YFE TIG Week: Establishing and Maintaining Child and Youth Advisory Committees by Mónica Ruiz-Casares

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.

Lessons Learned:

  • 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.

 Hot Tips:

  • Both young people and adults need to be provided training along the way.

Rad Resources:

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: Establishing and Maintaining Child and Youth Advisory Committees by Mónica Ruiz-Casares”

  1. Dear Monica,

    Thank you for your article “Establishing and Maintaining Child and Youth Advisory Committees”. As a system principal, part of my role is to oversee our student voice initiative. We have employed a standardised survey for several years now with some input from students on the survey questions. We are now evaluating ways we can better leverage student voice around data analysis and developing school wellness plans for the following year. What stands out for me in both your lessons learned and RAD resources is the importance in the selection of adults and youth involved as well as their relationships in the process.

    In selecting youth, all the resources stress selecting a diverse group. The RAD resources, “Youth Engagement Toolkit Evaluation Tool”, I found particularly useful as it closely aligned with our own project’s needs and provides a useful “Indicators in Practice” appendix. As you have stated, this toolkit emphasises the importance of involving a diverse group of young people’s voices in the process. I like how this resource takes it one step further to emphasise including youth “who may have been overlooked in the past or who are harder to engage in the process.” Youth participation from different groups helps promote accountability.

    Youth members selected don’t have to already have all skills needed as might be the case in past advisory groups. As you put it, “Meet young people where they are.” Training, as you mention in your tips, is key to develop the overall capacities of the group. In our school board’s scenario, this might look like teaching the basics in data analysis or steps for evaluating a project both with the students and staff. Your point on clarifying roles and responsibilities early should be part of this training process.

    Finally, what resonates with me are your points regarding the relationships within the advisory group. As the Youth Toolkit points out: “Both youth and adults benefit … and develop new relationships.” I like how you highlight the ways that youth can enrich the adults’ perspectives. I agree that time needs to be given to support the relationships within the advisory group – time to get to know each other’s interests, and time so that all stakeholders have a chance to share and develop new skills. And, of course, as the children consulted in the Save the Children projects point out, time to follow up with the youth to tell them how their voices helped to change things.

    Respectfully, Don Lewis

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