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Finding ways to engage youth in program evaluation

By Nicole Pokorney

Are you engaging youth in program evaluation? You may be wanting to do so, but having trouble finding a way to do it.

In October, educators from our center and youth workers from several area youth programs embarked on a journey to explore innovative ways to engage youth in program evaluation. The Innovators on Youth Roles in Evaluation Cohort emerged as the laboratory for this exploration. The Innovators began to gather the information about Youth Participatory Evaluation (YPE) from our early meetings and Kim Sabo Flores' presentation that month, Transforming Youth/Adult Relationships through Research and Evaluation.

YPE is a practice that benefits youth, adults, and program. In her blog post, Youth as partners in evaluation - an idea that is catching on, Kate Walker began the discussion on how programs benefit from involving youth in evaluation and research.

In her presentation and book, Youth Participatory Evaluation, Strategies for Engaging Youth People, Kim Sabo Flores further describes the benefits:
  • Youth learn research skills
  • It is a fundamental right
  • Gather better data
  • Improve programming
  • Model of community action
  • Resourceful data collection
  • Ability to ignite human development
  • Strengthen youth-adult partnerships
You can read more from Kim Sabo Flores on the American Evaluation Association blog.
The question emerging for me through this journey is: "How do we create the room to allow evaluation to occur?" As with all good youth engagement practices, we know what is good for the youth, adults, and program, but how do we design our programs to allow the space to actually do it?
By using a service-learning methodology, we can create the space for progress monitoring, or evaluation, and we also can align the components of YPE and service-learning to strengthen community action and advocacy.

How have you seen YPE and service learning playing out in youth programming? How are you carving out the space in your program to do it?

-- Nicole Pokorney, Extension educator

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