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  • Author or Editor: Kate Pahl x
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In this article we explore the ways in which universities and communities can work together drawing on our experience of a community-university co-produced project called ‘Imagine’. We reflect on our different experiences of working together and affectively co-produce the article, drawing on a conversation we held together. We locate our discussion within the projects we worked on. We look at the experiences of working across community and university and affectively explore these. We explore the following key questions:

  • How do we work with complexity and difference?

  • Who holds the power in research?

  • What kinds of methods surface hidden voices?

  • How can we co-create equitable research spaces together?

  • What did working together feel like?

Our co-writing process surfaces some of these tensions and difficulties as we struggle to place our voices into an academic article. We surface more of our own tensions and voices and this has become one of the dominant experiences of doing co-produced research. We explore the mechanisms of co-production as being both a process of fusion but also its affective qualities. Our discussions show that community partners working with academics have to bear the emotional labour; by ‘standing in the gap’ they are having to move between community and university. We also recognise the power of community co-writing as a form that can open up an opportunity to speak differently, outside the constraining spaces of academia.

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Young people, under the age of 30, living in informal settlements in Kenya face complex and challenging socio-cultural and economic environments. These increasingly include forced displacement, migration, unstable families, violence and mental health problems. Inequities, including those linked to poverty and gender, shape all aspects of adolescent health and wellbeing and these have been exacerbated by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Young people, as experts in their own lives, are uniquely positioned to provide solutions to their challenges; yet they often remain on the periphery of Kenya’s social, economic and political affairs. They are rarely included in community programming or their role is tokenised, which limits their potential. This chapter contends that a paradigm shift is required, to enable young people to design, implement and evaluate their own programmes. Using the example of a youth organisation in Kenya – Nzumari Africa – the chapter focuses on how youth leadership can create systemic shifts: mobilising young people to challenge the status quo as well as addressing the barriers to their wider participation.

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