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New Series: Boston Youth Justice Research Project Team using MAXQDA

We are happy to introduce a new series of blogposts to you. A group of PhD students at the University of Massachusetts, led by Mark Warren, will document their work for us. The youth justice movement in Boston, throughout the period 2006-2008, is their interesting and complex object of research.

Introduction to the 2013-2014 Practicum: Starting Out

by Luke Kupscznk 

The Boston Youth Justice Movement Research Project is a collaboration between a research team consisting of Mark Warren and six doctoral students at the University of Massachusetts Boston and three youth organizing and youth justice groups in Boston. The project aims to produce research on the youth justice movement in Boston that will be useful to the groups in advancing their goal of building a stronger movement as well as to contribute to academic and broader public understanding of youth justice.

Boston Research Team - Group Photo

Mark Warren (bottom left) and the team

Practicum in Community Based Research

The research team is housed in a university course called The Practicum in Community Based Research. The practicum is designed to offer apprenticeship training to PhD students in community-based, collaborative research. This year, our team is beginning an ongoing relationship with three youth organizing groups in the Boston area. These groups – Boston Area Youth Organizing Project (BYOP), Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project (REEP), and the City School – are linked with other actors in both formal and informal networks. Together, they fight for youth justice in their neighborhoods, across the city of Boston, and, in some cases, on the national stage.

The Practicum, led by Associate Professor Mark R. Warren, is comprised of six doctoral students from a variety of PhD programs on campus. Our research interests span education reform, youth empowerment, urban planning, and government efficiency, among others. We also come from a variety of professional backgrounds with different skill sets. With the guidance and partnership of Mark Warren, the group seeks to bring these various interests, backgrounds, and skills to a project that matches them with the interests and ambitions of our community partners.

Working in Collaboration

Early in the process, we have had several meetings with our community partners to get to know each other, discuss our interests in collaboration, and shape a research project together. The research project is meant to produce knowledge useful to the work of the community partners and contribute broader knowledge to the field of youth organizing and youth justice movements. During our group meetings we began to build a collaborative relationship and to develop a set of research questions and possible methods for going forward. We planned to produce a final product by the end of the year with the understanding that, if this collaboration works well, our relationship will continue to produce rigorous and relevant research on Boston’s youth justice movement in the coming years. We intend to build a database sufficient for publication in academic venues as well as reports and other products directly relevant to our community partners.

Boston is home to a particularly powerful collection of youth organizing groups that have won important victories for young people. Our partners believe that a high point of this movement occurred during a series of campaigns in the 2006-2008 period, where young people seized leadership of the movement and built power for themselves. At the same time, a number of youth justice groups found ways to work together to build power and win significant gains for youth during that period.

Research Questions

We agreed to undertake a research project to study how that particularly successful movement was built and draw out lessons for today for how to advance the youth justice movement in Boston. With our community partners we are interested in knowing:

  • What were the roots of the movement in the prior work of the 3 groups and in the context of Boston at the time?
  • How did youth and their allies, inside and outside these groups, contribute to the emergence of a youth justice movement?
  • How did youth emerge as leaders and build power?
  • How were independent groups able to work together to create a unified youth justice movement?
  • What impact did the movement have on the city of Boston, the three groups, and the youth?
  • What was the aftermath of this time period, and what lessons can be learned and applied in the current context?

Research data

Some of the data and methods we would use to answer these questions include: 
  • Interviews of youth alumni and adult allies from the time, as well as current organizational staff
  • Interviews of past stakeholders and public officials
  • Collection and analysis of documents: flyers, reports, news media coverage, etc.
  • Observations of youth activities this year

The transcribed interviews became the core of our data, but we also collected observational notes, documents and photos.

More articles about student experiences and research processes

The Research Team

Prof. Mark R. Warren
Sandeep Jani
Elena Dowin Kennedy
Luke Kupscznk
Perri Leviss
Matthew Poirier
Kimberly Williams

Community Partners

Boston Area Youth OrganizingThe City SchoolRoxbury Environmental Empowerment Project

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