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YFE TIG Week: Creating Youth Inclusive Spaces within Adult-Centric Events by Ross VeLure Roholt

Hello, I am Ross VeLure Roholt, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota.  This year I collaborated with others on the YFE TIG to sponsor and host a group of young people to attend and participate in the American Evaluation Association meeting in Minneapolis.  Over the last decade youth-led evaluation has grown in scope and scale.  Our TIG worked to respond to this trend by creating an inclusive space for youth participants at this year’s conference. 

What is inclusive space?

An inclusive space is where everyone feels supported and encouraged to be themselves.  It also recognizes diversity and provides opportunity for everyone to build their skills and share their strengths.  Youth inclusive spaces also challenge age prejudice and stereotypes while also allowing for young people to connect with others who are both in their peer group and outside of their peer group.

Our TIG planned a full-day for youth participation at AEA 2019.  With incredible assistance of the AEA administration team, we were able to host over 20 young people and adult allies who have worked on youth-led or were beginning the process of creating a youth-led evaluation project.  They started the day with an orientation to what is a conference and what can they expect?  Together they attended the Keynote with members of our TIG.  Immediately after the event, we informally processed the talk and invited their feedback about the speaker.  Before lunch, they attended breakout sessions led by other young people and on topics that they found interesting.  We hosted a lunch and facilitated a debriefing session to elicit their ideas about what they heard and how it matters for their own projects.  In the afternoon, they visited the Exhibitors Hall.  Before they left, we facilitated a final reflection and connection session which invited them to share significant learning and insights they had gathered that they wanted to use in their own evaluation projects. 

Hot Tip

  • Create membership rates that encourage young people’s participation.
  • Allow young people to participate as every other member: Provide conference badges and programs.
  • Support interaction and reflection whenever possible.
  • Provide space and time for young people to process what they are learning and how it matters to their own work and the evaluation project they are working on.
  • Create connection opportunities to meet both youth evaluators and adult allies.
  • Encourage experienced youth-led evaluators to share lessons and tell stories.

Rad Resources

National Conference for College Women Student Leaders

Youth Power Youth-led Evaluation Guidebook

Facilitator’s Guide for Participatory Evaluation with Young People by Barry Checkoway and Katie Richards-Schuster

Youth-Led Evaluation: A Guidebook (2007) by Robert Shumer

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.

1 thought on “YFE TIG Week: Creating Youth Inclusive Spaces within Adult-Centric Events by Ross VeLure Roholt”

  1. Hello Ross,

    Thank you for your article. I found your Hot Tips quite helpful. Although I don’t run an organization or conferences, I feel like the same tips can be used in school wide events also.

    I am currently an upper primary school teacher working abroad in Asia. I am specifically in Macau, SAR China. I find the educational culture here to be very teacher-, or adult-centric in every aspect. The educational culture is just moving towards creating classrooms which are student focused and less teacher centric. When I originally started three years ago, it was taboo to let the students lead their own learning. I think having adults who are willing to let go of the ‘control’ is also an important step in creating youth inclusive spaces.

    I found it really important that you differentiated what is an inclusive space and a youth inclusive space. I think often adults may forget that our youth, no matter the age, also have strengths and their own observations. The Hot Tip that made me reflect how I can better my own practice was definitely “Provide space and time for young people to process what they are learning”. As adults we may forget that younger minds may take longer to process the information they have just received and we need to accommodate that creative freedom.

    Thank you for all of your insite!


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