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YFE TIG Week: Advancing Youth Equity through YPE by Nou Yang

I am Nou Yang from The Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI), a program of Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. YLI’s mission is to develop the next generation of multicultural leaders who have the skills and desire to contribute to making a thriving and inclusive community. YLI has been practicing Youth Participatory Evaluation (YPE) for a number of years and have found that the approach of YPE is a strategy that can transform organizational culture and help programs achieve equity.

Lessons Learned

Social Justice:

  • As soon as teens walk into a program space they see photos of themselves and other participants and quotes written on the wall such as “Nothing about us without us.”
  • Participants are invited to join the quality team in addition to participating in the program. They are asked to share their thoughts, experiences and what quality programming feels like and looks like. They are told that they are not just recipients of services but they can evaluate and inform the future direction of programming.
  • One participant said “Right now I feel like in YPE we are given the permission to throw rocks at our glass house so that we can rebuild it. I am looking forward to this.”

Equity and Inclusion:

  • Hierarchies are dismantled. All youth and adult participants are encouraged be both teachers and learners, and to work alongside each other to create recommendations that will change the program for the better for all participants.
  • No one is an expert. Value is placed on learning together and leveraging everyone’s experience and knowledge. Everyone is asked to be contributors and co-creators of the process as well as share in the responsibility of getting the work done.
  • A participant said, “In YPE, there was no hierarchy. We didn’t see each other as participant, youth, staff or adult in the program. We saw each other as change makers, working to improve our program. In the beginning of YLI, we all wrote our mission statement, our vision of YPE, together. It was a simple activity but the effects made me feel powerful and grounded in the work I was doing. The power of being able to point to our mission and state firmly that ‘These are my words, my investment, my labor, my vision my legacy, and my purpose for being here’ made me feel like it was MY program and not just one I was partaking in. This is what it truly means to work in collaboration, to be in a program, not just as a participant, but a stakeholder.”

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation (YFE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE TIG 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.


2 thoughts on “YFE TIG Week: Advancing Youth Equity through YPE by Nou Yang”

  1. Hello Nou Yang. My name is Crystal and I’m currently a student at Texas A&M central Texas. The Youth Leadership Initiative program sounds like a something out of a fairy tale. And I mean that in a good way. Everyone who’s participating has no specific title. It’s all very fluid. Where teachers can be learners and students can be teachers. It’s such a wonderful concept. I wish more people would use this kind of collaborative imagination. Also, the way this program is set up it gives the young people of voice in a say as to what they’re trying to accomplish and the work they’ve put in. I feel this would also give value to what everyone is doing and just taking partnership, ownership is such a great way. I hope that your participatory evaluation is able to share this with other organizations so maybe they can utilize this idea as well. Thank you for sharing.

  2. How do these tips relate to the Joint Committee’s Program Evaluation Standards, and what other tips might be suggested by the Standards?

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