Hi my name is Kim Sabo Flores, I am the Co-Founder of Algorhythm. Over the last 20+ years, I have been working as an evaluator in the field of youth development. Recently I’ve observed an unfortunate trend in the field: A LOT OF TALK about “evidence-based,” “research-based” and “data-driven” decision-making, and very LITTLE ACTION. This is particularly true for youth practitioners, working on the front lines of social change, where data could have the greatest impact. Why, in this rich information and technology era is this still a challenge?
Here are a few Hot TIPS:
Bring the power of data to the front lines of social change: Data is power! And for the most part that power is held by senior-level staff and has been used to leverage resources rather than to drive programmatic decision-making. It is rarely the case that evaluation findings are shared and analyzed with front-line staff, and there is a radical misunderstanding of their ability to effectively understand and utilize data.
Hot Tip: Support ALL staff to learn from and make meaning of data; be sure they’re included when you share your findings.
Value rather than evaluate: Research and even evaluation reports are written and consumed by academics and funders. However, they leave practitioners with limited practical information about how to improve outcomes for ALL youth —specifically the most difficult to serve.
Hot Tip: Utilize predictive and prescriptive analytics that focus on what “works” for each and every youth, valuing all the various pathways taken toward success rather than just those taken by the “average” youth.
Measure what matters: Driven by funding demands, program staff spend precious time and resources capturing mandated data such as report cards, test scores, attendance records, etc., with the full knowledge that these metrics do not fully tell their story and are not fully attributable to their programs. Front line workers are tired of gathering meaningless data that doesn’t answer their questions.
Hot Tip: Use research-based social/emotional measures to show proximal gains that contribute to academic achievement, reduction of risk and thriving. These types of outcomes speak directly to the work of youth development and allow front-line staff to see their contribution.
Provide timely insights at a low cost: Take advantage of new technologies that allow programs to gather data, immediately analyze it and put it to use. Such technologies increase data utilization and ultimately increase the impact on youth. Best of all, it drastically decrease the cost and allows more nonprofits to afford evaluation and to afford it more often!
Foundation For Young Adult Success: UCChicagoCCSR. Concept Paper for Research and Practice. June 2015.
FREE webinar:“21st Century Impact Measurement for Youth Serving Organizations,” and learn more about a game-changing approach to impact measurement.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation (YFE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE AEA 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. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.