We are Julie Poncelet, Kim Sabo-Flores, and Kai Fierle-Hedrick with Algorhythm, a company that builds solutions to ignite ongoing learning and drive impact in the nonprofit sector. We recently conducted a participatory evaluation with the Nellie Mae Education Foundation that focused on the impact of its Amplifying Student Voice and Leadership (ASVL) grant fund: a fund that supports youth organizing and aims to put youth at the center of conversations about education reform in New England, particularly in the area of student centered learning.
One of our goals was to build ASVL groups’ internal monitoring and evaluation capacity and we did this by establishing Local Evaluation Teams (LETs): teams of Youth Organizers and Adult Allies who were interested in learning about participatory evaluation, and in gathering key data on their organizing efforts. We wanted to help groups better understand their impact on youth peers, schools, and the community. And we wanted to help them effectively and compellingly share the story of that impact with their supporters.
We launched the LETs with an Orientation Webinar that introduced ASVL groups to the concept, goals, and purpose of an LET. Each group then had the option to participate, and the foundation made it clear that no one would be penalized for opting out. In the end, all but two groups engaged in the LET process, which included personalized support and some rad resources to support their work:
Rad Resources. We provided LETs with two key tools: a LET Handbook and an Event Monitoring Form. The handbook outlined detailed instructions for 4 easy to use, low-tech evaluation activities that could be implemented before, during, or after a community event, workshop, or action. The monitoring form was a simple worksheet that prompted Youth Organizers to track key information about an event/action, participants, and basic evaluation data.
Hot Tips. Our team also provided LETs with personalized support via two site visits and virtual coaching sessions. We met with LETs prior to events/actions to help them identify goals and determine what they wanted to learn, from whom and when. We helped them choose 1-2 simple evaluation methods from the LET Handbook they could use to gather relevant data. And, after events/actions, LETs shared their completed monitoring forms with us (and in some cases, the raw data). Last but not least, at the end of the process we met with LETs to help them “make meaning” of their data and determine how to use it for ongoing improvement, planning and communication about future organizing efforts.
Overall, feedback from the LETs was incredibly positive. Youth Organizers appreciated the accessible format of the LET Toolkit, as did Adult Allies. And we hope it will be a useful resource in your own youth led evaluation efforts.
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