CP TIG Week: Cathy Lesesne on Youth as Sources of Solutions Instead of Sources of Data

Hi! I am Cathy Lesesne and I work at ICF International doing public health related evaluation and research. My passion is doing work that affects the lives of adolescents, particularly those with the most need and the least voice in how to meet those needs. I do a lot of work in and with schools and school districts focused on optimal sexual health for teens and how to ensure youth have skills and ability to make healthy choices no matter when they decide to engage in sexual activity.

I often see well-intentioned school or school district staff creating solutions for youth and testing them rather than involving youth in solution identification and evaluation of the success. It is clearly easier to retain the power to determine the solutions and to see if they work in the end through evaluation. However, in my own work I have seen the power of youth engagement and involvement in both developing programs and services as well as in helping to evaluate and improve those resources.

Rad Resources: As evaluators, we often have the ability to make recommendations to our clients and partners working with youth AND we have the power to approach our evaluation work with youth in empowering and engaging ways. But we don’t always know how. I highly recommend that you dig into the Youth-Adult Partnerships in Evaluation (Y-AP/E): A Resource Guide for Translating Research into Practice and find your own ways to apply the wide range of ideas, tip sheets, and examples for engaging youth as partners in evaluation. Many of these examples may also help your clients or partners think of ways to better engage youth in the development of programs and services that reflect them and their real interests and needs. If youth are empowered to be partners in developing and testing solutions, they become allies instead of subjects; sources of solutions instead of sources of data.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Community Psychology (CP) TIG Week with our colleagues in the CP AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our CPTIG 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.

2 thoughts on “CP TIG Week: Cathy Lesesne on Youth as Sources of Solutions Instead of Sources of Data”

  1. Hi Cathy Lesesne,

    I had the privilege of reading your article on Youth as Sources of Solutions Instead of Sources of Data. Your post was both engaging and relevant to my own professional setting. As a youth settlement worker with the YMCA, we are always looking for ways to meet our clients’ needs through effective evaluative methods. The idea of involving youth in solution identification and evaluation of the success of a program is not an unfamiliar concept to our team. In fact, we highly value the voice of our youth and because they are the primary intended users of our programs, we ensure that we involve them in the process of the evaluation itself. Their feedback is of great value in how the services function and run overall.

    Evaluation promotes data-informed decision making and while the youth themselves provide us with sources of data in planning future programs, they are also our source of solutions for program planning. We ensure that we systematically respond to and follow up on the recommendations of our youth. In partnering with our youth, we are able to develop and test future services before they are implemented at the centre. In fact, we have a youth advisory committee team that meets to evaluate the various services in advance. In creating a committee, we ensure that we have selected members who are committed and have the time, interest and passion to participate in such a dedicated program. It also ensures that we maximize the relevance and utilization of the evaluation. Our primary stakeholders, which are our youth, become aware of a particular idea/problem and bring about solutions and information that we can use to strengthen our policies and programs.

    Thank you for providing a link to a resource guide that provides examples and ideas of ways to engage youth as partners in evaluation as it was most useful. To conclude, I wanted to know if you believe that rather than youth being sources of solutions instead of sources of data, that they could be both sources of solutions and sources of data. To what extent, do you think these two ideas can be merged together?

    Thank you.

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