YFE TIG Week: Co-leading evaluations with youth by Cara Karter and Julian Brown

Hello, we are Cara Karter, evaluator at After School Matters (ASM), and Julian Brown, former research and evaluation intern at ASM and current Chicago Public High School student. This summer we worked together on a mixed-methods implementation evaluation of an ASM initiative with the Chicago Police Department. This was the first time the Research & Evaluation team at ASM employed a teen intern.

Lessons Learned:

  • Prepare, but be flexible – we only had six weeks together so the main research questions and methods (survey and focus groups) were decided on in advance. In retrospect, the formation of research questions could have been done collaboratively and been an added value.
  • Skip the intense literature review – assigning a literature review as a first task was a bad idea. While understanding the research is important, it was a very dry introduction to evaluation work. In future internships, we might just find an existing literature review to provide a foundation for the project.
  • Focus on one project – we had planned for the internship to cut across a lot of our team’s work, but the implementation evaluation ended up taking a lot of our time. Our daily check-ins helped to keep the workload manageable.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of basic office competencies – when setting goals for the internship, one of the biggest goals Julian had was to learn how to work in an office. That included things like answering phones and emails professionally, using the copier, and presenting.

Hot Tips:

  • Let youth lead – Cara led the first focus group, we co-led the second and third, and the fourth was led independently by Julian. After the second focus group, Julian could have led both of the final groups himself. Don’t be afraid to step back and let youth lead.
  • Provide opportunities to present – at the end of the internship, we co-presented initial results to program staff who managed the initiative. We also presented results at a regional conference. This was a valuable experience to see how work projects are shared both internally and externally.
  • Invite youth to convenings – we attended a local out-of-school time provider summit together and a conference. These provided an insight into professional networks and showcased how different organizations approach their work.
  • Best practices for youth-led evaluation are best practices for you! – we re-structured our typical focus group protocol format for this project and included a lot more introduction and conclusion text to ensure we would adhere to best practices. After sharing the format with the rest of the team this is how we are structuring all protocols moving forward.

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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