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

TAG | youth participation

Greetings from the Get Outdoors Leadville Youth Research Team! We are writing from 10,200’ in Leadville, Colorado.  We live in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, but many of our friends and classmates do not venture out into nature.

This year we completed a project to learn “How do we connect youth in our community to nature?” Our research team used interactive and visual methods to answer our research question:

  • Story maps to map and interview residents in different neighborhoods
  • Site visits to area programs using an evaluation rubric
  • A mural, “Window to the Outdoors” to learn why connecting to nature matters
  • Interviews with leaders, parents, students and residents.

 Lessons Learned:

Connecting youth to the outdoors is important because being in nature can help us feel less stressed, more inspired and healthier.  Lots of people like to be outdoors, but they don’t always know where to go or feel safe.

We learned that being bilingual was really important. By talking to a lot of different people, we could help our community with some big ideas:

  • Non-metal playgrounds in all mobile home parks for winter use
  • Paid internships for young adults to make career exploration possible
  • Environmental and outdoor programming built into school programming to reach all youth
  • Better coordination of programs so older and younger siblings can participate
  • A hub facility that meets needs of all ages in all seasons

Get Involved

After four months of research, we joined leadership teams and worked alongside adults. Our research really helped because we had data to support our ideas. This was important when we presented to our county commissioners. We prepared ahead of time for meetings and then could share powerful ideas.

We learned that our youth leadership really mattered because:

  • People see it differently when a young person is willing to change their community. They know that is must be really important to them if they are willing to use their free time to do extra work.
  • Sometimes adults forget that they were once young too.
  • Youth are the ones with passion and know what other youth want.
  • We needed our youth research project to find those ideas and adults to help make it happen.

Rad Resources:

We used some really great resources to help with our research and youth-adult partnership:

The Youth-Led Evaluation Toolkit by Kim Sabo Flores gave us some great ideas, especially the ultimate chocolate chip cookie activity

Participatory Visual and Digital Methods (Left Coast Press, 2013) by Aline Gubrium and Krista Harper for the idea of story mapping.

Colorado 9-25 helped us work with adults using their youth-adult partnership resources at co9to25.org. Their mission is to ensure that all Colorado youth are safe, healthy, connected, contributing and educated.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE TIG members. 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’re Tara Gregory, Director of Research and Evaluation, and Bailey Blair, Youth Leadership in Kansas Program Associate, at Wichita State University’s Center for Community Support and Research (CCSR).  CCSR was awarded a grant last year by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to provide technical assistance and research services to leadership groups for youth with a mental illness diagnosis and their parents.  Our first task was to better understand these groups, so we conducted focus groups with each site, asking questions about the nature of the groups and roles of the youth. Their qualitative responses and our observations indicated that while they highly value their groups, the adults tend to be in charge and youth perform tasks like choosing food, picking up trash, etc.

So our question was: How could we honor what the members love about their groups but also move them toward best practices for positive youth development/leadership (e.g., Eccles and Gootman, 2002)?  Our approach was to gently present “what is” in their own words alongside “what could be” as a way to respect the members’ voices but also offer ideas for enhanced experiences.

Hot Tip:

  • Instead of just giving the leadership groups a written report, we displayed a Wordle™ graphic, which contained all of their qualitative responses, during a gathering of all groups. This was an engaging method that showed them the results “in their own words” without inserting our thoughts.
  • We then displayed a model of meaningful youth participation and asked them to compare it to the  Wordle™ visuals.  This spurred a very energetic and insightful discussion among youth and adults.
  • Next, we gave them an opportunity to incorporate their ideas into a visual representation of their vision or aspirations for the groups as a whole.
  • Finally, we’re following up with technical assistance and written guidelines on options to further incorporate true youth leadership in their groups.

Lessons Learned:

  • By presenting the qualitative data juxtaposed with the ideal model, the groups had an “A-ha!” moment that was totally theirs. They were not left feeling like they had done something wrong and were even able to laugh at the discrepancies. This appeared to be a moment of genuine empowerment.
  • Highlighting the discrepancy between “what is” and “what could be” wasn’t enough. It was essential to make sure they had concrete ideas about how to move toward their self-determined vision.

