Evangeline Danseco on Integrating youth and family voice in your evaluation

My name is Evangeline Danseco, and I work at the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health. We work with mental health agencies to enhance organizational and community capacity to implement and evaluate evidence-informed practices.

End-users and target audiences for programs and services are key stakeholders; engaging these groups at the very beginning of any evaluation is essential.  The key stakeholders for the mental health agencies we serve are children, youth and families. Below are some useful tips and resources to help with engaging youth and families in organization-wide and community-wide evaluation efforts.

Hot tip: Make sure there are policies and practices in place for youth and families to be meaningfully engaged. For example, do you have honoraria to acknowledge the time and resources that youth and families contribute comparable to honoraria that you would offer professionals or consultants? Have a conversation with youth and family members about the level they feel comfortable being involved in evaluating programs and services and how they see themselves contributing to the process.

Hot tip:  Do they have a champion or ally in the organization they can turn to for questions? Tag one or two people to connect before and after any meetings or evaluation sessions. These quick check-ins can clarify any questions or concerns that youth or families may have throughout the process. These check-ins are a tremendous support for building trust and creating strong partnerships among youth, families and staff within organizations.

Hot tip: Have more than one young person or family member, otherwise their participation may be seen as tokenizing and ineffective. You want their voices to be heard and for them to make strong, meaningful contributions. A critical mass can help make this happen.

Rad resource: Our program evaluation toolkit has useful worksheets and templates that you can use for your evaluation. Sections are divided into planning, doing, and using evaluation.

Rad resource: Our youth engagement toolkit  presents a model and theory of change for youth engagement efforts. This toolkit brings together evidence, tools, activities and templates that can help agencies embed youth voice and create sustainable opportunities for youth engagement in agencies and communities. Let me know what you think about the section on co-evaluating. Youth can be more than passive recipients of an evaluation and can become actively involved in planning and doing evaluations.

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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