Youth should be involved throughout the entire process in a collaborative relationship with adults. They can engage by helping think of research questions, issues, focus groups, and observation. It is key to make sure youth aren’t just saying what they do and don’t like but actually making decisions. Adults can help in this process by building their youth engagement skills through exposure to youth culture.
When entering into a new setting the best way to get results is to start with respect, and engagement in the evaluation can be a good way to do this. Key people who know the community can be good people to ask who should be part of the evaluation. People that live and have a commitment to the community know the ways something can be done better than a research team, and they want to feel empowered and part of the process to develop a meaningful outcome and understand its impact.
When a program is evidence-based, it has been through an experimental design, shown to work, and evaluated at a rigorous level. A research-based program means the incorporated content of a program is supported by current research. Model programs are listed on a website called Blueprints, shown with the best evidence of effectiveness, but qualifications can vary by website. In order to implement an evidence-based program, content must be followed to reach the same outcomes, keeping in mind that some things may need to be thoughtfully adapted to fit the audience.
The goal of qualitative methods is to make meaning out of experiences and make use of that information. The types of qualitative methods should be decided by looking at unit of analysis: is it the individual, collective discourse, or a concept? Methods like an interview, focus group, or ethnography can make meaning from different levels of perspective.
Outcomes can occur at different levels; activities, participants, and system wide outcomes. Process evaluation looks at what went on in the program that is helping achieve the outcomes. Outcome evaluation looks at what is expected to change in the participants when going through the program and why.
These models are a blueprint for what you’re doing as a program in order to evaluate if a goal was achieved and why. They can include needs, outcomes, results, indicators, activities, and resources, which should be aligned with both short term and long term goals of the program. Logic models also help provide a framework for everyone involved to help focus on results and get the desired outcome.