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Research in Zimbabwe, DRC and Ghana

Growing up on the streets (GUOTS)

The award-winning Growing up on the Streets research project has given a voice to 198 street-connected youth in three African cities: Accra in Ghana, Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Harare, in Zimbabwe.

The research, which started in 2013 and followed the young people for over three years, aimed to challenge the binary view that children are at risk ‘on’ the streets but safe ‘off’ them. It reveals the complexity of life and choices available to young people in these three cities, and seeks to better inform both practical interventions and policy.

The research is lead by the University of Dundee. StreetInvest hold auspices over the project and our late Co-founder, Patrick Shanahan, was a Research Director.

The story map

The Story Map is a innovative, immersive, visual representation of the findings from the Growing up on the Streets project. In May 2017 the ‘Story Mappers’ – street-connected youth working as researchers – went into the streets and informal settlements of Accra. They took photos and videos on tablets provided by the project, that they felt helped to explain and represent the lives of their peers. Click on the link to explore their stories, in their own words and through their eyes. 

A ground-breaking methodology

The research was delivered using a participatory approach, where young people were both informants and the investigators. Six young people in each city were trained in basic ethnographic methods. They met regularly with the project researchers to provide a commentary on their lives and also to offer rich observations on the experiences of the other young people within their social networks.

(for more information and briefing papers please visit our resource page here)


  • MRS President’s Medal: 2015. The President’s Medal is awarded annually to an organisation or individual that has made an extraordinary contribution to research. StreetInvest was chosen as the winner by President of MRS, Dame Dianne Thompson, Chair of MRS Richard Silman and CEO of MRS Jane Frost.
  • Stephen Fry Award for Public Engagement, Project of the Year: 2017. The annual Stephen Fry Award recognises the work of outstanding staff and students in communicating University of Dundee’s research and practice to a wider audience.



Special thanks to Backstage Trust for their investment in Growing up on the Streets

Academic Team

  • Patrick Shanahan – Co-Founder of StreetInvest (D), Former Research Director
  • Wayne Shand – Manchester University, Research Director                               
  • Prof. Lorraine Van Blerk – University of Dundee, Research Director
  • Janine Hunter – University of Dundee, Researcher

Country Project Managers

  • Thomas D’Aquin – PEDER – Democratic Republic of Congo, Bukavu
  • Shaibu Chitsiku – Street Empowerment Trust – Zimbabwe Harare
  • Selassy Gbeglo – Catholic Action for Street Children and Street Girls Aid – Ghana, Accra


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