Developing a youth participatory action

superbshelfMobile - Wireless

Nov 12, 2013 (4 years and 6 months ago)


Youth Advocates: ‘Mobile Matters’

Developing a youth participatory action
research and advocacy program.

Leo Fieldgrass, Youth Projects Officer, Brotherhood of St



Secondary education program created in response to
concerns re: youth and family mobile phone debt

Facilitated by Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) and funded by
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network
(ACCAN) grant

4 Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) groups in
Mornington Peninsula, VIC

Approx 100 Year 11 & 12 students (15

18 y.o.’s)

Nov 2010

Oct 2011


Build capacity of young people to understand rights and
responsibilities as mobile phone consumers;

help young people develop research skills, through gathering
evidence of peer mobile experiences;

empower young people to advocate for appropriate and
affordable mobile phone services, by disseminating research
findings to key industry stakeholders at a public event.


based workshops: consumer skills and research

peer surveys on youth finances and mobile phone use
at conference
style events.

Students analysed data and produced findings.

Student advocacy group created final set of project
recommendations, delivered at public event.


Recruitment of partner schools (BSL Community VCAL, Padua
College, Carrum Downs Secondary College, McClelland

Formation of adult Working Group to provide oversight: BSL,
ACCAN, schools, Frankston
Mornington Peninsula Local
Learning and Employment Network (FMPLLEN) and Consumer
Affairs Victoria (CAV).


Project program split into three phases:

Two ‘Learning Rounds’ of student education and skills

Final Student Advocate Presentation Group, comprised of
volunteers from all four participating groups, who
collaborated to produce a final set of project
recommendations and presented these to key industry
stakeholders at a high
profile event.

Methodology: Planning

Need to combine program with research skills, advocacy skills
and consumer awareness.

Adaptation of Kellett’s (2005, 2010) program
children and young people as researchers

Consumer Affairs Victoria (2005)
Consumer Stuff

teaching resources, BSL / ANZ
Money Minded

Foundation for Young Australians (2009)
RU Mad?

Are you
making a difference?

8 Keys to MADness;

Youth Participatory Action Research (PAR) lit., e.g. Wright
(2009), Foster
Fishman et al. (2010), UK Office of Public
Management (2010).


Pure ‘youth research’ not possible as students couldn’t
choose overall research topic themselves; it had already been
chosen for them by adults!

led research
’ still achievable: young people given
opportunity to develop own research questions, plan and
carry out research in direction of their own choosing.

Methodology: Action Research

Action research: Koshy (2010) , Kemmis & McTaggart (2000)

reflection and evaluation stages built into project program

Youth Participatory Action Research (PAR)

Wright (2009)

critical thinking and youth leadership

Fishman et al. (2010)

messaging games to teach
research data analysis

Methodology: Youth PAR

Kellet (2010)

power dynamics present in research
with young people

Kay et al (2009), UK National Youth Agency (NYA)

youth research toolkits

True youth participation =
“knowledge, opportunity
and support”
(NSWCCYP, 2003)

Participation models:

Hart’s (1992)
Ladder of Participation

Treseder’s (1997)
Degrees of Participation

Treseder, P. (1997),
Empowering Children and Young People
, Save the Children.

Methodology: Learning Rounds

Two partner schools experienced separate concurrent
classroom sessions then brought together to undertake
collaborative research (surveys).

Each Learning Round spread across one academic term (i.e.
roughly eight weeks) to maximize student interest and
engagement and facilitate easy assimilation into normal
teaching program.


Apr 2011: Learning Round 1

BSL Community VCAL:

‘Rights and responsibilities’ = contracts, right to redress,
making a complaint, accessing the Telecommunications
Industry Ombudsman (TIO)

McClelland College:

‘Appropriate and affordable’ = understanding caps & bills, pre
pay vs. post
pay plans, resisting pressure from salespeople

Surveys carried out at collaborative event, inc. peer
presentations (‘top tips’) and guest speaker from Consumer
Affairs Victoria (CAV)


Jul 2011: Learning Round 2

Carrum Downs Secondary College:

‘Fair calls for all?’ = Call rates from mobiles (linked to
ACCAN campaign)

Padua College:

‘Language and marketing’ = telco ads and contracts

Surveys carried out at 2x collaborative events, inc.
Frankston Youth Forum

Research findings

Many young people (and their families) experiencing ‘bill

“My sister managed to rack

up a $3000 phone bill in one

month, just by calling, texting,

and internet… mum was not

happy about that”


Student Advocate.

Research findings

Young people were confused

Unclear charges for SMS / calls / data

Unsure of their usage or how to check

Contracts hard to understand

“Cap” isn’t a limit?

“I was over my phone bill [usage allowance] every month and
I didn’t know why

couldn’t understand why, couldn’t check
how you were over your bill”

female Student Advocate.

Research findings

Young people were unhappy

ambiguous advertising (especially “cap”)

regularly going over budget

“unfair” call costs (13/1800) and contract periods

“If it’s called a ‘cap’ it really should mean it stops but it
doesn’t… and you don’t really know that you’re going over it,
so the next thing you know you’ve got a phone bill that’s a
ridiculous amount of money and you weren’t even told you
were going over it”

male Student Advocate.

“Better to light a candle

than to curse the darkness.”

