Peer research empowers people with lived experience to lead and conduct research.
At Young Women’s Trust, young women are at the heart of all our work. We know that young women have the experience, ability and drive to create the changes we need to make an equal society for women. Their voices are powerful. We do peer research to amplify these voices and to fill urgent evidence gaps in the data about their lives and experiences.
For this report, we heard from around 30 of our Peer Researchers and former research participants about their experiences of being involved in peer research. We documented the benefits they have gained and why peer research is a powerful tool for understanding the lives of young women.
Peer Researchers and participants told us that:
- Peer research is a mutually empowering process that amplifies the voices of those furthest from power, unifies communities, and catalyses change through the power of shared experience.
- This mutual solidarity creates a safe and supportive space to gather rich, authentic, nuanced data about young women’s lives that goes beyond what would typically be shared in a traditional research interview.
- Overcoming the imbalance of power between researcher and research participant results in research that is truly grounded in lived experience and helps to fill the evidence gaps needed to build a genuinely intersectional evidence base.
- Working alongside peer researchers to produce and publish accessible peer research means that more people are able to engage with reliable data about the experiences of people from minoritised communities and feel connected to the issues that affect them and the solutions they need.
- Being involved in designing and conducting research equips peer researchers with both specific and transferable skills, increases their confidence, improves their mental health and broadens their networks.
- Both peer researchers and research participants are motivated by a desire to create positive and meaningful change and are eager to be more involved in shaping the policies and decisions that affect their lives.
I think sharing experiences makes a huge difference. They say knowledge is power, and the more people talk – but also listen, the more things will change.Research participant
Whilst peer research is gaining momentum, particularly in the third sector, it remains an underutilised source of evidence amongst policy and decision makers. We are calling on policy and decision makers to invest in peer research and acknowledge it as a powerful and credible tool for understanding the experiences of young women, especially those from minoritised communities who are rarely represented in traditional forms of research.
We are also calling on research practitioners to draw on the expertise of organisations like Young Women’s Trust to understand how peer research can result in better quality data, as well as having significant benefits for peer researchers and research participants.
We’re asking the research community and people in power to advocate for the change needed to put peer research at the heart of decision making, so that the voices of those with lived experience can be truly heard, valued and are given the chance to help shape our society.