Engaging youth in post-disaster research: Lessons learned from a creative methods approach

Main Article Content

Lori Peek
Jennifer Tobin-Gurley
Robin S Cox
Leila Scannell
Sarah Fletcher
Cheryl Heykoop


Children and youth often demonstrate resilience and capacity in the face of disasters. Yet, they are typically not given the opportunities to engage in youth-driven research and lack access to official channels through which to contribute their perspectives to policy and practice during the recovery process. To begin to fill this void in research and action, this multi-site research project engaged youth from disaster-affected communities in Canada and the United States. This article presents a flexible youth-centric workshop methodology that uses participatory and arts-based methods to elicit and explore youth’s disaster and recovery experiences. The opportunities and challenges associated with initiating and maintaining partnerships, reciprocity and youth-adult power differentials using arts-based methods, and sustaining engagement in post-disaster settings, are discussed. Ultimately, this work contributes to further understanding of the methods being used to conduct research for, with, and about youth.

Keywords: youth, disaster recovery, engagement, resilience, arts-based methods, participatory research

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)
Author Biographies

Lori Peek, Colorado State University

Lori Peek, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University. Her work focuses on vulnerable populations in disaster, and she has worked extensively with children and youth in disaster affected communities across the United States. She is co-author of Children of Katrina, which represents one of the only long-term ethnographic studies of young people after disaster.  

Jennifer Tobin-Gurley, Colorado State University

Jennifer Tobin-Gurley, MA, is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology and Director of Research and Engagement at the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University. She earned her B.A. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from CSU in 2005 and M.A. in Sociology in 2008. Jennifer’s master’s thesis research drew on qualitative interviews with local disaster recovery workers and single mothers who were displaced to Colorado after Hurricane Katrina. Her dissertation research will focus on the educational continuity of two schools following the 2013 floods in northern Colorado. 

Robin S Cox, Royal Roads University

Robin Cox, PhD, is a Professor and Program Head of the Disaster and Emergency Management Program at Royal Roads University, where she directs the ResiliencebyDesign Research Lab. Robin’s interests in youth engagement, participatory research, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption have inspired her to pioneer a range of Creative Action Research strategies to explore the interconnections of disasters, climate change, and community resilience.

Leila Scannell, Royal Roads University

Leila Scannell, PhD, is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the ResiliencebyDesign Lab at Royal Roads University. As an environmental psychologist, her research interests include place attachment, disaster resilience in children and youth, attitudes toward climate change, and sustainable behavior.

Sarah Fletcher, Royal Roads University

Sarah Fletcher, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and a postdoctoral research fellow with the ResiliencebyDesign Lab at Royal Roads University. Her research interests include youth perspectives on stress and resilience, healthy communities, and the participation of youth in research and community engagement processes.

Cheryl Heykoop, Royal Roads University

Cheryl Heykoop, Doc Soc. Sci, is an associate professor in the School of Humanitarian Studies and the School of Leadership Studies at Royal Roads University and a research associate with the International Institute for Child Rights and Development. Her research engages children and youth to explore their lived realities of disaster, conflict, violence, healing, and recovery.