Young Lives has been running for over twenty years; what inspires you most about the programme’s achievements over that time?
I have been involved with Young Lives since I first applied to write a paper as a PhD student. I then joined the programme in 2008 as a Research Officer to co-ordinate the third quantitative survey round, before leaving to become a postdoctoral researcher in economics and have been closely involved ever since. Most recently I’ve been providing support as a senior advisor to the ongoing Young Lives at Work COVID-19 phone surveys.
I believe Young Lives is truly unique and I’m incredibly excited to be taking the lead of the largest and most comprehensive mixed-methods longitudinal study in the developing world. Over the last two decades, it has delivered a treasure trove of open access data, charting the lives of 12,000 young people across four very different developing countries: Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam.
Young Lives is an international leader in many areas of longitudinal research design and methodology, with impressive institutional and intellectual capital, particularly within our long-term country partners led by experienced Country Directors and Principal Investigators. We still have over eighty per cent of the original children remaining in the study after all this time, which is even more remarkable given the constraints of doing research in a global pandemic. So many young people have stayed with the study because of our exceptional cohort management strategies, which is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our fieldwork and research teams, many of whom I have had the privilege of meeting across the years. The skill of our fieldworkers in making a long list of survey questions seem like a relaxed conversation is truly remarkable!
Young Lives has an impressive track record of delivering research to policy impact. For example, our findings have shifted the global debate on tackling undernutrition by demonstrating the potential to reverse early growth stunting even into adolescence; strengthened early learning policies in Ethiopia and Peru; influenced national polices to address child marriage in India; and promoted curriculum development in Vietnam to deliver ‘21st century skills’ such as problem solving and critical thinking.
But what inspires me most about this amazing study and team is the huge potential it now offers of combining twenty years of unique longitudinal data with innovative new research, to continue making a real difference in improving young people’s lives. This is especially needed in these times of unprecedented change and uncertainty.