Globally, non-formal education (NFE) plays an important role in youth development. However, while universal approaches to youth development are well researched, there is little research on what influences positive youth development (PYD) for refugee-background youth and how NFE can be adapted to address the inequities experienced by refugee-background youth. In Aotearoa New Zealand, refugee-background youth currently lack equitable access to NFE which supports youth development on an individual level, and which can also build wider societal understanding and empathy across boundaries of class, race, migration status and religion.
To address this gap, this project worked within a transformative epistemology infused with Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to ask:
1. What key factors influence positive youth development for refugee-background youth?
2. What key factors lead to positive youth development for refugee-background youth through non-formal education?
3. How might non-formal education be adapted to enable greater positive youth development outcomes for refugee-background youth?
Using a qualitative methodology, I carried out semi-structured interviews with five refugee-background youth or former refugee-background youth and 20 NFE providers, of whom three were former refugees. Through thematic analysis of their reflections, the key factors influencing PYD for refugee-background youth were identified to be a sense of belonging, everyday citizenship, and equitable access to opportunities to participate. NFE also provided refugee-background youth with valuable opportunities to form connections with people, and with the land, culture and history of Aotearoa, to build confidence and to have fun.
This research contributes to development practice by developing a PYD model for refugee-background youth, guidelines for NFE providers, and areas for further research.