Arts-based research practices have been incorporated into the OLA programme since it began in September 2019, through a collaboration with three arts organisations: Fundación Batuta in Bogotá, Crear Vale la Pena (CVLP) in Buenos Aires, and Teatro La Plaza in Lima. In Work Package 1 (WP1) of the programme, these arts organizations (including Familia Ayara in Bogota) were commissioned to run workshops with young people in each city to identify ways that participatory arts practices can be understood as a resource that supports young people in building resilience and overcoming depression and anxiety. Findings from this phase has demonstrated how community-based arts organizations play a critical role in supporting young people’s mental wellbeing and opened opportunities for young people themselves to be agents for change in relation to their peer groups and key stakeholders.
Arts practices with young people have also been the object of the research investigation. During Work Package 2 (WP2) of the OLA programme, each of the partner arts organizations set up a series of workshops with selected young people from the main cohort study so that the research team could assess the impact of artistic/creative workshops as a potential intervention for young people (read more about this additional study here). The aim was to assess whether the arts have a measurable impact on participants’ experiences of depression and anxiety.
Now in the dissemination phase of the programme, we have selected nine Young Ambassadors (three from each arts organization) to create arts-based workshops and performances that will enable other young people to engage with the preliminary findings of the OLA study. They have created pilot projects in each city which have so far involved over 700 young people.
In 2024, the Young Ambassadors will run a three-month programme from April that will extend the impact and engagement of the OLA programme with new audiences, actively involving young people, local communities, stakeholders, and policymakers with the research findings to incorporate the OLA discoveries into their own approaches to mental health resilience and recovery.
We hope the increased and widespread engagement will contribute to strengthening policies and actions that assist governments and civil society in addressing young people’s mental health in ways that “maximize the protective factors for mental health in key areas of children’s and adolescents’ lives” (The State of the World’s Children 2021,UNICEF report).