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YFE TIG Week: Climbing Hart’s ladder: Methods for engaging youth in evaluation and decision-making by Cara Karter

Hello, I’m Cara Karter, a youth-focused evaluator at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. If you attended the Eval2019 poster session, you may have had the chance to chat with me about this topic. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, now is your chance!

What is youth engagement? Youth engagement is the sustained, meaningful involvement of a young person in an activity that has a focus outside of self (Pancer et al., 2002). Hart’s ladder of participation (1992) illustrates the varying levels at which youth can be engaged in a project or process. Following the popularization of Hart’s model, he cautioned that the ladder may seem to suggest that the higher rungs are the ideal level of participation, but that it is important to consider the context, including children’s “competence and confidence to engage” (Hart, 2008, pp 24) and adults willingness to scaffold and support that engagement.

In the figure below, I have arranged some approaches for incorporating youth engagement into your work along Hart’s ladder. My hope is that you will be able to identify an approach that fits your context and resources.

Hot tip: Build from where you are. I have found it is often helpful to identify things you are already doing and look for opportunities to deepen your stakeholder engagement. For example, if you are including youth as a sub-population during data collection by conducting focus groups, you can deepen that engagement by including time after the conclusion of the focus group to do thematic analysis and co-interpretation.

Rad Resource: AEA365 has a wealth of informative posts on youth engagement and youth participation (and stakeholder involvement more broadly). I love using AEA365 because the information is concise. If you want to dive deeper, you can always reach out to the author of the post for more information.

Rad Resource: Not wild about the Hart’s ladder? At this point, there are many different models of participation which you can reference.

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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