Dear Colleagues, My name is Michele Tarsilla ( Twitter @ MiEval_TuEval) and I work as Evaluation Adviser at the UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa (I am also Associate Editor of the African Evaluation Journal).
Today, I would like to share with you 5 tips and 10 resources on how to better engage children (“any human being under the age of 18” ) in international and cross-cultural evaluations, especially at a time when the prominent use of distant data collection methods (due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions) risk undermining the voices of children affected by the ongoing crisis.
Hot Tip # 1: Try to “walk the equity talk” and engage children fully in your evaluations. To this end, move as much as possible towards the right of the Child-Focused Evaluation Spectrum (see below). Most evaluations have been conducted “ON” children for decades, meaning that children have been treated as “evaluation objects” and therefore assessed through a desk review or secondary data analysis. Similarly, many other evaluations have “CONCERNED” children, whereby adult respondents (e.g., parents, teachers, etc.) have spoken about children’s issues on their behalf. Next, a growing number of recent evaluations have been undertaken in collaboration “WITH” children, meaning that children– ethical clearance allowing- have been asked directly about issues affecting them. Lastly, a few more evaluations have been conducted “ BY” children collecting primary data themselves and analyzing them in a participatory fashion.
Hot Tip # 2: You do not need to work on a Child Program evaluation to engage children. Engaging children in evaluation is not just “something nice to do”- it is a necessary act of responsibility and accountability. As of 2015, UN data showed that children under 18 accounted for 47% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa. Likewise, a more systematic integration of children’s opinions and experiences into evaluations will contribute to more effective recommendations towards sustainable programmatic/policy improvements.
Hot Tip # 3: When conducting a child-focused evaluation, follow a Human-Rights Based Approach and frame the related questions and rubrics based on global normative documents, namely The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990), which recognize both the children’s right to freely express themselves and the adults’ duty to listen to children’s voice.
Hot Tip # 4: Engage Children creatively. Use participatory and fun data collection methods as Photovoice, Body Mapping and the H-Method. However, for these methods to be effective and transformative, make sure that they be appropriate to the specific age group whom you will be working with.
Hot Tip # 5: Gain field experience in child-focused evaluation to avert the risk of “doing harm” during overseas assignments. This could entail: (i) running pro-bono evaluation activities with local youth groups in your community; (ii) discussing Specialized Literature on Child-Focused Evaluation with your peers: (iii) consulting dedicated Websites; and (iv) studying Ethical Guidelines on Working with Children in Evaluation .
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