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YFE TIG Week: Youth at the Center of MERL Practices by Pia Saunders Campbell and Alejandra De Freitas

Hello, I am Pia Saunders Campbell, Director of Measurement, Evaluation & Learning at the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and Communications Co-Chair of the Youth-Focused Evaluation TIG, here with my colleague Alejandra De Freitas.  IYF’s belief that educated, employed, and engaged young people possess the power to solve the world’s toughest problems inherently leads to a positive youth development approach and the incorporation of youth voice in programming.  We also extend these principles to our measurement, evaluation, research and learning (MERL) practice.

Youth are our most important client group and, as program participants, they stand to be most affected by decisions made related to evaluation findings.  We strive to elevate youth as the ultimate end user of our data collection and evaluation efforts—after all, we measure performance and evaluate programs in order to refine our approaches to provide better, more relevant services to young people—by incorporating principles of design thinking and collaborative and participatory evaluation into our performance measurement and evaluation frameworks.  This helps to prioritize youth perspectives and deliver the most relevant and true information.  It also helps shift power dynamics by recognizing and promoting young people’s expertise and contributions to programming designed for them.

Hot Tips from Current and Emerging Practices

1. Speak the language of your audience:  Youth don’t always identify with the term “youth.”  When engaging youth in program design or evaluation, use the term your specific client groups identify with (teens, learners, students, young adults).  This will deepen your connection and build trust.

2. Incorporate youth voice: Apply Collaborative or Participatory approaches in your evaluation plan.  Plan data analysis to include youth to identify or validate trends.  Engage youth to help identify the problem the intervention seeks to address.  Invite youth to provide feedback on the theory of change in a youth-friendly way.

3. Collect data effectively:  Give youth the opportunity they want to provide their perspective in a survey.  Questions should be not too general but not too specific and allow for qualitative feedback.  Open-ended questions open a window for youth voice into the evaluation and the program.

4. Practice responsibly:  Adequately plan and resource for data privacy and security and appropriately-secured informed consent.  If the participant is a minor, ensure that a parent/ guardian and the minor participant have assented and that ample time is allocated to explain the activity and secure consent. When engaging youth in data collection, ensure that they are trained and knowledgeable on evaluation protocols and ethics.

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.


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