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Sarah Flicker

Sarah Flicker


York Research Chair (Tier2) in Community-Based Participatory Research


PhD Social Science and Health, University of Toronto
MPH Maternal & Child Health and Epidemiology, University of California, Berkeley
BA (Honours) Medical Anthropology, Brown University

Research Keywords

Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health; Community-Based Participatory Research; HIV/AIDS; And Community Development.

Sarah Flicker

Contact Information

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

416 736 2100 

Research Interests

I am a York Research Chair in Community-Based Participatory Research and Full Professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University.  I am engaged in an exciting program of research that focuses on the engagement of youth and other actors in environmental, sexual and reproductive justice. More broadly, I am interested in community-based participatory methodologies and is active on a variety of research teams that focus on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and responding to gender-based violence in Canada and South Africa.

Recently, I have published in the areas of health promotion, sexuality, ethics, decolonizing methodologies, participatory visual methods and community-based participatory research methods. My research has informed policy at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.  My research teams have won a number of prestigious awards for youth engagement in health research. I am also an inaugural member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Research Projects

  • 2021 SSHRC New Frontiers in Research Fund on Transnational Perspectives on COVID-19’s Impact on Youth Sexuality, Risk and Relationships, $250,000.
  • 2021 SSHRC Partnership Engage Re-Search for Re-Creation: Youth Making with Place to Catalyze Change, $25,000.
  • 2020 YRC 2 Community-based participatory research, $100,000.
  • 2019 Preventing Teen Dating Violence, Flicker/Gilbert, Planned Parenthood Ottawa, Ottawa Coalition of Violence Against Women, $999,000
  • 2018 SSHRC Connections Consent to Enter, PIs: Flicker and Howley $50,000
  • 2017 CANFAR Celling Sex, PIs: Flicker and MacEntee $25,000
  • 2017 SSHRC Enacting Sex Ed Updates: A view from Ontario’s Teachers, PI: Flicker $61,431
  • 2016 CANFAR Picturing Engagement in Toronto’s HIV Sector, PIs: Flicker, Switzer, Soo and McClelland, $25,000
  • 2016 Women’s Xchange Piloting Ontario’s First Indigenous Doula Training Program, PIs: Flicker and Danforth   $15,000
  • 2015, CIHR Mikinaakominis: Taking the Sexy Health Carnival across Turtle Island, PIs: Flicker and Lesperance, $450,000
  • 2014 Ontario HIV Treatment Network Taking the Sexy Health Carnival on the Pow Wow Trail PIs: Flicker and Danforth $25,000

Improving Access to Appropriate Ethical Review for Community Based Research

Drawing on the field of public health ethics, the team put forth a platform that advocated for a dual focus on community and individual rights and respect for multiple ethical norms and traditions. A paradigm shift was called for that brought together standard principles used by REBs and CBR principles into one unified ethics review paradigm for CBR. A review of REB practices in Canada was conducted that explored common HIV/AIDS-related CBR ethical dilemmas to develop and pilot test an assessment tool for CBR ethics review.

Taking Action! Building Aboriginal Youth Leadership in HIV Prevention

This was a national project that worked with six Aboriginal communities across Canada to figure out how Aboriginal youth understand HIV in relation to their communities, cultures and colonization using arts-based methods.  The study also sought to learn whether using art is an effective tool for working with youth to talk about HIV/AIDS.

Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Ethics. In 2007, I first authored a paper “Ethical Dilemmas in CBPR: Recommendations for Institutional Review Boards” in the Journal of Urban Health. It has been cited 282 times and used by countless REBs to improve the ways that they review CBPR. As a result, I testified before a US Senate Committee on ethical review reform and gave keynote addresses at several ethics conferences. I have continued to publish the following influential papers: (a) A situated practice of ethics for participatory visual and digital methods in public health research and practice (American Journal of Public Health; cited by 139); (b) Public Health Research Involving Aboriginal Peoples (Canadian Journal of Public Health; cited by 40); (c) “Ethical Approaches to Protecting Adolescent Participants in Sexual Health Research” (Journal of Adolescent Health; cited by 130).

