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Lisanne Brown on Involving Youth in Interviewing

I am Lisanne Brown, Director of Evaluation and Research at the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI). I lead a staff of 10 evaluators who evaluate LPHI’s programs. Increasingly we are also providing evaluation services to external organizations and programs throughout Louisiana.

As part of an evaluation of a peer led HIV and AIDS prevention program for vulnerable youth in New Orleans, implemented by a local AIDS Services Organization, we trained and supported youth to conduct and analyze qualitative interviews with their peers. The interviews sought to understand the behaviors, needs and preferences of New Orleans Black youth and develop programmatic strategies relevant to them. In addition, the training and the interview process aimed to enhance the communication, outreach and analysis skills of the peer educators.

Hot Tip – Engage youth directly in all aspects of interview processes: All aspects of the interview process, from questionnaire development through programmatic recommendations were peer-driven with support from the LPHI evaluation team. This allowed for youth to be deeply engaged in the interview process and understand the results in order to translate them into program recommendations.

Hot Tip – Consider using the third person for interviews: We asked the Peer educators to conduct interviews in the third person so that interviewees discussed their peer group rather than themselves, helping to establish greater comfort and trust between the interviewees and the peer researchers, and allowing for more information sharing and deeper insight. Through this strategy, we were able to obtain a wide range of information through a small number of interviews.

Hot Tip – Employ storytelling for deeper understanding: Storytelling was an important aspect of the interviews. In primary interviews, interviewees were encouraged to share stories related to topics on the questionnaire. In recall interviews, peer-researchers recounted the interview as a story, and the evaluation staff probed for greater depth which resulted in more meaningful program recommendations.

Lesson Learned – Creating archetypes can aid in analysis: The peer researchers also guided data analysis. LPHI evaluation staff conducted a preliminary theme analysis, followed by an analysis workshop with the peers. Peer researchers led a discussion of the findings to create an archetype of a peer named Chris. The results of the peer-led analysis was a Peer Archetype Illustration and Narrative that described Chris’ lifestyle and a Suite of Micro-Narratives that described Chris’ social and sexual network.

To apply our findings to the program, peer researchers created a programmatic timeline in which they brought Chris through the steps of the CHAT program. For Chris’ social and sexual network, we examined factors that would hinder or motivate their participation in the CHAT group education session, “Condoms 101.” This helped the peer researchers to develop conclusions and recommendations that are important to them.

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