I am Mónica Ruiz-Casares, Program Chair of the Youth Focused Evaluation TIG. I am Associate Professor in the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry at McGill University and Researcher at the Sherpa University Institute in Montreal. I am also member of the International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership (ICCRP), a group of academic and research centers, non-government organizations, and human rights institutions in Brazil, Canada, China, South Africa, and the UK collaborating to advance child participation in child protection.
The ICCRP includes a Child and Youth Advisory Committee (CYAC) with 10 youth representatives ages 10-24 years from all countries where we developed case studies. A CYAC brings together a group of children and youth who represent the interests and perspectives of young people and other stakeholders that may be impacted by an evaluation or study findings. They do not represent their countries but rather contribute expertise in their own lives and interest in children’s participation and protection.
- CYACs enrich adults’ perspectives with young people’s insights and energy. This, in turn, can enhance the quality and usefulness of evaluation findings. Children and youth can provide input on the feasibility and appropriateness of the evaluation design and methods for different age and cultural groups. Through their connections to other young people, advisors can help identify needs, priorities, and resources that matter to young people and share evaluation findings.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities early together with the CYAC. For example, will the CYAC have a governance, advisory, and/or evaluation role? How will decisions be made? Will stipends be provided for participation? This will set clear expectations and avoid disappointments in the future.
- Meet young people where they are. For example, be flexible with means and timing of communication, use simple language, value diversity of perspectives, and provide opportunities to dis-/engage.
- Support relationships and treat as equal partners. Provide opportunities for adult and youth team members to get to know each other’s interests. Facilitate regular communication and structure meetings to ensure that all youth have a chance to share as they feel comfortable and to develop new skills.
- Both young people and adults need to be provided training along the way.
- A special issue on Evaluation Advisory Groups in New Directions for Evaluation contains valuable advice on engaging young people in adult- and youth-majority advisory and evaluation advisory committees.
- Some initiatives of youth engagement in civic and community decision-making have incorporated youth as advisors and a few have developed resource guides to support meaningful youth participation. See examples from Alaska and British Columbia.
- Existing tools to evaluate child participation and youth engagement may be adapted to measure young people’s involvement in advisory and governance roles.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.