Note: The Youth Development program evaluation team will share tips and resources in YD Update to aid staff in program evaluation efforts. The information will be archived on the staff only web page. Please send any questions or suggestions for future topics to email@example.com.
Involving youth in the inner workings of programs through evaluation seems like the "right" thing to do but it is easy for adults to lose steam while we figure out how to do it "right". Understandably, adults working with youth want to offer a meaningful learning experience. Why not test the waters by involving youth in conducting a needs assessment to inform new club or program approaches for youth?
Focus with a question.
Help youth get started by creating energy with a question about a problem, an opportunity, or about youth in the community. For example, a great starting question might be something like, "What neighborhoods in our community have the most youth residents?" Youth can then gather information by getting acquainted with existing data sources to answer their question. Minnesota Compass is a great resource for community and neighborhood level data, and some of it is directly about youth demographics and social issues.
Once the youth pose the question and gather the data, facilitation of the discussion is key. After youth select and present their data, ask for their recommendations about what data are important to consider in designing programs for youth, and what the data mean to them. Do these data reflect your experience in this community? What else do we need to know?
It is almost a sure-fire thing that youth will have questions (or doubts) about the validity and reliability of the data. Their questions can lead to creative and fun methods that will help them to gather information. Observations, participant counts, photography, video tours, mapping ... the list is endless, so focusing on the question will help determine the best method. This is also a great opportunity to learn or strengthen skills.
Learn more about how the Minnesota Youth Council members surveyed 1,000 youth about issues of concern for an example of how Minnesota youth are involved in assessing needs: http://www1.extension.umn.edu/youth/training-events/docs/myc-youth-survey-results.pdf.
There are many of us who are exploring ways to involve youth in evaluation and research. Let's support each other!
Evaluation and research specialist