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ACT for Youth

Benefits of Youth Participatory Evaluation

Recent studies and reports have documented the multiple benefits of youth participatory evaluation (YPE) for youth, the field of evaluation, programs, organizations, communities, and society [1].

Benefits for Youth

Skill development: Youth learn how to conduct research (e.g., how to design a project and how to collect, code, and analyze data); they also develop public speaking, critical thinking, and job readiness skills.

Social competencies: Youth build social skills and learn how to interact in new settings, develop empathy for other perspectives, and build teamwork and a sense of responsibility.

Self confidence: Youth recognize that they have knowledge and insight, which leads to a sense of personal efficacy.

Identity exploration: Youth take on new roles as researchers, evaluators, and action planners, broadening their perspectives as well as their sense of empowerment and possibilities.

Civic competencies: The experience of being heard and having one's voice matter increases a sense of social responsibility and may lead to greater youth civic engagement.

Social capital: Youth build new relationships with peers and adults. These new connections can help with future opportunities (e.g., programs and employment).

Benefits for Evaluation and Research

Access to hard-to-reach samples: Young people can connect the project with youth who are traditionally difficult to reach in research settings (for example, see Independent Living Survey Project [PDF], a study conducted with homeless youth).

Better access to data: The task of obtaining relevant data from youth is often handled more effectively by youth than adults.

Improved data collection tools: Collaborating with young people in developing data collection instruments helps to ensure that tools are "youth friendly," i.e., use language that youth understand and relate to. This could potentially lead to the collection of more valid information.

Democratization of knowledge: Through YPE, young people contribute to creating knowledge; they also develop skills to participate in a democratic society.

Increased understanding/better interpretation of results: Youth perspectives on the meaning of findings are often different from adult interpretations. Discussions about data can be very enlightening when multiple viewpoints are taken into account.

Benefits for Communities and Society

Addressing community needs and challenges: Young people have a unique understanding of local challenges that impact their peers; they can offer creative approaches and solutions to community needs and problems.

New generation of youth leaders: YPE can help develop a cadre of young people who have a growing sense of civic responsibility, who possess analytical and organizing skills, and who are ready to address the challenges faced by their community.

Increased activism and advocacy: Many youth participatory evaluation and research projects use findings to bring about change in schools, families, and towns, raising awareness of social issues that impact youth and increasing public will to address these issues.

Improved intergenerational communication: YPE enhances respect and collaboration between youth and adults.

Benefits for Programs and Organizations

Improved programming: With youth input, programs can become stronger, more appropriate, and better able to meet youth needs.

Increased youth participation in programmatic decision making: Involvement in program evaluation can lead to overall increased youth engagement in program governance.

Transformation of the culture: When an organization engages in YPE, the practice creates the expectation that youth should be involved in all aspects of the organization, and that youth engagement is the normative practice, not a unique or discrete aspect of programming.

Through YPE, programs and organizations become more democratic and inclusive of young people's knowledge, perspectives, and power.

Reference

[1]   See, for example, the following studies:

Checkoway, B., Dobbie, D., Richards-Schuster, K. (2003). Youth engagement in community evaluation research. CYD Journal, 4 (1).

Zimmerman, K., and London, J. (2003). Getting to go: Building organizational capacity to engage in youth-led research, evaluation, and planning. CYD Journal, 4(1), 19-25.

Zeldin, S., Larson, R., Camino, L., and O'Connor, C. (2005). Intergenerational relationships and partnerships in community programs: Purpose, practice, and directions for research. Journal of Community Psychology, 33(1), 1-10.

Sabo, K. (2003) Youth participatory evaluation: A field in the making. New Directions in Evaluation, 98. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.