City of Seattle: Participatory Action Research Using Virtual Reality



The Office of Economic Development wanted to gain insights into how the City and its partners might increase participation, wages and employable skills for young people in neighborhoods with high risk of displacement and low access to opportunity in the innovation economy.

Research Question:

"What types of support are necessary to help young adults from neighborhoods with low access to opportunity obtain skills and social capital in emerging innovation industries?"

Research Methods:

  • Used the participatory action research methodology to partner with community organizations and tech training providers in order to create a fellowship program called, FutureFounders

  • Conducted diary study capturing over two hours of transcribed video from four participants that took virtual reality application development training

  • Ran surveys and conducted semi-structured interviews to gain insights about the participants’ experiences in the program

  • Used virtual reality as a medium for community development

Key Insights:

  • It is essential to foster a community of peers, experts, and mentors that build upon existing relationships, as well as create new networks for young adults.

  • Young adults can increase their technological competencies when a clearly articulated learning road map is provided, they're allowed to independently explore and apply the knowledge they've obtained, and a culturally-adaptive instructor is present.

  • A learning environment that is conveniently located, culturally-relevant, well-resourced, and near other tech workers helps young adults gain a sense of autonomy.

Lessons Learned:

  • It is beneficial to have either more than one researcher or a research assistant to help with transcription, to schedule participants, or to help coordinate incentives for participants.

  • When using the diary study method, it is helpful to make recording diary entries as easy as possible for participants.

David HarrisComment