This morning I was talking with a colleague in Vermont about the challenges of measuring the impacts of youth voice, the effects of youth involvement and the outcomes of youth engagement. It’s not for lack of trying: researchers and evaluators have been after answers to these questions since at least the 1970s. But nothing substantive has emerged.
Where should a program start when they’re deciding to evaluate Youth Voice? I have found measurements examining three primary effects:
* The effect of youth voice on the young people involved;
* The effect of youth voice on the task at hand, e.g. the goals of the service project, the quality of the radio show or the saturation of the awareness campaign;
* The ehffect of youth voice on the outcomes of the program that fostered it.
However, while some of these studies have shown fascinating outcomes, including works by Shepard Zeldin, Dana Mitra, and Shawn Ginwright, many are bland, excessively provencial, and minimally relevant. They are generally stuck within a single discipline or use an overly simplistic approach that minimalizes the complex sophistication of Youth Voice, both as a singular phenomenon and as a force for social change.
I suggest that all Youth Voice programs routinely conduct evaluations and other research. Use dynamic, cross-discipline approaches with constant, deliberate commitment to change.
We need adults of the future to make better decisionsip than adults make today. Evaluation is one way we can get there.
— This is Adam Fletcher’s blog originally posted at http://www.YoungerWorld.org.