Figure 1.  Wordle graphic for responses to: “What are youth in charge of in this group”

Gregory Blair 1

 

Figure 2. Ladder of youth voice

Gregory Blair 2

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating CP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP TIG members. 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

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Hi, I’m Mary Arnold, a professor and youth development specialist at Oregon State University. In a previous AEA365 post I presented three tips for successfully engaging youth in participatory evaluation (YPE) projects. Here are a few more tips that can help ensure the success of your YPE endeavors.

Hot Tips:

  • Teach the Cycle. As trained evaluators, the steps of the evaluation cycle are second nature to most of us. Identifying an evaluation purpose, developing questions, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, communicating, are familiar steps to evaluators. But youth new to evaluation are without a roadmap, and the steps of evaluation are found along a mysterious foggy country road… in the dark! It is our job to provide a roadmap, describe the landscape, and guide the journey until youth gain clarity and confidence. When I conduct trainings for YPE I keep a poster of the evaluation cycle on the wall. I refer to the poster many times during the training, explaining where we are in the process. One of my favorite curriculums for teaching about the cycle of evaluation is Participatory Evaluation with Young People by Barry Checkoway and Katie Richards- Schuster.
  • Hit the Floor Furniture is fine, but there is nothing like a good debrief on the floor. Whenever I can I sit with youth (and adult partners if they can) on the floor in a circle to reflect on what we are learning together. I usually have a “talking stick” of some kind that youth can hold while they share their thoughts. I use these times to reflect on what we have learned together, gather ideas for what is working and what is not, and create plans for our next steps together.
  • Fan the Flames I spend summers backpacking the mountains of Oregon. My favorite time of the day is in the evening when I start a small campfire from just a twig and one match. I know that the twig and match alone will not turn into a fire to cook my dinner and keep me warm without some help. I carefully add twigs and fan the flame until I know the fire is strong enough to burn alone. The same is true for engaging youth in participatory evaluation projects. Without proper support and encouragement, the initial flame will burn out. I keep things going by providing post-training support via webinars, newsletters, mentor conference calls, and inviting youth to share their projects. Today’s opportunities to connect through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube make staying in touch with projects even easier to do. You can see some of the fanning strategies I use on the website for my current program YA4-H! Youth Advocates for Health.

 

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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Hi, I’m Katie Richards-Schuster from the Michigan Youth and Community Program at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.  Over the last 10 years, the Michigan Youth and Community Program has been working to engage young people in community-based participatory evaluation.   Much of our work has focused on capacity building activities—training and education—but also documenting the process of youth participation, creating conceptual models for practice, and developing best practices for the field.

Hot Tip: For this blog, I want to share a declaration of practice principles developed in collaboration with youth and adult participants during a Wingspread symposium on Youth Participation in Community Research and Evaluation. The declaration outlines core principles and provides a guiding framework for the field.   I think it remains a valuable set of concepts for anyone interested in engaging young people in evaluation.

Wingspread Declaration of Principles for Youth Participation in Community Research and Evaluation

  • Youth participation in community research and evaluation transforms its participants. It transforms our ways of knowing, the strategies we devise, the methods we employ, and our program of work.
  • Youth participation promotes youth empowerment. It recognizes the experience and expertise of all young people, and respects their leadership capacities and potential contributions.
  • Youth participation builds mutually liberatory partnerships. It values the assets of all ages, and fosters supportive and respectful youth/youth and youth/adult working relationships.
  • Youth participation equalizes power relationships between youth and adults. It establishes a level playing field clarifying for participants the purpose of the process and the power imbalances between groups. It structures environments that respect the involvement of young people, and train adults in supporting genuine youth decision-making and leadership development.
  • Youth participation is an inclusive process that recognizes all forms of democratic leadership, young and old. It involves diverse populations and perspectives, especially those who are traditionally underserved and underrepresented.
  • Youth participation involves young people in meaningful ways. Young people participate in all stages of the process, from defining the problem, to gathering and analyzing the information, to making decisions and taking action.
  • Youth participation is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Participants continuously clarify and reflect upon its purpose and content. Research and evaluation are viewed as an integral part of knowledge development, program planning, and community improvement.

Rad Resource: For more information about the Wingspread Declaration or other resources on participatory evaluation with young people, please visit our website:  www.youthandcommunity.org.  Among other papers and information about projects, you can download two workbooks:  Participatory Evaluation With Young People and Facilitator’s Guide for Participatory Evaluation With Young People.   The workbooks are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation (YFE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE  TIG members. 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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