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Showing posts from October, 2012

Youth as partners in evaluation -- an idea that is catching on

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 equa…

Top 10 ways to engage diverse communities

What does it take to build relationships with diverse audiences? I have thought a lot about this question in my work with University of Minnesota Extension.

One of the things I enjoy the most about my work is the chance to act as bridge between my university and communities across our state. Often, immigrants and minorities haven't had the opportunity to engage and participate in what Extension has to offer. Engaging them is different than what happens when working with communities who have had long-lasting, positive relationships with us.

Extension work extends beyond our program participants; it permeates  individuals' lives, families, organizations, and entire communities. In the social environments in which we do our work, including demographic changes and economic turmoil, it is crucial that we establish, maintain and nurture positive relationships with diverse communities. Along with some of my colleagues across Extension, we put together a "Top 10 List" for en…

Youth programs designed for those who need them most

Did you know that time spent in youth programs is the most consistent predictor of youth thriving? Participation in them can enhance young people's self-esteem, school performance and civic responsibility. But which youth benefit the most?

While all youth can and do benefit from youth programs, they are disproportionately valuable to the welfare of low-income or marginalized youth. Those who have fewer resources -- financial, cultural, and social -- benefit disproportionately more from programs than youth who have plenty. Ironically, there is a severe shortage of youth programs designed for at-risk youth.

This is an urgent issue that the Minnesota Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) team has gone a along way to addressing. The Minnesota CYFAR Sustainable Communities Project is entering its fifth year of operation. Since its launch, we have used the organic middle school model designed specifically for youth and their families at risk. It is not a highly structured pro…