7. Research Institutions and Social Dialogue (Government of Brazil)
Participatory research can help build grass roots capacity for understanding how public policy is created and can be influenced, resulting in a more informed public. Combined with reputable research institutions, it can have a powerful and convincing impact on governments.
In 2005, the Brazilian government sought the expertise of research institutions to lead on a series of policy dialogues with young people. The institutions commissioned were the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE), the Polis Institute, the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the Canadian Policy Research Networks. The Brazilian Youth Dialogue was an 18-month study51 that surveyed young Brazilians about their views on democracy and their role in society.
“Our goal is to share our data and analysis from this exercise with other countries and continents. Through this sharing, we hope to prompt ideas about new, more sensitive, rapid, and effective research methods which can address what is diverse, what is singular and what is universal. Above all, this research yields findings and discoveries that can denaturalise social injustices, not just for young Brazilians, but for the vast population of poor youth seeking better conditions of life in a profoundly unequal world.” IDRC 2009
- Young people account for nearly 33 million inhabitants in Brazil and 80% live in urban areas that lack access to basic services. The study was designed to engage these young people in identifying their needs and diagnosing the challenges they perceive need addressing in their localities in order to inform public policy and statutes on youth rights.
- To enable a cross section of young people (both inside and outside of the formal educational system) to support creating a national framework and strategy.
- To identify the issues and policy areas to be addressed within a national policy on youth.
Youth as beneficiaries
Eight thousand young people (aged 15 to 24) responded to surveys as target beneficiaries. Twenty-seven per cent were school leavers and from the wider labour market. Their survey responses have impacted policy, which indirectly has positively impacted youth in Brazil.
Youth as partners
Nine hundred and thirteen young people took part in dialogue groups; helping to shape the areas for discussion.
The Brazilian government discussed and agreed the parameters of the study with the research institutions. The research institutions then led the process of data collection including:
- Quantitative Surveys: A questionnaire was administered to 8,000 young people between 15 and 24 years of age, asking 46 questions on topics such as education, family, work, media and perception of participation in politics. This provided the quantitative portion of the study.
- Qualitative focus/dialogue groups: Sub-set of respondents selected for qualitative study based on the ChoiceWork dialogue methodology (see following page). Two practitioners from the Canadian Policy Research Network were engaged to help adapt this to the Brazilian context and design the process.
- Thirty-nine ‘dialogue days’ were organised by the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE), which engaged almost 1,000 young people, nongovernmental organisations and universities.
- Dialogue participants were asked two questions: ‘What can be done to improve education, work, and cultural and recreation activities for young people in Brazil?’ and ‘How ready are you to participate in making those improvements reality?’
- A full report was later compiled and published documenting the process of collaboration, accompanied with a successful media strategy.
- Outreach to a high number of youth including excluded groups (rural, women), through NGO networks.
- A firm academic evidence base from which to form policy. The legacy of a ‘dialogue network’ incorporating individuals and various institutions across sectors.
- According to the Canadian teams, there is “good potential for the dialogue results to bear fruit in terms of policy change (especially within the public education sector)" MacKinnon and Taschereau, 2006.
- Impact on the newly created National Youth Policy, National Youth Secretariat (reports to the Secretariat-General of the Presidency of the Republic); National Youth Council (an advisory board fostering studies and proposing guidelines); and National Youth Inclusion Programme (an emergency programme for 18 to 24-year-olds excluded from both school and the labour market).
- The lead donor agency should oversee the partnership with research institutions to ensure good working relationships.
- Research institutions require a core research team with long-term commitment, and infrastructure and staff to co-ordinate multiple dialogue groups.
- Most of the participants expressed a desire to participate in politics, but did not know how. Education on political processes was identified as a key area for government and civil society to engage on.
- Particular costs to consider: travel and accommodation for young participants and funding for research personnel leading the process.
- Logistics: co-ordination of large-scale research and participatory activities requires significant planning and clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities.
- Communication: clarifying expectations, regular communications, dissemination and feedback are vital in terms of keeping young people engaged over a period of more than a year.
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- 51. Funded by a Canadian research grant. Undertaken in seven metropolitan regions of Brazil and the Federal District of Brasilia. Co-ordinated by Ibase and Polis Institute and carried out by a network of NGOs and universities.