The issues and experiences that matter most to young Canadians right now might surprise you. They are ready to lead a new conversation.

My research interests have long focused on how the health and social issues of the day, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are being experienced by young Canadians. Young people have a right to be engaged, and a right to be heard in research.

Curious about how this incredibly dynamic, vulnerable population could contribute to research, I discovered that among the most important lessons young people would have us learn is how best to engage them. This revelation led to the recently-established IN•GAUGE research program headquartered at the University of Manitoba.

When young people are engaged in the research process, results are deeper, richer and have more relevance. For example, using flexible, arts-based methods to gather research data from young people facilitates self-expression. It helps young people articulate, contextualize and make meaning of their lived experiences for a non-youth audience that may include educators, policy-makers or health-care and social service providers.