Global Changemakers for the Middle East The Arab Youth Research Network (AYRN) Draft Guiding Framework

This 'process' document provides a guiding framework for the elaboration of the Arab Youth Research Network, one of the components of the Global Change Makers project in the Middle East. The document is in draft status, and serves to inform potential partners and to guide the planning processes. Once the country-level partners and teams are in place and have had time to review the document and adapt it to the local context, the document will be amended and elaborated as the Arab Youth Research Network' Strategic Plan. Mission of AYRN The purpose of AYRN is to be a regional youth-led network that undertakes research that focuses on the most relevant priority issues for youth of the region and disseminates the research findings to important audiences. AYRN will also work with a range of existing adultled research bodies to strengthen the youth perspective to their research activities and to help disseminate their findings to youth and others in an accessible format. Vision of AYRN Our vision is to be recognised nationally, regionally and internationally for our work with a generation of young Arabs who, through collaboration, produce powerful, credible research about youth, thus providing a reliable and respected evidence base to be used effectively by young people and others to make decisions that are in youth's interests. Strategic Objectives

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To build a regional youth-led research network that reaches diverse groups of young people who want to play an active role in the generation and dissemination of knowledge concerning youth; To provide training, guidance and support to enable young people to undertake high quality research to investigate the issues that affect them; To act as a network for its members enabling them to exchange ideas that will further empower them as researchers; To collaborate with similar networks in the region, the UK and internationally to share experiences and learning and publish research carried jointly; To build up a virtual research information database / library that makes key research concerning youth more accessible across the region; To create linkages with policy-making institutions nationally and internationally so that they draw on this up-to-date information as evidence when making decisions that affect youth; To enhance awareness of the ethics of responsible research in the region and to promote the important role of research as evidence for all decision-making and its contribution to good governance; To establish fund-raising mechanisms that will ensure that the research network is institutionally and financially sustainable after project funding ends.

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Rationale for the AYRN The majority population of ME is youth, many of whom are well educated For the first time in recent history, the majority of the Arab world is considered youth, with at least 60% of the collective population being under the age of 25. Literacy levels are at an alltime high, producing youth with unprecedented intellectual capacities, supported by degrees in higher education.

Youth face social and economic obstacles Yet, progress for youth in the region remains constrained by a complex set of inter-related social, political, and economic obstacles that include high levels of poverty &unemployment, limited access to jobs, poor health care, weak financial sustainability and barriers to marriage and the formation of a family. Effective policies, programmes and processes need information In order to formulate effective polices and allocate resources to tackle these new challenges, policy institutes, think tanks, research units and university departments will need to carry out studies on an on-going basis in order to provide up-to-date information on emerging trends. For these to be effective, and grounded in reality, these studies need to include a youth perspective. Policies based on youth own understanding are more likely to prove effective; resources allocated to deliver services that the youth have identified as meeting their needs, are more likely to be cost effective. Opportunity to coordinate between Arab countries Advances in information technology create an opportunity to strengthen coordination between researchers of all the different countries of the region. The unique advantage of the region (shared language, common cultural references, regional institutions) facilitates this networking. The opportunity now exists for youth, youth-focused NGOs & research institutes to form partnerships to collaborate in knowledge generation &dissemination. This will allow young and more established researchers to enhance their skills and understanding. Central to this opportunity is the role of ICT and especially of web 2.0 to facilitate the necessary networking and information sharing that underpins successful collaborative research. Opportunity for Arab youth to work together The AYRNaims to bring together young researchers throughout the Arab world in a shared public space where they can collaborate in both a directed and undirected capacity to produce valuable research. AYRN will act as a crucible of ideas, where diverse elements find a platform that allows them to pool their considerable resources in order to concentrate on analyzing the issues that affect them the most. The AYRN will also act as an in-house research body carrying out commissioned research to inform the advocacy and awareness campaigns of the Global Changemakers Project. Background to the Project The idea of a youth think tank was raised at the Learning from the Future forum held in Dubai in April 2008. It was then proposed as one component of the Global Changemakers project for the Middle East and North Africa regions. The concept of the think tank was further developed in a meeting held in Amman(November 2008) which brought together some of the young participants from the Dubaiforum as well as a variety of experienced researchers, intellectuals and activists. As a result of these deliberations, the concept evolved away from a classic “think tank” towards a youth-led movement to generate research in the region. The unique aspect of the youth-led movement lies in its capacity to tap into the powers of the internet and networking to promote collaborative, youth led research. Proposed Research Themes for Year 1 The AYRN will take as its starting point the themes selected by the overall GCM project. These themes are necessarily broad in order to meet the diverse priority interests of all the 16 participating countries in the GCM. As of January 2009, the following tentative list of themes has emerged:

Identity and cultural diversity

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Economic empowerment / youth livelihoods Education, learning and access to information Social equity and inclusion Climate change and environmental sustainability

For each of these broad themes, representatives from each participating country on the AYRN Regional Coordination Team (RCT) will agree a number of possible research focuses either for the whole region or for sub-regions. They will also suggest a range of specific research questions that would be relevant to sub-regions / specific countries and which can be managed within the available resources. Each country will then be able to select from a menu of choices, so that the actual study fits the local context. Research Methodology The AYRN aims to create the opportunity for youth to gain access to a wide range of research skills and therefore is open to different types of research methods (quantitative, qualitative and combined qualitative/quantitative) and supports an inclusive approach that welcomes diversity. • AYRN recognizes the value to be gained from youth-led research, where young people work independently from adults, seeking support when they need it. • AYRN also recognizes the value in young people working under the guidance of established researchers, especially where they add their understanding / unique insights.

