YFE TIG Week: Mónica Ruiz-Casares on Using Images to Engage Young People in Research & Evaluation Cross-Culturally

Greetings from Montreal! My name is Mónica Ruiz-Casares and I am an Assistant Professor in the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry and at the Centre for Research on Children and Families at McGill University and an Evaluation Advisor at the Centre de Santé et des Services Sociaux de la Montagne, a primary health and social services centre in Montreal serving a largely immigrant and refugee population. I want to share a visual method that I have developed and used with colleagues in Canada, Liberia, and Laos and that can easily be adapted to other cultural contexts.

Lesson Learned:

In order to facilitate discussions with young children, we selected several dozen images online that participants could easily relate to. For example, to study risk and protective factors, images represented common barriers and supports that children encounter in each given setting. This way, images can easily be adapted to the developmental level and socio-cultural context of participants. Here are some key elements for a successful exercise:

  • Select a balanced set of images representing positive and negative elements in natural and social environments that participants can easily relate to. For example, a review of current prevalence rates and/or expert opinions can help identify relevant sources of risk and protection.
  • It is crucial that the same set of images is used for both positive and negative experiences (for example, to explore young people’s perspectives of risk and safety). This will allow opposite views of the same topic or situation to surface.
  • Validate the selection of images with young people of similar age group, ethnicity, etc. as the population you will be working with. Whenever possible, involve young people in the selection (or generation!) of images too.

Hot Tips:

Make more than one copy of images to facilitate several young people selecting the same image. Even if an image is selected only by one participant, after s/he has explained to the group why s/he selected that image to represent happiness/safety or sadness/risk, it is useful to ask other participants about their views on that image.

Cool Trick: Online image libraries

Search one of the open-access repositories for context-appropriate images. For example, the Centre for Disease Control has a searchable online image library. Using open-access images will not only be cheaper, but will facilitate the dissemination of information.

Rad Resources:

These two articles outline the materials, sequence of activities, and surprising results from 7-11 year olds in Liberia and Laos. I will be happy to communicate with anyone who is considering adapting and using this method.

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 aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “YFE TIG Week: Mónica Ruiz-Casares on Using Images to Engage Young People in Research & Evaluation Cross-Culturally”

  1. Hello Ms. Ruiz-Casares,

    I was excited about the possibility of utilizing a similar approach in an undergraduate program evaluation we are assisting with. Ours is for an afterschool program. We could be developing some new instruments to assess the program and your process might be useful.

    Thank you for the post and the suggestion for online image libraries.

    Best regards,
    Barbara Burrow

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