YWFC’s Freedom Research Institute formalized our historic work collecting and analyzing our own data on our own experience so that we can tell our own stories and identify and promote our own solutions. The Freedom Research Institute uses participatory, community-driven research as a tool for social and political transformation. It is committed to decolonizing traditional academic methods by centering the voices of those most impacted by systemic violence. The Institute practices a collaborative, ethical model of research that can be replicated to drive local, state, and national policy. We provide opportunities and training for system-impacted youth to lead research and become experts in the field of justice reform. Our work investigates how marginalized communities navigate ecosystems of criminalization such as juvenile and adult justice, housing, foster care, and education to create opportunities for the most impacted to achieve self-determined futures.

“Freedom to me is investing in the leadership and power of the most marginalized communities to be at the forefront of solutions that directly impact their communities. Because if they’re not free, I’m not free.” — Participatory Action Researcher

“I think freedom for me, it means there’s no barriers to stuff and my basic human needs are met so I can elevate myself and be able to come to my full potential.” — Participatory Action Research Interviewee

“Freedom is when we reach back and pull the next sibling with us because we see your brilliance and know you will shine when you are surrounded by real love and not under attack alone.” — Participatory Action Research Interviewee

We partner with the Vera Institute of Justice on their Ending the Incarceration of Girls campaign and with New York University of the evaluation of our model, methods and programs.

“We need to shift the narrative on who can be considered an expert. That’s part of decolonizing research, and who actually needs to be doing and leading research, you know? So, I think that’s really a unique piece about our institute. I think about our research team, how you got us, and how you’re doing the writing.” — Participatory Action Researcher

Initiatives & Resources: 

  • A Radical Model for Decriminalization: Research Report
  • Report Findings & Data: A Radical Model for Decriminalization Fact Sheet
  • Publish analysis from “A Radical Model for Decriminalization,” including three papers on: 1) Human rights violations; 2) Policy implications; 3) Resilience & power in navigating lives and systems. 
  • Produce a report on the local and statewide status of the criminalization of girls, women and TGNC people in California.
  • Complete a report on Intersecting Systems & Impact on Housing
  • Publish a comprehensive report on YWFC model based on organization-wide evaluation. 
  • Grow the number of formerly incarcerated and systems-involved girls, women and TGNC people conducting participatory action 
  • research and shifting the narrative through presentation of the findings in diverse ways.