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Involving young people to lead on evaluation?!

Isn’t that a bit risky?

Surely young people wouldn’t be interested?

How would we even get started on this?

If these are some of the questions running through your mind when you think about service users or participants taking responsibility for evaluation, then read on!

ESS has been working with The National Lottery Community Fund to support their grantholders to try handing the evaluation reins over to young people they engage with.  Seven projects in the youth work sector stepped up to test out different ways of supporting young people to take the lead with evaluation, from agreeing project outcomes to designing evaluation tools, analysing feedback and sharing findings. 

We held a learning session to help project leads identify the right stage and time to involve young people. Some also tapped into ESS’s good practice guide Why Bother Involving People in Evaluation? Beyond feedback which provides hints, tips and prompts to help people plan how they will get young people on board. 

While it was a bumpy ride at times, several project leads found that their initial concerns that young people wouldn’t be interested in taking on evaluation tasks were generally unfounded. Young people were enthusiastic and committed (particularly if there was pizza involved!).   

Some highlights

At Gowrie Care two young people replaced a wordy exit questionnaire which everyone hated with a more user-friendly emoji game to gather feedback. One young person reflected that…

 ‘It was an honour to be asked and included in something that is ultimately going to help future service users.’

Young people from the Springhall and Whitlawburn Youth Development Team voted on their preferred evaluation methods. As the young people chose the evaluation questions and method (post-it wall), the development worker feels that not only do they get richer feedback, they can also get evaluation of sessions done without lots of moaning!

After encouraging young people to use visual tools to share their experiences, South Ayrshire Befriending then involved young people in analysing and reporting back.

What we’ve learnt

Supporting young people to be more involved in evaluation decisions seems to work particularly well if it’s not tokenistic – when there’s a real sense of young people contributing meaningfully. Through this programme we’ve been really encouraged to see young people improving the evaluation methods and tools organisations are using.

While it might feel a bit risky to start with, supporting young people to shape evaluation not only enables them to take ownership of the project but can help build skills and confidence.  It’s also a reminder for organisations about why they exist!

Overall the message we’ve taken away from this piece of work is that young people are fantastic problem solvers. If you feel that something isn’t working well with your evaluation (perhaps your project outcomes don’t feel right or the tools don’t give you rich feedback), we suggest asking young people to get stuck in.