AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | homeless

Greetings to the aea365 community.  We are Heather Huseby, Deborah Loon, Major Arnel Ruppel, Matt Lasure, Denise Smieja, and Andrea Simonett representing six agencies in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, serving homeless youth.

Rad Resource: Through an 18-month developmental evaluation process our six quite distinct agencies collaborated to develop and evaluate nine guiding principles to help youth overcome homelessness.

The principles begin with the perspective that youth experiencing homelessness are on a journey; all of our interactions with these youth are filtered through that journey perspective. This means we must be trauma-informed, non-judgmental, and work to reduce harm. By holding these principles, we can build a trusting relationship that allows us to focus on youths’ strengths and opportunities for positive development. Through all of this, we approach youth as whole beings through a youth-focused collaborative system of support.

The full set of principles, how we developed them, the evidence for their effectiveness, and how we are using them is available here.

Hot Tip:  All collaboration members were involved in every aspect of the developmental evaluation from selecting the focus of inquiry to designing the evaluation, interpreting findings, and finalizing the report.

Hot Tip:We met together every month to keep the momentum of the project going.

Cool Trick:Working together on the developmental evaluation solidified our collaboration, gave us a common focus, and facilitated building trust and mutual understanding, which continue.

Rad Resource:  The developmental evaluation was also a doctoral dissertation by Nora Murphy, University of Minnesota.

This week, we’re diving into issues of Developmental Evaluation (DE) with contributions from DE practitioners and authors. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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We are Debi Lang and Kathy Muhr, members of the Research and Evaluation Unit at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Health Policy and Research.

Populations considered hidden or hard to reach for participation in qualitative evaluation studies may be small in size, their members difficult to locate, or hard to distinguish from general populations. In their article, Salgalnick and Heckathorn state such groups historically include subjects in HIV/AIDS research but can include undocumented immigrants, or the homeless.

Evaluations that rely on data from hidden or hard to reach populations present challenges when names and contact information do not exist, are not accessible, or are generated in a way that may introduce biased results. In two recent projects, we used approaches to identify 1) family members of Hospice patients who had died; and 2) adults with mental health conditions who are deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or Latino.

Hot Tip: Avoid Bias

  • For the Hospice project, we used claims and enrollment data to identify family members of Hospice decedents, rather than request the information from Hospice providers. This approach avoided a potentially biased sample of family members who were predominantly satisfied with their services.

Hot Tip: Hire Cultural Brokers

  • To identify D/HH or Latino adults with a mental health condition, we hired cultural brokers, with the experience and language of the groups we wished to contact.  As peers and integral members of our evaluation team, the cultural brokers helped to identify group members and create a viable sample of potential participants.
  • To recruit cultural brokers, we made announcements at various stakeholder and committee meetings, brought copies of the job description, and brainstormed with attendees to identify likely candidates.

Hot Tip: Maintain Confidentiality

  • Whether gathering names and contact information of potential study participants from a database or by word-of-mouth, use compliance procedures to maintain confidentiality of personal information and to protect their rights. Both projects required approvals from either an Internal Review Board (IRB) or Compliance Unit to identify and recruit participants.

Lessons Learned: Budget Wisely

  • To budget a project which identifies hidden populations, consider the time needed to generate the study sample, including IRB and data access approval.
  • Consider costs for hiring cultural brokers and/or translators, as well as for participant incentives, travel, and costs associated with rescheduling meetings. These expenses support successful recruitment and data collection activities.

RAD Resources:  The hyperlink above and the following resources discuss sampling designs used to identify hidden or hard to reach populations.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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