Hello, my name is Mariah Kornbluh, graduate student in Ecological Community Psychology at Michigan State University. I am an evaluator and ally with youth in redressing adultism.
In an earlier post on adultism, my friend and colleagueMaddy Boesen discussed some of the ways adultism might manifest in youth-focused evaluations and shared some tips for identifying and remedying adultism for evaluators. Today’s post covers some of our thoughts about taking it to the next level: as evaluators, we can empower youth by engaging them as partners in evaluations.
Hot Tips for Being a Youth Ally:
- 1. Involve Youth in the Evaluation Process: Youth can be valuable co-partners in the evaluation process. The experience also provides them with the opportunity to develop research skills and take on leadership roles in collecting and sharing the findings within their programs, schools, or communities. It can also ensure that youths’ own values are included in the evaluation design and reported on in findings. Finally, youth taking on active roles within the evaluation process can have a ripple effect on how adults view them as capable leaders in other settings.
- Engage in Dynamics that Challenge Power Relations: If youth are co-evaluators, it is crucial that they engage in the process of evaluation with adult stakeholders, and that adults work actively to shift social or organizational dynamics that disempower or tokenize youth. Oftentimes, adults involved may turn to the evaluator to understand evaluation procedures or findings, as they are used to referring to other adults when learning information. As an evaluator, it is vital that you turn the attention back to the youth in order to reinforce their knowledge and expertise of evaluation methods in order to interrupt patterns of adultism.
- 3. Stand behind Your Findings: Sometimes, findings from youth or youths’ interpretations of the findings are in tension with adult stakeholders’ perspectives. If adults discount youth input because of perceived maturity, an evaluator may need to challenge the adult stakeholders. Although youth may not be seasoned program evaluators, their perspectives are valid and lend richness to our understanding of a program.
GLSEN’s Jump-Start Guide for GSAs concludes with a section on conducting evaluation and assessment in the context of a youth-adult partnership in “Part 8 – Evaluation and Celebration,” and is a great tool for visualizing youth empowerment in evaluation.
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. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.