Taking Action: Widening the Circle of Aboriginal HIV Prevention. I partnered with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and six Indigenous Communities across Canada to examine the links between colonization and HIV risk using arts‐based methods. In each community, we have been building youth leadership in this area. We have published results in several “mainstream” (e.g the Canadian Journal of Public Health) and Indigenous (e.g. PIMATISIWIN) journals. We launched both a “youth story” and “adult report” that have been distributed nationally through the CATIE HIV prevention clearinghouse. We received another nine years of CIHR funding to build on our successes. Communities are telling us this work is making an impact in changing the ways they think about HIV. One of the youth leaders from this project developed the Sexy Health Carnival and a novel intervention to deliver culturally safe harm reduction information in Pow Wow settings and we now have a new CIHR grant to explore its efficacy.

Toronto Teen Survey. I led a research team in collaboration with the Planned Parenthood of Toronto and several academics that released the Toronto Teen Survey (TTS) report in June 2009. The TTS examined barriers and facilitators to teen sexual health care and information access. As a result of this initiative, we garnered national and international media coverage, have been consulting with the Ontario Minister of Education to reform health education in schools, won the CIHR 2009 Synapse Award and Centre for Urban Health Initiatives 2008 Community Based Research Award of Merit for meaningfully involving youth in our process and published an entire special issue dedicated to our results in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. For more information on the TTS.

A Snapshot of Community Based Research in Canada. We conducted Canada’s first web‐based survey of Community and Academic Community‐Based Research Practitioners. Results were presented at international conferences and published in leading journals. We worked closely with local and national granting councils as well as universities on developing policies to support community‐based scholarship, and completed an assessment of the Ontario HIV sector.

Networks 4 Change: I am a co-investigator on a SSHRC-IDRC 7-year project that uses participatory visual (and other arts-based) methods with Indigenous girls in Canada and South Africa to speak back to elevated rates of gender-based violence. I have been the lead investigator on the Saskatoon (Treaty 6 site). In partnership with the National Indigenous Young Women’s Council, I co-edited the first special issue of an international journal (Girlhood Studies) that focused specifically on Indigenous Girls and Resilience. We have just been awarded another 5 years of funding from Status of Women Canada to (1) train girls involved in Networks of Change to become trainers for other Indigenous girls in their community and (2) develop a BluePrint for how other communities can take up this work.

Research Output

Refereed Published Journal Articles

Kari Dawn Wuttunee, Jennifer Altenberg, Sarah Flicker (2019) "Red Ribbon Skirts and Cultural Resurgence: Kimihko sîmpân iskwêwisâkaya êkwa sihcikêwin waniskâpicikêwin." Girlhood Studies 12(3): 63-79.

Sarah Flicker, Farah Mawani and Meagan Dellavilla (2019). Reflections on Teaching, Learning and Doing Participatory Research in a Graduate Seminar. Progress in Community Health Partnerships. 13(3), 293-302.

Flicker, S., Wilson, C., Monchalin, R., Restoule, J.-P., Mitchell, C., Larkin, J., Oliver, V. (2019). The Impact of Indigenous Youth Sharing Digital Stories About HIV Activism. Health Promotion Practice.

Sarah Flicker, Andrea Sayde, Kristina Hedlund, Garance Malivel, Kaila Wong, Maureen Owino & Sharon Booy (2018) Teaching and learning about the relationships between land, violence and women's bodies: the possibilities of participatory visual methods as pedagogy. Agenda, ISSN 1013-0950 print/ISSN 2158-978X online p 1-13 DOI: 10.1080/10130950.2018.1544436.

Sarah Flicker, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Ciann Wilson, Renée Monchalin, Vanessa Oliver, Tracey Prentice, Randy Jackson, June Larkin, Claudia Mitchell and Jean-Paul Restoule (2017) “Stay Strong, Stay Sexy, Stay Native”: Storying Indigenous youth HIV prevention activism. Action Research, First published date: August-16-2017, DOI: 10.1177/1476750317721302.

