Sharing experiences of youth partnership in conflict contexts: Reflections from the BAICE conference

Photo Source: Sandra Baxter

The British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE) 2022 Conference was held at the University of Edinburgh from September 13th to 15th. After two years of mostly virtual conferences, BAICE provided many scholars and practitioners the opportunity to meet and share their perspectives around the theme of ‘partnership.’ Ideas of collaboration, co-operation, and co-optation were explored across the three days during various creative sessions, symposiums, panel discussions, and informal conversations during tea and lunch breaks. Many members of the REAL Centre participated in these events showcasing the diverse areas of expertise found within our research community.

I was fortunate to be one of these individuals accepted to present on the second day as part of a panel on ‘partnerships in conflict contexts.’ During this session, the other panelists and I emphasized the importance of listening to youth voices in times of emergency. From Kashmir to Palestine to Nepal, we highlighted similarities and differences in youth activism and the challenges of building trusting relationships with young people in the field.

My research specifically focused on the creation of a youth partnership in Nepal after a major earthquake struck in 2015. In the midst of multi-sector response and reconstruction, four youth organisations active in the Kathmandu Valley came together in the six months post-earthquake to provide physical, emotional, and material support to their peers. They did this using their pre-existing networks and resources locally available, making their work both quick and effective. In my presentation, I showcased the social media activity created by these organisations during the partnership era. Posts, photos, videos, and blog posts show youth-led CPR trainings, needs assessments of young people living in temporary camps, community beautification projects, and disaster preparedness and education. I used this content to show the ways in which youth activity was considered a successful collaborative solution in this situation and how it may have lasting effects at individual, community and national levels. I explained that these findings now lay the groundwork for my continued doctorate research into Nepal’s ‘Youth Vision 2025’, an emergent policy that celebrated and aimed to support youth-led development for the decade post-earthquake.

In our session, we focused on the roles young people can and do play in conflict or otherwise unstable settings. This means, as researchers, we may witness young people living in precarity and experiencing violence. Each of our presentations emphasized research as an emotional venture and the challenges in sharing stories around disaster, whether natural or man-made. This opened up into a discussion on research ethics and the ethics of institutional ‘ethical approval’ processes. As three ‘outsiders’, we each commented on the importation of institutional or Euro-centric ‘ethics’ in three very different research settings. While we were able to learn from each other, we ultimately agreed there is no set ethical protocol that should be applied in every setting. Rather, it is up to the reflexive researcher to take the time to connect and learn from the community they are based within. This session really resonated with me as it brought the conference theme to life. The panelists and participants became active partners in that space of learning, even if just for an afternoon.

It was a privilege to be a part of a global community of educationalists willing to think critically and reflexively about international development. Many ideas were raised for how to move this sector forward together; it will be interesting to revisit and see what progress has been made come BAICE 2024.   

This blog was written by Phoenix Kenney, PhD candidate at the REAL Centre, University of Cambridge.


  • Phoenix Kenney

    Phoenix Kenney is a second year PhD student at the Faculty of Education at the University the Cambridge. She considers herself a scholar-activist in the interdisciplinary field of youth studies. Building on her master's research in youth activism in Nepal after the 2015 earthquakes, her current doctorate project looks at identifying and defining skills related citizenship and socio-economic participation through participatory and collaborative research with young people in Nepal.

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