Arctic Youth well-being project participating in circumpolar comparison

The team of the joint Finnish-Russian project studying well-being among youth in Arctic

Ria Adams presenting her work within WOLLIE on opportunities and threats for young people’s well-being, on the example of the Pyhäjoki fieldwork

industrial cities (WOLLIE) was invited to participate in the circumpolar study on Arctic Youth and sustainable futures, headed Joan Nymard Larsen, and the Arctic Human Development Report and Arctic Social Indicators editors team. At a meeting in Stockholm in the beautiful building of Nordregio, we talked among 17 Arctic social scientists about the determinants for well-being among youth in the Arctic.

Our own project specifically studies notions of well-being among young people in cities where industry plays some role. We contribute with studies from Pyhäjoki, Kemijärvi in Finland,Neryungryi, Nizhnyi Kurannakh (Sakha Yakutia) and Kirovsk (Murmansk) in the Russian North. It is co-led by Aytalina Ivanova from North East Federal University in Russia, with partners Maria Pitukhina and team from Petrozavodsk, and Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen and team from Helsinki.

Other colleagues from the have conducted interviews in Alaska, Greenland, Northern Norway, Northern Sweden, and Iceland with young people.

The publication that is being prepared for 2019 from that project will highlight some key issues that influence young people’s well-being across the circumpolar Arctic.

While engaging in the comparative discussion, WOLLIE team members Ria Maria Adams and Florian Stammler noticed the significant differences in the way how we anthropologists collect our ‘data’ in the project,  and how our colleagues from other social sciences did this in the circumpolar project: our emphasis is on fieldwork with participant observation, and then ‘topped up’ with some interviews and focus-group interviews too. The circumpolar project relies on focus group interviews only, which is cheaper of course, but also it gives only what people SAY, and not what they DO.

It will be a challenge in the publications to compare data from participant observation from one set of sites, with the data from interviews in other sites. Also, in our project data we almost only have people from outside the higher education system with whom we worked, while in the circumpolar project they interviewed almost only university students. Obviously, there are huge differences in how these groups see the determinants for their own well-being. Any ideas how to frame such a comparison in a meaningful way?