A few days ago, I was catching up with a good friend of mine, and during our mutual vent-session over the frustration we feel about the youth sector, she mentioned something I found so bizarre. Some key youth organizations in our community are opposed to evaluation practices to assess their youth programs and services, even when the opportunities to do so were available. Not surprisingly, some of these programs were not doing so well, although some have been running for a decade or so.
Often times, it is easy to assume that if we make services and programs available to support young people, they would be effective and impactful, which is not always true. Other times, it is easy to become attached to the program, or the funding, or our own ego, and we do not want to find out our program could be no as effective as we thought. However, if we value the youth and communities that we serve, we must be open to employing systemic measurements to evaluate the outcomes and usefulness of our programs and services.
A youth program that is committed to youth wellbeing is reflective, willing to improve, change and grow and diligently ensures that its youth participants are experiencing the outcomes that the program is working towards.
What exactly is program evaluation?
How do you know if your youth program is meeting the goals and objective you have set out? How do you measure if your youth program is actually providing young people with the skills and resources they need to overcome challenging circumstances and make positive contributions to their communities?
Program evaluation is a systematic approach to collecting, analyzing, and using information about the effectiveness and efficiency of youth programs, services, and projects. The information collected can be useful for stakeholders, which can include, funders, staff members, parents, youth themselves, and the community as a whole. Program evaluation is a driving force for developing and adapting program strategies, improving existing programs, and demonstrating the results.
Evaluation provides youth programs the tools to understand, measure and track the achievements and impacts of their programs. Equally important, program evaluation helps us understand exactly how these programs are successful and how they can be improved.
Program evaluation is more than just showcasing whether a program is effective or not, and it doesn’t need to be complicated, nor expensive as there are many resources available to support the youth sector to conduct program evaluation. For instance,
- YouthREX provides the grassroots youth sector and youth-led initiatives with leadership support necessary to develop and implement sustainable evaluation practices, and
- This toolkit is designed for planning, doing and using program evaluation.
If you measure it, you can manage it better!