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Evidencing the impact of online youth co-production on mental health research: Findings from the MindKind study

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Background: Public involvement in research is a growing phenomenon, as well as a condition of research funding, it is often referred to as co-production. The practice of co-production involves stakeholder contribution at every stage of research, but different processes exist allowing for lived experience. However, the impact of co-production on research is not well evidenced. Virtual young people’s advisory groups (YPAGs) were set up as part of the MindKind study in 3 sites (India, South Africa and the UK). Each group site led by a professional youth advisor (advisors) co-ordinated all youth co-production activities collaboratively with other research staff.

Objective: To evaluate the impact of youth co-production within the MindKind study.

Methods: To measure the impact of online youth co-production on all stakeholders, the following methods were used: analysis of project documents, views of stakeholders using the ‘Most Significant Change Technique’, and impact frameworks to assess the impact of youth co-production on specific stakeholder outcomes. Data was analysed in collaboration with researchers, advisors and YPAG members to explore the impacts of youth co-production on research.

Results: Impact was recorded at five levels. Firstly, at the paradigmatic level, a novel method of conducting research allowed for a widely diverse group of YPAG representation, influencing study priorities, conceptualisation and design. Secondly, at the infrastructural level, the YPAG and youth leads were able to meaningfully contribute to the dissemination of materials; infrastructural constraints of undertaking co-production were also identified. Thirdly, at organisational level, implementing new communication practices such as an online shared platform meant, that materials were easily accessible to the whole team, whilst ensuring communication streams remained consistent. Fourthly, at group level, authentic relationships were maintained between the YPAG, advisors and the rest of the team facilitated by regular virtual contact. Finally, at the individual level, participants reported enhanced insights into mental wellbeing and appreciation of the opportunity to engage in research.

Conclusions: This study has revealed several factors that shape the creation of virtual co-production, with clear positive outcomes for the advisors, YPAG, researchers and other project staff, despite the challenges of co-produced research in multiple contexts and pressing timelines. For a systematic reporting of the impact of youth co-production, we propose that monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems are designed and implemented early.



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JMIR Public Health and Surveillance

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JMIR Publications

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