CYCJ’s new Research Assistant, Yanna Papadodimitraki, gives us an insight into her hopes and goals for youth justice, and shares her thoughts on the potential of combining research and practice.
So, here I am. After a brief time at the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS), to the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ), and from practice to research. As a recent addition to the CYCJ team, I am mostly hoping not to burn the building down; not because I have pyromaniac tendencies, but because I am notoriously clumsy. In the process I am hoping to help the centre to help children and young people as well.
Working with and for children and young people who have been affected by the Youth and Criminal Justice Systems in Scotland has been a personal goal which I have fulfilled by joining CYCJ. Even though youth and adult crime rates in Scotland have been decreasing, we need to help those involved in youth justice -from social workers to children and young people- through informed research and policies, if crime rates are to continue their downward trajectories. In this way, the new Youth Justice Strategy for Scotland will have an actual impact on the lives of those involved in or at risk of offending and the people around them (professionals, families, and victims).
However, children and young people – as well as practitioners – involved in youth justice can have a positive effect on these systems as well; they should be able to inform research and policies. By giving a chance to those who know the system best (either because they work in it or because they are affected by it) to participate, they can put their insider knowledge into (research) practice and assist in the enhancement of youth justice in Scotland. Their contribution to research will not only help themselves and policy making, but those involved in the youth justice system in the future.
Another personal goal was working together with practitioners. Working next to practitioners can give a researcher an insight into the projects and strategies that are implemented in practice and can help one become more in-tune with the issues studied, the research itself, as well as the participants.
What is more, throughout this interactive process, a researcher becomes aware of the practitioner’s perspective with regard to the actual research itself. Practitioners are often excluded from inputting into research as they are considered unsuitable to participate in such projects. However, it is often not realised that in many cases they are the ones to make a project possible, either because of their experiences and knowledge or because of their close relations to service users. By incorporating the practitioner’s perspective, transferring it into research and building on established research practices, a more informed and collaborative research is possible; and policy, practice and services can be challenged and improved.
Working in multidisciplinary environments was never really a personal goal. However, so far I have been lucky in experiencing this and observing its positive effects on any sort of project, from business to research. People coming from various professional and personal backgrounds can contribute in completely different ways. Their various experiences and mind-sets can complement each other, which is particularly useful when working in research. Each one of them has the potential to offer a unique perspective when working on the same project to produce a comprehensive result. I am aware of the fact that this might seem a bit daunting as sometimes different mind-sets can collide and seemingly impede further the always-bumpy process that is research. However, I think research is not meant to run smoothly (where is the fun in not feeling SPSS is driving you insane, or not being perpetually challenged?!). Also, different mind-sets and outlooks are not necessarily negative; they can be quite productive depending on how you manage and resolve any emerging issues. And is this not how information and knowledge is generated? Through the (hopefully) well-meaning, occasionally loud, arguments and discussions? Furthermore, if social research cannot accommodate diverging opinions and use this superficial obstacle to create and expand knowledge, then who can?
Last, but definitely not least, I am hoping I can play some role in getting research and practice closer together, as CYCJ aims to do. I am looking forward to the possibility of creating and promoting an environment where researchers and practitioners can collaborate closely and share their expertise; rather than distance themselves and contribute, voluntarily or purposefully, to knowledge segregation. An environment which will hopefully result in informed research and policies, and ultimately provide high quality services to children and young people in or at risk of offending and keep them out of the youth justice system… Oh! And, of course, not burn the building down!