YFE TIG Week: Cassandra Jessee on Promoting and Measuring Positive Youth Development to Empower Youth

Hi, I am Cassandra Jessee and I serve as the director of the USAID-funded YouthPower Learning project, a youth-focused knowledge-creating, -curating and -convening project and through it, I represent Making Cents International and the International Center for Research on Women in Washington, DC.


We defined our core approach, positive youth development (PYD) to ensure relevance for low-and middle-income countries (LMIC), whereby PYD builds and holistically supports the competencies, skills and abilities of youth so that they are empowered to reach their full potential. PYD differs from many approaches in that it views youth as active partners in development efforts, rather than as problem actors or obstacles to be overcome.

To support youth-focused evaluation and program design in LMIC, we developed the PYD Measurement Toolkit, in which we outline a simple PYD measurement framework with four overlapping domains: assets, agency, contribution, and enabling environment. This framework provides a simple entry point into measurement and aims to makes story telling about how PYD programs easier. We included illustrative PYD measurement indicators and possible tools organized by these domains that can be considered and adapted for the varying LMIC context.

Hot Tips to advance PYD:

  • Engage youth meaningfully throughout all phases of programming and evaluation. Meaningful youth engagement is a key component of effective PYD programs. Training, supporting, and mentoring youth to participate meaningfully has direct skill-building benefits and helps ensure program effectiveness and evaluation relevance.

Rad resources: We commissioned a series of videos that provide guidance and best practices on engaging youth. Also check out a recent webinar series on engaging youth we did in collaboration with AEA YFE TIG:

  • Youth Voice in Action: Tips, Strategies, and Advice from Youth Evaluators
  • Engaging Hard-to-Reach Youth in Research and Evaluation
  • Engaging Youth in Research
  • Use the term “Positive Youth Development” when evaluating programs that incorporate two or more domains of PYD. In our recently released systematic review of PYD programs in LMIC, only one program explicitly identified itself as practicing PYD. The more programs and evaluations recognize that they are employing PYD principles and use PYD terminology, the more the global community will understand the importance of PYD approaches, as well as their effectiveness.
  • Ensure consistent measurement of PYD outcomes. Many PYD programs measure sector-specific outcomes, such as knowledge of HIV, contraceptive use, job placement rates, or reduction in conflict. Very few assess PYD outcomes, such as self-efficacy, positive identity or interpersonal skills. The PYD Measurement Toolkit can help integrate PYD principles into your M&E plans.

Get Involved

Join one of our communities of practice to share and learn with others and check out www.youthpower.org and its repository of more than 2000 resources and events dedicated to PYD.

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.



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