• AYRN also notes that in some situations, funding will be dependent of partnerships
between youth-led and adult-led organisations, and that the benefits of working together are mutual. AYRN will promote relationships of mutual respect for unique strengths – so that youth's valuable role is recognised and rewarded appropriately. AYRN Structure National Research Teams In each country, working through local partners, a team of 5-10 young people interested in working with AYRN will be selected according to agreed criteria. They will have access to appropriate training programmes to prepare them to start working on their first research assignment. Local experts and mentors will be identified from partner organizations or externally to support the country teams. A number of Research Attachments will be made available for members of AYRN both in the UK and in the region. Regional Coordination Team A regional AYRN team will be formed to direct and manage the work of the AYRN at regional level. The regional team will include a member from each country, elected for one year. Members will be eligible to be re-elected once only in order to give opportunity to other members of country teams. Mechanisms of Interaction Face-to-face The network will rely on both face-to-face and virtual working. The national team will have the opportunity to work face to face at the local level. They will be encouraged to coordinate with other national teams virtually and by sending representatives/ exchanges/ to sub-regional training and forums. Virtual meetings Groups will be encouraged to use e-tools for virtual meetings (chat, skype talk, facebook, messaging etc). Horizontal linkages between youth will be emphasized (i.e. without passing

through BC / NGO systems) to facilitate ease of information sharing, and to increase the future sustainability of the network. Web-based Research Resource Centre Research teams will also record and store their intellectual resources on a web-based virtual network. Information will be stored with varying degrees of open or restricted accessibility to promote information sharing and at the same time to protect work in progress / sensitive or confidential materials. Sustainability The proposed youth research network is ambitious, and will require significant resource investment in the early years. The long-term sustainability is based on a number of issues:

• Trained youth stay with the process, acts as mentors, and help create the next
generation. They take responsibility and lead.

• Partner institutions recognize the valuable contribution of the AYRN teams to their own
work – especially in the competitive edge it gives them in attracting funds. They invest resources, share costs.

• Policy-making bodies recognize the value of the youth contribution and support their
role. They direct donors towards AYRN.

• Funders identify AYRN as providing a service that meets their needs: it addresses their
priorities, delivers value for money, and enhances their public credibility with their own constituency. They provide funds.

• Regional Hub: Identifying a regional hub that can hold and animate the network of youth
and partners. Risks Risk Insufficient numbers of youth are willing and able to play the role of researchers over the time frame needed to build a credible network Some local research intuitions lack of capacity / resource availability to play the role of mentors and to transfer their skills to young researchers Local research partners play a dominant role, undermining the youth-led element Policymakers do not take seriously the work of young researchers The BC is perceived as interfering in the generation of knowledge in order to further its own agenda in the region

Mitigation Link AYRN to advocacy ad awareness teams so they see the value of research as evidence – resulting in action and change Invest in partners to open them up to new methods & approaches

Establish codes of conduct Monitor their role – listen to youth feedback Use BC links with decision makers to channel research findings Emphasize the lead role of youth and the local NGO partners and define and agree BC role. The BC also connects the AYRN to networks in the UK and internationally thus broadening the international experiences of youth.

Target Audiences for the AYRN: Primary Target Group - Young Researchers The project directly targets young men and women between the age of 18 and 30 in 15 countries of the Arab region. They have the potential to participate actively in research and to generate new knowledge. Most of them are either currently studying, or are looking for work, or work in jobs that involve some research component, or participate actively in youth-led

initiatives. Some aspire to a career that includes research; a small number will follow the classic route to full-time researcher (PhD, research assistant, lead researcher). They all have a stated commitment to carry out research now, to enhance their research skills, and to apply them to the field of youth-led research into issues that affect youth lives. As Arab youth, they bring to the research task their own particular understanding of the situation of youth in their community, country & region. They want to bring their unique knowledge to public policy forums in a credible format, so that it can be used as evidence to inform decision-making processes. However, these young researchers do not have sufficient access to opportunity to play this active role in the generation and dissemination of new knowledge. They lack in-depth research skills, they have limited experience in writing up their findings. They find it hard to get their work published or presented in public forums; they meet obstacles to have their work taken seriously and incorporated into the knowledge base of the region. Their unique advantage - their youth - weighs against them in the world of academic research where credibility tends to be based on publication in peer reviewed journals. The emerging world of e-publication and e-dissemination is not yet sufficiently widespread in the region for them to create their own recognised niche. Secondary Target Group - Research Institutes investigating youth issues The secondary target for this project are national and regional research institutions. They carry out in-depth research into youth-related issues, but they tend to be staffed by researchers over the age of 30 (and generally male). They may have an incomplete understanding of emerging youth issues, and also need to verify / triangulate their analysis and findings with youth themselves. They may seek to include youth perspective in their research work, but do not yet have the necessary mechanisms to access the pool of available talented young researchers who could play this role. Nor do they necessarily have easy access to diverse groups of youth willing and able to be the subjects of study. They generate new knowledge concerning youth , but do not always have the resources to disseminate their work and to access the full range of audiences who can use this information as evidence for decision-making. Tertiary Target Group - Audience for research findings The youth and their research partners in the AYRN will actively identify and address key audiences for their research findings. These can be divided into two distinct audiences:

• youth themselves who wish to draw on evidence to make better decisions in their lives • institutions that make decisions that affect youth's lives
The project addresses the problem that both these target audiences face: the lack of up-todate reliable information concerning youth lives: their actions, choices, problems, aspirations, capabilities and potential. Working with the GCM Advocacy and Awareness Teams The AYRN will work closely with the GCM teams working on advocacy and awareness raising and recognizes that these two audiences have different needs, and they will develop different communication strategies to ensure that their messages are transferred effectively, leading to the desired response.

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