June Larkin, Sarah Flicker, Susan Flynn, Crystal Layne, Adinne Schwartz, Robb Travers, Jason Pole, and Adrian Guta (2017) The Ontario Sexual Health Education Update: Perspectives from the Toronto Teen Survey (TTS) Youth. Canadian Journal of Education 40(2): 1-24

Wilson, C. L., Flicker, S., Restoule, J. P., and Furman, E. (2016). Narratives of resistance:(Re) Telling the story of the HIV/AIDS movement–Because the lives and legacies of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour communities depend on it. Health Tomorrow: Interdisciplinarity and Internationality4(1): 1-35.

Ciann Wilson, Sarah Flicker, Jessica Danforth, Erin Konsmo, Vanessa Oliver, Randy Jackson, Tracey Prentice, June Larkin, Jean Paul Restoule and Claudia Mitchell (2016). “Culture” as HIV Prevention: Indigenous Youth Speak Up! Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement. 9(1):74–88. DOI: 10.5130/ijcre.v9i1.4802.

Kirsten Lindquist, Kari-dawn Wuttunee and Sarah Flicker (2016) Speaking Our Truths, Building Our Strengths Shaping Indigenous Girlhood Studies.  Girlhood Studies 9(2): 3-9 DOI: 10.3167/ghs.2016.090202.

Sarah Flicker and Stephanie Nixon (2016) Writing peer-reviewed articles with diverse teams: considerations for novice scholars conducting community-engaged research. Health Promotion International. July: 1-10. DOIi:10.1093/heapro/daw059.

Renée Monchalin, Sarah Flicker, Ciann Wilson, Tracey Prentice, Vanessa Oliver, Randy Jackson, June Larkin, Claudia Mitchell, Jean-Paul Restoule and Native Youth Sexual Health Network. (2016) “When you follow your heart, you provide that path for others”: Indigenous Models of Youth Leadership in HIV Prevention. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 11(1): 135-158 DOI: 10.18357/ijih111201616012. 

Renée Monchalin, Alexa Lesperance, Sarah Flicker, Carmen Logie and Native Youth Sexual Health Network. (2016) Sexy Health Carnival on the Powwow Trail: HIV Prevention by and for Indigenous Youth. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 11(1): 159-176   DOI: 10.18357/ijih111201616011.

Adrian Guta, Carol Strike, Stuart Murray, Sarah Flicker, Ross Upshur and Ted Myers. (2016) Governing well in research: Lessons from Canada’s HIV research sector about caring for oneself and others in the practice of community-based research. Public Health Ethics 19(3): 315-328DOI: 10.1093/phe/phw024  (e-pub ahead of print).

Wilson, C. L., Flicker, S., and Restoule, J. P. (2015). Beyond the colonial divide: African diasporic and Indigenous youth alliance building for HIV prevention. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society4(2). 76-102.

Flicker, S., O’Campo, P., Monchalin, R., Thistle, J., Worthington, C., Masching, R, et al. (2015). Research Done in “A Good Way”: The Importance of Indigenous Elder Involvement in HIV Community-Based Research. American journal of public health105(6), 1149-1154.

Oliver, V., Flicker, S., Danforth, J., Konsmo, E., Wilson, C., Jackson, R., and Mitchell, C. (2015). ‘Women are supposed to be the leaders’: intersections of gender, race and colonisation in HIV prevention with Indigenous young people. Culture, health & sexuality, 17(7): 906-919.

Flicker, S. and Nixon, S. (2015) The DEPICT model for participatory qualitative health promotion research analysis piloted in Canada, Zambia and South Africa. Health Promotion International, 30(3):616-24 DOI:10.1093/heapro/dat093.

Guta, A., Strike, C., Flicker, S., Murray, S. J., Upshur, R., and Myers, T. (2014). Governing through community-based research: Lessons from the Canadian HIV research sector. Social Science & Medicine, 123: 250-261.

Wilson, C., Flicker, S., Marshall, Z., Vo, T., Nixon, S., Devon, McClelland, A. and Hart, T. (2014) Condoms and Contradictions: Assessing Sexual Health Knowledge in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer Youth Labelled with Intellectual Disabilities. Critical Disability Discourse. 6: 107-139

Sarah Flicker, Jessica Yee Danforth, Ciann Wilson, Vanessa Oliver, June Larkin, Jean-Paul Restoule, Claudia Mitchell, Erin Konsmo, Randy Jackson and Tracey Prentice. (2014) “Because we have really unique art”: Decolonizing Research with Indigenous Youth Using the Arts. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 10(1): 16-34. 

