This UNICEF guide is written for both youth and adults. It gives tips and activities to help communities, programs, or organizations gather information and act on participatory action research (PAR) findings.
A participatory approach ensures programs are meeting the needs of the population being served. Therefore, when youth are directly connected to (and affected by) a health issue or program, it is important to involve them in program design and evaluation.
Participatory evaluation is an approach that involves all program stakeholders, including staff, participants, evaluators, and community members, in both process and outcome evaluation activities. According to the University of Kansas's Work Group for Community Health and Development's Community Tool Box, in a participatory evaluation, stakeholders should:
- Name and frame the problem or goal to be addressed
- Develop a theory of practice (process, logic model) for how to achieve success
- Identify the questions to ask about the program and the best ways to ask them
- Collect information about the program
- Make sense of the information
- Decide what to celebrate and what to adjust or change in the program based on evaluation findings
Youth involvement in participatory evaluation is important for a few reasons. According to a UNICEF brief, they should be involved because:
- It is a human right to participate and express views, needs, and experiences.
- Youth have their own views, and these may differ from those of adults
- Youth have needs and experiences that must be considered when making decisions that affect them
Advantages of Participatory Evaluation
Participatory evaluation approaches aim to be practical, useful, and empowering. According to the Community Tool Box, advantages include:
- A better perspective on both initial needs of a program's participants and on the program's ultimate effects
- Access to information you would otherwise not have access to
- What worked (and what did not) from perspectives of those, staff and participants, most directly involved
- Provides a voice for those who are not often heard
- Teaches skills that can be used in employment or other areas of life
- Increases self-confidence and self-esteem of those who may have little of either
- Demonstrates to people ways in which they can take more control of their lives
- Encourages stakeholder ownership of the program
- Sparks creativity in everyone involved
- Encourages collaborative work
Engaging young people means involving them in the design, implementation and evaluation of programs and policies that affect their well-being."
Jennifer - Washington, DC
Considerations for Involving Youth in Participatory Evaluation
Participatory evaluations require cultural competency of research staff as well as respect and trust between researchers and community members. Researchers must be trained on how to work with community members, and community members must agree to the terms of the evaluation and be active participants in the evaluation.
According to a UNICEF brief, participatory research involving youth requires
- Youth-friendly environment
- Confident and credible research facilitator(s)
- Respect for ethics and values
- Role and skills of the facilitator as well as ability to adapt to the sociocultural context
- Simple and youth-friendly tools
Participatory evaluation can involve youth in evaluation planning, tool development, data collection, and/or dissemination of evaluation findings. Depending on the design and organizational capacity to train youth evaluators, data collected may include public records/internet searches, individual and/or group interviews, focus groups, community information-sharing sessions, surveys, or direct participant observation. The table below from ACT for Youth Center of Excellence breaks down the continuum of youth involvement in evaluation.
|Highest||Youth-led research/evaluation is part of organizational planning cycle; experienced youth act as peer trainers and are paid|
|High||Youth participate in research design, data collection, and analysis; youth report findings, implement change|
|Medium-High||Youth design and administer research instruments; adults analyze results, develop findings, implement changes|
|Medium-Low||Youth give input on process|
|Low||Youth collect data|
|Very Low||Information is collected from youth|
|None||Outside adult conducts research without collecting information directly from youth|
Participatory evaluation approaches are more complicated than traditional ones. They often require more time to build trust with all participants, ensure participants are trained and involved in decision making, and to establish representation from all program stakeholders.