(Chinese proverb)


Aug 2011:

Student Advocacy Presentation Group

15 volunteers from across the four groups

4 weeks of group work sessions

Final set of project recommendations

Presented to peers, government regulators
and telco reps at ‘A Call for Change’ event,
Melbourne Town Hall, 30 Aug 2011

Student Advocates’ messages

“We want you [telcos and regulators] to
understand what it’s like to be a young
mobile consumer: we don’t just use
mobiles for texting and mucking about,
we use [them] for jobs and shifts, school,
parents and emergencies”

Student Advocate.

Student Advocates’ messages

“Why is this important? This is a serious issue that we feel
very strongly about”

female Student Advocate.

“Changes [need] to be made in the future inside the
companies... you’ve heard the problems young people go

male Student Advocate.

Student Advocates’ messages

Young consumers should take their time

Telcos should use less ambiguous language

“Stop hiding all the important stuff in the fine print!”

Improve customer services

Remove “unfair” charges

Offer shorter contracts

Introduce trial periods for plans

“Telcos should make more of an effort!”

Regulators should “keep telcos to their word”

TIO should promote its service more widely

Conclusions: Limitations

Relatively small sample size (n127).


confined to particular area of VIC.


young people from Indigenous, refugee, or
English speaking backgrounds, and young.
people with stated disabilities mostly unrepresented.

Attempts to use online surveys via ACCAN and
Australian Youth Forum websites disappointing.

Not pure youth research!

Conclusions: Challenges

Tensions between young people choosing to actively
participate in the project and obligation to
participate as requirement of VCAL program;

power dynamics of youth
led research within formal
educational settings;

challenge to keep students passionate and
encourage them to take ownership of the project,
esp. in out
school time.

Conclusions: Strengths

Focused ‘snapshot’ of youth financial experience of
mobile comms. in 2011.

Collaborative elements highly successful.

Excellent partnership work between schools and

Youth PAR worthy strategy for empowering young
people, inc. sociopolitical analysis, critical thought
peer leadership and advocacy.


Supported need for increased financial literacy
education for secondary + post

Demonstrated how mobile phones can be a
compelling and relevant way to engage young people
in education.

Firm addition to evidence base re: youth and family
debt related to mobile phone use.

Positively influenced govt. and industry policy


Enabled young people to develop advocacy, leadership and presentation
skills, helping build self
esteem and confidence:

“transformational” effect on some students;

further presentation at
Hard Knock Life
youth conference, Melbourne;

media interviews: Today Tonight (Ch. 7), 6.30 with George Negus (Ch. 10),
The Age, Herald Sun;

2 students invited to Sydney to discuss findings with telco CEO

“The more I put into this project the more I get out of it”

female Student



mobile phones are not just a social luxury for young people

significant youth anxiety about mobile debt and industry

Need for revised Telecommunications Consumer Protection
(TCP) code (recently launched)

“Treat us with respect ‘cos we’re your future customers. If you
don’t treat us with respect you won’t have our business”

female student advocate.


Be conscious of organisational agendas and power dynamics:
differences between Youth
created vs. Youth
led research;
facilitate don’t control.

Create fun, focused sessions for young people: purpose,
autonomy and leadership are key.

Encourage use of 21st century technologies (audio
internet, etc.) and arts
based approaches.

Organise high
value ways to disseminate findings (e.g. high
profile event).

Youth collaboration can extend into wider community, e.g.

“It is the responsibility of all of us working with
children and young people to ensure that children’s rights to
active participation maintains a high profile in practice, as
well as in theory.”

Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (CECFW) (2012, p.28)

Thank you.

Further info:

The full report can be downloaded via



Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (CECFW) (2012),
Their voice: involving children and young
people in decisions, services and systems
, Monograph No. 23, Melbourne: Centre for Excellence in Child and
Family Welfare

Fishman, P., Law, K., Lichty, L. and Aoun, C. (2010), ‘Youth ReACT for Social Change

A Method for
Youth Participatory Action Research’,
American Journal of Community Psychology
, vol. 46, pp. 67


Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) (2009),
RU Mad?

Are you making a difference? 8 Keys to MADness
Melbourne: The Foundation for Young Australians.

Kay, E., Tisdall, M., Davis, J., and Gallagher, M. (2009),
Researching with Children and Young People
, London:

Kellett, M. (2005),
How to develop children as researchers
, London: Sage.

Kellett, M. (2010),
Rethinking Children and Research: Attitudes in Contemporary Society,

Kemmis, S. and McTaggart, R. (2000), ‘Participatory action research’, in Denzin, N. and

Lincoln, Y. (Eds.),
The Handbook of Qualitative Research

(2nd ed.), London: Sage.

References (cont.)

Koshy, V. (2010) ‘What is action research?’, ch. 1 in
Action Research for Improving Educational Practice: A Step
Step Guide

(2nd ed.), London: Sage.

National Youth Agency (NYA) (2010,
Young Researcher Network Toolkit
, Leicester: NYA,

[last accessed 5 October 2011].

New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People (NSWCCYP) (2003)
Research and resources about
, [last accessed 28 September 2011].

Office of Public Management (OPM) (2010),
Creative Influence

Research led by young people
, London: OPM.

Wright, D. (2008)
“For us, by us”

Young people's leadership, participation and agency in a youth led project for
community development
, Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Education of Harvard