Salehi, R., Hynie, M., and Flicker, S. (2014). Factors associated with access to sexual health services among teens in Toronto: does immigration matter? Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 16(4), 638-645.

Refereed Journal Articles Accepted -- In Press

Ciann Wilson, Sarah Flicker and Jean-Paul Restoule (in press) It’s all about relationships: the decolonizing potential of digital storytelling and collaborative mural making as research methods. Journal of Critical Anti-Oppressive Social Inquiry (CAOS).

Sarah Switzer, Adrian Guta, Alexander McClelland, Tatiana B. Ferguson, Derek Yee, Carol Strike, Sarah Flicker, Soo Chan Carusone, Neil Herelle.  (in press) Journeying Together: A visual exploration of “engagement” as a journey in HIV programming and service delivery. Health and Place.

C. L. Wilson, S. Flicker, and J. Restoule (in press) Building Black and Indigenous Alliances for Health and Wellbeing. Harriet’s Legacies: Race, Historical Memory and Futures in Canada.

Book Chapters

MacEntee, K. and Flicker, S. (2019). Doing it: Using participatory visual methodologies with youth to study sexual health research. In S. Lamb and J. Gilbert (Eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Sexual Development: Childhood and adolescence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Flicker, S and K. MacEntee (2019). Digital Storytelling with Indigenous Youth about HIV Prevention in Canada and South Africa. In Luc Pauwels and Dawn Mannay (Eds) The Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods, 2nd edition. London: SAGE.

Altenberg, J., Flicker, S., MacEntee, K., and Wuttanee, K.D (2018). ‘We are strong. We are beautiful. We are smart. We are iskwew’: Saskatoon indigenous girls use cellphilms to speak back to gender-based violence. In C. Mitchell and R. Moletsane (Eds). Disrupting Shameful Legacies (pp. 313-322). Rotterdam: Brill Sense.

Flicker, S., 2018. Unsettling: Musings on ten years of collaborations with Indigenous youth as a White Settler Scholar. In C. Mitchell and R. Moletsane (Eds). Disrupting Shameful Legacies (pp. 313-322). Rotterdam: Brill Sense.

Ciann L. Wilson & Sarah Flicker (2017), Let’s Talk about Sex for Money: An Exploration of Economically Motivated Relationships Among Young, Black Women in Canada, in Patricia Neff Claster, Sampson Lee Blair , Loretta E. Bass (ed.) Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Among Contemporary Youth (Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Volume 23) Emerald Publishing Limited, pp.97 – 119.

Flicker, S. and Hill, A. (2014) Digital Storytelling. In Coghlan, D. and Brydon-Miller, M. (Eds), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research, London: Sage. pp. 266-270.

Wilson, C. and Flicker, S. (2014) Arts-based action research. In Coghlan, D. and Brydon-Miller, M. (Eds), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research, London: Sage. pp. 58-62.

Flicker, S. (2014) Stakeholder Analysis. In Coghlan, D. and Brydon-Miller, M. (eds), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research, London: Sage. pp. 727-728.

Flicker, S. (2014) Disseminating Action Research. In Coghlan, D. and Brydon-Miller, M. (Eds), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research, London: Sage. pp. 276-280.

Special Report

Sarah Flicker, Marilou Gagnon, Jen Gilbert, Adrian Guta, Katie MacEntee, Vanessa Oliver, Chris Sanders, Alanna Goldstein, Hannah Maitland, Karine Malenfant, Martha Newbigging, Sarah Switzer, Daya Williams and John Antoniw (2020). Changing the Rules: Ontario Teacher Reflections on Implementing Shifting Health and Physical Education Curricula. Research report from the Enacting Sex Education Update: A view from Ontario’s Teachers Research Project. York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Recognition & Awards

  • York Research Chair (Tier 2), Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists
  • Inaugural Research Excellence Award, Faculty of Environmental Studies
  • Scholar Award, Ontario HIV Treatment Network Award
  • Synapse Mentorship Award, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Community-Based Research Award of Merit, Centre for Urban Health Initiatives