Mary Arnold on Getting Youth Participatory Projects Started Part II

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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