Youth Participatory Evaluation: A Field in the Making

Youth Participatory Evaluation: A Field in the Making

Youth Participatory Evaluation: A Field in the Making

Youth Participatory Evaluation: A Field in the Making


Youth participatory evaluation (YPE) combines action research and participatory evaluation′s commitment to stakeholder empowerment with the new philosophy of positive youth development, which emphasizes young people as community assets and resources rather than as a source of social problems. This volume illustrates a broad range of approaches YPE advocates have used to enrich evaluation practice and strength programs for youth by involving young people as researchers and evaluators.

Kim Sabo begins by arguing that youth-led evaluation by it′s very nature promotes youth development, because these evaluations constitute Vygotskian zones of proximal development, situations where developmental learning through performance can take place. Les Voakes uses a case study of a conference organized by Town Youth Participation Strategies to illustrate how involving youth in the planning, operational decision-making, and evaluation of programs that directly affect them can benefit both the young participants and the programs themselves. Jonathan K. London, Kristen Zimmerman and Nancy Erbstein provide case studies of evaluation methods that link community and youth development practices. Genevieve Lau, Nancy H. Netherland and Mary Haywood show how YPE can be used as a training process for youth workers, one that enables them to better understand the needs and desires of youth and therefore design better programs for them. Roger A. Hart and Jasmine Rajbhandary examine Nepal′s "children′s clubs", and Save the Children′s YPE-inspired evaluation of these clubs, to show how children can be encouraged to develop their own programs and largely evaluate them by themselves. Bonny L. Gildin describes the All Stars Talent Show Network, an innovative program that unites youth, program funders and adult volunteers in program development and evaluation. Finally, David Fetterman sums up and reflects on the lessons learned by the contributors to this volume.

This is the 98th issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Evaluation.


Through five case studies, this chapter uses a Vygotskian
perspective to frame youth participatory evaluation as
both developmental and performatory

Over twenty years ago, I gave up my dreams of becoming a fabulously famous actress. I put away my grease paint, black turtleneck, and waitress uniform in favor of becoming something (a social worker, perhaps?). Completely unsure of my academic abilities, I enrolled in a nontraditional college for adults. The idea of going back to college was terrifying because I had spent much of my youth performing as the “dumb blonde.” In fact, I had successfully mastered this role for over twenty-seven years and had convinced myself (and many others) that I was completely incapable of learning. Historically a failure in traditional academic environments, I set out to create a new “character” for myself. This time I entered the academy with a new tool, my ability to perform as “intelligent.” I cut my long blonde hair and turned it red. I bought glasses and changed my wardrobe to reflect that of the typical college students of the day. I was frightened that I would not make it through my undergraduate education without being found out and identified as the fake that I was—the actress.

Instead, I encountered a professor who, on our first meeting, asked me, “What do you want to learn here?” Taken off guard, I thought, “What do you mean, what do I want to learn? Shouldn’t you be telling me what I need to learn, what subjects I have to take?” Nobody had ever asked me what I wanted to learn, and I was in shock. She sat patiently and waited, watching me struggle with the question. By the time that I realized that she was seriously waiting for an answer, several minutes had passed, and I finally said, “I have no idea!” She replied, “Well, let’s figure it out together.” Never had I been related to in this manner, as a learner, someone who could learn anything just by . . .

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