Youth Experiences, Research and Community: Conversations in Saskatoon and Montreal

This article was authored by Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation 2018 Scholar Jayne Malenfant


With the support of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, I was able to facilitate two unique workshops that tackled questions of how we can approach participatory work, navigate community-academic partnerships and, ultimately, how lived experience – and particularly the experiences of young people – can be meaningfully integrated into our research.




In Saskatoon, we were hosted at the Community Enterprise Centre Station 20 West. The University of Saskatchewan Office of Community Outreach and Engagement is part of the Centre and organized the day “Youth, Lived Experience and Inclusion in Community Research.”

After an overview of my doctoral work with homeless youth in Montreal, and my participatory approaches to incorporating young people with lived experience into different projects I work on, we discussed how these approaches might fit into the work of non-profits, others with different lived experiences, university researchers, and government.

Attendees offered a wide range of perspectives and expertise from different fields. We spoke of how we might better engage young people in politics and research, the realities of working in underfunded community organizations and navigating collaborative projects, and how institutional barriers can be navigated, stretched or shifted in order to do work that complicates the boundaries of the university.

Our wonderful lunch was co-sponsored by the Division of Social Accountability in the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine, and served by the  Boxcar Café.




In Montreal, at the Faculty of Education at McGill University, we were joined by different scholars and researchers with various experiences involving youth homelessness or housing precarity, with many coming from Montreal but also joining us from Ottawa and Bobcaygeon, ON.

The day began with inspiring remarks from scholar Charlotte Smith, from Carleton University, who shared her own experiences navigating homelessness research as a peer researcher. We avoided a narrow focus, instead fostering an intimate space to share stories of each of our experiences on different (or multiple) sides of research, sharing food, and even taking advantage of the McGill Art Hive Initiative space to get creative.



This day served as the beginning of a conversation that aims to mobilize our collective experiences of housing precarity to inform the gaps between those who wish to understand how lived experiences of homelessness can inform policy, research, and practice, lead those who have experienced it.

Both of these conversations hoped to get at questions of who can hold expertise in community-based research, how academic institutions may objectify the experiences of diverse communities, and how concrete resources can be brought outside of universities to make real changes driven by and for those who are most effected by social inequities.