The American Evaluation Association (AEA) is holding its annual meeting in Minneapolis this week. AEA's new Youth Focused Evaluation Topical Interest Group (YFE TIG) launches with an impressive series of sessions devoted to evaluation about youth, for youth and with youth. It is exciting to see all the evaluation and research that is being done in partnership with young people. For me, these sessions underscore the potential benefits and barriers to engaging youth in evaluation.
As with other forms of participatory and action research, including youth in the process can:
- Enhance the inquiry. Young people provide an important and legitimizing perspective on the programs that serve them, and their involvement can contribute to more valid and reliable findings.
- Empower participants. When youth are involved as collective decision makers and change agents in the inquiry process, they can gain important skills and competencies.
- Contribute to society. By recognizing youth expertise and equalizing power relationships, young people can help democratize knowledge and transform institutions to be more accountable to their communities.
When done poorly, however, youth-involved research and evaluation can be counterproductive. Potential barriers include:
- Tokenism or exclusivity can result when youth participation is limited to a select few.
- Organizational and community readiness are often the biggest obstacles.
- Adequate training and support is critical for both youth and adults.
On Mon., Oct. 29, Dr. Kim Sabo Flores will present "Transforming Youth - Adult Relationships through Research and Evaluation". While this event is full, a recording of it will be posted on our website.
In your experience, what have been the key benefits and barriers to partnering with young people in evaluation and research efforts?
-- Kate Walker, research associate
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