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Aspirations mapping through creative expression

Aspirations are highly complex psychological constructs, crystallised at the interstices between a young person’s cherished dreams and goals, their emerging competences and the actual possibilities opened by the outer environment. One of the important limitations of aspirations research is that most often traditional methods will only give a glimpse of aspirations proxies – such as goals and aims, rather than fully fledged aspirations. This strand of the aspirations mapping toolkit harnesses the reflective and expressive power of participatory photography and zine making to enable young people to explore aspirations and determining factors. The Research section provides theoretical insight that underpins the relationship between aspirations research and creative engagement. The Application section offers a tailored approach for engaging young people in an exploration of their life and career aspirations, in a facilitated zine making workshop.


Research conducted in Connect2Aspire outlines a theoretical framework on the role of creative engagements (in particular photography) for research with young people and how these have been employed in the Connect2Aspire research and the aspirations mapping workshop. It offers insight into the value of participatory photography in practice, but also of the limitations associated with it use, oftentimes coming down to implementation details, such as the challenge of securing young people’s continuous participation and engagement, or the resource-intensive nature of the creative engagements.

The working paper and reflective brief share from our practice of running two workshops on participatory photography and aspirations with young people; and a third one that extended the boundaries of the approach to include several generations of the Indian diaspora in Coventry.

Working paper 4. Participatory photography and aspirations mapping. [PDF download]

Reflective brief 1. Enhancing visual and photography skills for creative expression [PDF download]


In this workshop-based experience, participants are encouraged to reflect on the connection (or disconnect) between their life and career aspirations, in an atmosphere marked by creative expression, sharing and exchanges with peers and facilitators. Photography is proposed as an expressive medium, a new vocabulary through which young people can both reflect deeply and convey ideas and feelings about their dreams and future outlooks. You can choose to download and apply the format as such, or design your own format adapting to the specific circumstances and aims of engaging young people.

Downloadable materials include:

Workshop guides

Guidance and tips for conducting aspirations mapping workshops with young people, the first employing participatory photography to generate visual materials on key themes related to the development of aspirations; and the second a guided experience of sine making using an aspirations zine board you can also download below.

Toolkit overview – aspirations mapping through creative expression [PDF download]

Guide for participatory photography workshop [PDF download]

Guide for zine-making workshop [PDF download]

Aspirations zine

A template for creating a personal zine, based on a journey of self-reflection and expression in a facilitated workshop.

Download zine template for use by participants in workshop: Black & White, A2 size, double-sided, to be folded – Page 1 [PDF download] | Page 2 [PDF download]

Download zine template for visualisation on a board/wall during the workshop: Black & White, A1 size Single page [PDF download]

Facilitation cards

These cards can be used by the facilitator or spread on the tables for participants to get inspired while they create their aspirations zine: Black and white, to be printed on A4, one side, and cut to A6 | Cards [PDF download]

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