Meet the first of our finalists: 4D Youth Matter

Meet the finalists: 4D Youth Matter - Unearthing young people’s experience of bus use

Specialist youth researcher Laura McLarty has more than 19 years’ experience consulting with young people. She founded research agency 4D Youth Matter so she could pursue the work she’s passionate about.

Laura has been working with young people since the beginning of her career. ‘I really care about the issues affecting them and their future life chances,’ she says. ‘A lot of their issues are still the same today. Organisations need to understand what it’s like to be a young person.’

Laura’s work usually covers teenagers and those in their twenties (13-25 age group). Her clients include charities, social enterprises, local and national government bodies and private sector companies. Her projects are typically qualitative research, ethnography and face-to-face group work.

Laura loves working with clients who have a clear brief but are open to how it should be delivered. She enjoys projects with organisations that have an impact and want to make a difference for young people.

For Laura, the best thing about being an independent is getting to know clients better. ‘You get to do your own networking and have the freedom to pick the projects you want to work on,’ she says. ‘I’m involved hands-on from start to finish. And because I’m in control of my own work, I can act quickly, which is great for the client.’

I don’t want some ‘randomer’ sitting next to me!

Transport Focus, the independent transport user watchdog, asked 4D Youth Matter to explore young people’s experiences of and attitudes towards buses. Young people often need public transport to get to education or work but fewer of them are using buses. Transport Focus wanted to understand what puts them off and why other forms of transport, such as Uber, car ownership and trains could be more attractive.

4D Youth Matter used mobile phone ethnography and focus groups to engage with young people and really get under the surface of the issues. This involved using photos, video and collages so people could express themselves in multiple ways. The approach helped the young people to feel involved in the project in a way they enjoyed.  

The mobile app brought young people’s experiences to life in a realistic way, including: not knowing if the bus will turn up, anxieties around buying a ticket, litter and cleanliness of the bus, and the ‘fear’ of a stranger sitting next to them. The project also included a quantitative survey of 1,000 young people to enable more detailed analysis. 

The research has enabled Transport Focus to represent the voices of 14-19-year olds and to share with bus operators how to get young people more interested in using the bus. The results were published in February 2018 at an event attended by more than 70 people from government and bus operators, featuring contributions from several young people. 

Transport Focus Director, David Sidebottom, describes the work as ‘a groundbreaking project, which we are using in multiple ways to influence the provision of bus services. It would not have been possible without the expertise and hard work from 4D Youth Matter.’

A supportive network

Laura says the best thing about The ICG is being connected with other members. ‘The other researchers are very supportive and want to see you succeed,’ she says. ‘There is always someone that will help you with a query.’

She was able to call on this expertise for this project: both an associate and the recruiter were ICG members, and the Ethos mobile app was also recommended by a member.

About The Independents’ Day Award

4D Youth Matter is one of four independent research consultancies shortlisted for the 2018 Independents’ Day Award. The Award, run jointly by the Independent Consultants Group (ICG) and the Market Research Society (MRS), is designed to recognise the contribution of researchers working as independents.

The winner will be announced at the annual MRS Awards dinner on Monday 3 December.

Read more information on the Award, including the other three finalists, here.

4D Youth Matter website:

Transport Focus report: Using the bus: what young people think