YFE TIG Week: Engaging young people in online consultations using Slack by Dr. Natasha Koustova and Kimberly Bowman

We are Dr. Natasha Koustova and Kimberly Bowman and we work with Girl Guides of Canada.  Girl Guides represents nearly 100,000 girls and women across Canada and aims to be a catalyst for girls empowering girls.  As staff, we look for opportunities to meaningfully incorporate girls and ‘girl-voice’ into the organization’s design, research and evaluation practice.

Earlier this year as our new Girls First program was being developed, testing showed that older girls (13+) thought we could do better.  So, Natasha worked with a ‘Task Force’ of 30 girls across Canada to dig deeper into their wants/needs in a series of online focus groups (‘chats’).

Hot Tips

  • Get together at the same time. Focus groups work better when people can read and react to each other in real time, rather than commenting later. (Our chats were typically 2 hours on a weeknight)
  • Schedule sessions at different times. Young people have busy schedules! Chats happened at different times so that people in different time zones with different commitments could engage in real-time. (Rad resource: We used an app called Team Time Zone Pro to do this)
  • Make it easy to participate on a smart phone. Girls were sometimes in transit and didn’t want to use a lot of data, so we avoided audio or video functions.
  • Keep it focused. We held somewhat structured conversations on targeted program topics like ‘physical challenges’ or ‘feminism.’ We developed a list and girls chose the top 4 topics that interested them.
  • Mix it up. Slack allows you to integrate polls into your chat.  These were popular and often got lots of use from people who might not share opinions with words.

Lessons Learned

  • Keeping up with the conversation can be tough. If the group is big and the conversation flows, slower typists can struggle.
  • Includes some, not others. This approach helped us meaningfully include some girls with mobility issues. It would not work as well for girls with low literacy or low comfort with technology.

Rad Resource

  • Slack is a multi-purpose collaboration tool. We found it accessible to girls and the pricing model allows for many participants at low cost.
  • Canva can be used to create ‘Instagram-style’ visuals to communicate protocols or ground rules. We thought these were both beautiful and better than a long text list. (See sample image shown)
  • Slido can be used for participants to pose questions before the chat and vote on them. This helped us choose topics for the chat.

We hope that some of these practical tools and resources will help you to reach and listen to young people in your evaluation practice.

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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