power.
The peer researchers also reported the experience increased their confidence and helped them to secure promotions, improve their job prospects and open doors to other peer research opportunities.
Young Women’s Trust is calling on policymakers to recognise the value of peer research and use it to understand the experiences of young women, especially those from minoritised communities who are rarely represented in traditional forms of research. The charity is also asking the research community to advocate for peer research to be at the heart of decision making, so that the voices of young women can be heard, valued and help to drive change.
A peer researcher at Research Centre for Young Women’s Economic Justice said:
“The real stories of real women are powerful tools. It can bring a whole new perspective on an issue rather than statistics or interviews conducted/reported by someone who may not be able to interpret what that person means because they’re from a different background.”
Ashley Austin, Research Lead at Young Women’s Trust said:
“Peer research provides a more in-depth and intersectional understanding of the challenges young women experience. This is particularly important when considering decisions and policies affecting communities where official data is limited.
Young women are more likely to share the realities of the challenges they face with other young women. As a result, peer research can give us a much richer and more honest picture c which really gets under the skin of complex and difficult issues. If policy makers want to understand people’s lived experience and listen to their solutions, peer research is invaluable.”
Wendy Chamberlain MP said:
“Peer research gives politicians a powerful insight into the lives of young women, going beyond the statistics. It also equips young women the skills and confidence to tell politicians about the challenges they face and the solutions that they want to see. I recently met with Amy, a member of the Advisory Panel at Young Women’s Trust. I was able to hear directly about her experiences of the Social Security system – invaluable to me in my work as the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Work and Pensions.”
Note to editors
- The Research Centre for Young Women’s Economic Justice trains young women, who lead peer research into economic injustice. They explore the multiple barriers they face in their own lives and the lives of other young women whose voices are not heard by decision makers.
- Young Women’s Trust is the leading organisation championing young women aged 18 to 30 on low or no pay, providing young women with practical support, conducting research and campaigning for greater economic justice.
To produce this report Young Women’s Trust:
- invited 28 existing and former peer researchers and anyone who had previously been involved as a research participant in the Research Centre’s work to share their views anonymously in two qualitative online surveys.
- held two creative workshops with seven young women who had previously been interviewed by or had taken part in a focus group with Young Women’s Trust’s peer researchers. The workshops were co-designed and facilitated by peer researchers.
- held a further creative workshop with three former Young Women’s Trust peer researchers, also co-designed and facilitated by current peer researchers.