Directly involving youth in program evaluation has become increasingly popular in international development programs that focus on youth, especially those that use a Positive Youth Development framework. Engaging youth in all aspects of program evaluation not only builds their skills and assets youth but also creates an opportunity for youth to give input and take ownership of the program. Positive youth development can have immediate and long-lasting effects on the health, livelihoods and well-being of adolescents and their communities (Patton et al. 2016). Youth-led evaluations, while often done with older adolescents and youth, have rarely been done with very young adolescents (VYAs) aged 10-14. In May 2018, Passages Project’s Growing up GREAT! intervention (funded by USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) will carry out a youth-led evaluation with VYA evaluators in Kinshasa, DRC where they will interview peers, parents, teachers, health providers and community members to see what has changed since project start. The results will be used to improve the intervention prior to scaling up to new schools and clubs in Kinshasa.
On April 19, Passages members, Brianán Kiernan (IRH), Jen Gayles (Save the Children) and Allison Pfotzer (IRH) presented on the Growing up GREAT! Youth-Led Evaluation at USAID’s event – Youth-Led Innovations: The Journey to Self-Reliance. Representatives from 17 successful youth-led innovations implemented in 18+ countries came together at the W Hotel in Washington, DC joined by USAID Administrator Mark Green, partners, donors, young global leaders, and USAID leaders in honor of Global Youth Service Day. Young entrepreneurs and representatives were invited to display their innovations in the form of an interactive marketplace where attendees could visit innovation booths to learn about and engage with the innovations. The innovations ranged from a youth-led surf therapy program for at-risk youth in South Africa and Liberia, Waves for Change (W4C), to a reality TV show in Kenya where young people put their farming and business skills to the test to promote farming to improve livelihoods, Don’t Lose the Plot (Mercy Corps Kenya) , to youth-led community mapping to prevent violent extremism and promote community resources in the Caribbean and Nigeria, Leveraging Technology for Youth-Led Change (Creative Associates International) along with many others.
Before the marketplace opened, Administrator Mark Green spoke to the group about the importance of leveraging the ideas of the 1.8 billion youth in the world to solve the worlds’ toughest challenges: “We see, with the largest youth community in history, the greatest opportunity in history, because with each young person, we have an open mind. With each young person, we have new ideas and new energy. And so, what we hope to do with USAID is play a small role. We’re modest. It’s all you. We do a small role, but we hope we can unlock. We can hope that we can, in some small way, amplify opportunities for young people.” (The full transcript of the speech is available here.)
Administrator Green’s remarks were followed by lightning pitches from the 17 youth innovations. Brianán Kiernan gave the pitch for the Growing up GREAT! Youth-Led Evaluation challenging attendees to consider adding youth-led evaluations to their youth innovation programs.
In the marketplace, Passages displayed materials from the Growing up GREAT! intervention (including the puberty books, flipbooks and a testimonial video about girls’ education) and had examples of the youth-led evaluation tools for booth visitors to practice using with other attendees. Many of the visitors were surprised and excited to hear of a youth-led evaluation with 10-14 year olds and asked a number of questions related to the challenges, logistics, and tools. Passages plans to follow up after the youth-led evaluation is carried out to share tested tools and learning from the experience.
The word “innovation” in development has many meanings but is most often associated with the “pilotitis” of mHealth innovations (Fuang et al. 2017). USAID’s Youth-Led Innovations event showcased many innovations using participatory and creative strategies to capitalize on the skills of youth. The Passages team is harnessing this spirit of innovation to develop effective ways to engage youth for lasting program impact. The team plans to share results from the youth-led evaluation in late-2018.
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