Skip to Main Navigation Skip to Section Navigation Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer
  Home > Youth Development > Youth Development and Evaluation > Benefits of YPE

Youth Development and Evaluation

What are the Obstacles to YPE?
When launching a YPE project, collaborators can meet many of the challenges they face by becoming thoroughly familiar with the benefits of and available resources for YPE. Often-cited challenges include:

Lack of awareness and misperception. Program evaluators and staff may be entirely unaware of YPE, or they may assume that evaluation is for adult experts.

Overload. Evaluation itself is frequently such a challenge for program staff that engaging youth in the process as well may seem overwhelming.

Lack of knowledge, skills, resources to involve youth.

Lack of time.

Lack of transportation.

Confidentiality. Staff sometimes feel that young people are not capable of adhering to procedures that ensure confidentiality of sensitive data.

Relinquishing control to youth. There is often a lack of will on the part of adults to share power with young people; leadership may fail to commit to authentic youth engagement.

"Youth participation in community evaluation research is conceived as a democratic process that seeks to equalize power between youth and adults, recognizes their respective roles and responsibilities, and places special emphasis on involving those youth that are traditionally underrepresented."

- Checkoway, Dobbie, Richards-Schuster, Youth Engagement in Community Evaluation Research

Example: Independent Living Survey Project
These reports detail findings from an innovative study that engaged a group of formerly homeless youth to research the scope and nature of youth homelessness in an upstate New York county. Youth Research Assistants were successful in reaching the most hidden sector of the youth population, homeless youth who are disconnected from services.

2019 Independent Living Survey Project


2015 Independent Living Survey Project


2011 Independent Living Survey Project


2007 Independent Living Survey Project


Surviving On Our Own (2004)


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.


[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.

Copyright © 2023 ACT for Youth Center for Community Action. All rights reserved. Website and Database Development by RMF Designs