It is crucial to undertake regular monitoring of your intercultural youth programmes. You should begin with a needs analysis of the group; and follow-up regularly to monitor what the young people want and need from your service. Your organisation should have specific aims and objectives for the group that can be checked by staff. Evaluation should also include the young people themselves, especially minority members of the group. All monitoring should include attendance, reasons for absences and so on.
Good practice in monitoring and evaluating intercultural youth work…
Evaluation is crucial to any group, and all projects interviewed for this ’12 Steps’ guide used several means of evaluation and on-going monitoring in their groups; including staff meetings, one-to-one work, informal discussions and written evaluations.
The Castlebar Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP), Foróige, used different types of assessment, particularly to establish the needs, likes and further development of the group. Evaluation and observation in the SPARK project (Youth Work Ireland, Galway) takes place based on the young person’s original needs-assessment.
It is crucial that evaluation is carried out with the young people directly as well as through others involved. A focus group or youth committee can be established for on-going feedback.
Different ways to monitor the needs and wants of the group include a graffiti comment board so that young people can post comments they want to share (Castlebar NYP Foróige) and an anonymous suggestion box (No. 4 drop-in centre, Galway Diocesan Youth Service) which is checked monthly and contents considered at staff meetings. Any suggestions that the organisation can facilitate are implemented subject to demand and resources.
“Yes we do evaluation and a certain amount of observation too… Changes in their behaviour, improvements... It would really be evaluation based on their original needs-assessment. Do they feel their English has improved? Have things started to come together for them?” (SPARK youth worker)
Informal monitoring and evaluation can happen in group discussions or having one-to-one conversations with the young person. The SPARK project uses informal chats to establish how the young people are getting on. The SPARK youth worker has found that if the young person’s level of English language is improving, this is normally a good sign. Young people who are experiencing trauma can still progress; though it might be slower or less obvious, it is still important to view it as progress. Evaluation must be constant. No. 4 drop-in centre (Galway Diocesan Youth Services) discusses all activities, initiatives, outings and meal ideas with all service users; and records suggestions and feed-back from service users. In group evaluation, VSI (Voluntary Service International) has used “Circle Meetings” in their residential projects where the young people and staff/leaders come together every day to evaluate the day. Checking in with young people on a regular, consistent basis is crucial.
“We have daily Circle Meetings where we all sit down.. You can only speak when you’re holding the talking piece. It means everyone gets a chance to say what they want and it’s not just the same people speaking up”. (VSI Teenage Programme Coordinator)
Monitoring can also be assisted by talking to other agencies who work with the young people or their families. The Castlebar NYP Foróige consulted with Mayo Intercultural Action, a group that was working with the mothers of the young people in order to get feedback. YMCA Cork also received feedback on their Ninos Club from the schools which the young people they worked with were attending.
Becoming involved in inter-agency fora and showcases is also a good way to hear and see what other youth groups are doing, such as the National Youth Council of Ireland’s (NYCI) events, European Youth Forum events and so on. The youth worker from Tyrrelstown Youth initiative (Foróige) attended a European Youth Forum event in Brussels on sharing good intercultural practices in youth work.
Attendance is one very obvious but sometimes neglected way to monitor your group.It is important to follow-up with a young person who has been attending your group and then stops coming. The youth worker in Tyrrelstown Youth Initiative found it useful to speak to the young people on the street if they stopped attending, and find out why. The Bishopstown Youth Project (Ógra Chorcaí) also follows up by phoning the home of the young person, and speaking to them directly if they fail to show for a session.
“I took away with me a feeling of belonging, new friendships and a great sense of myself.”
(VSI Teenage Programme participant)
Written evaluationsare also important and many groups use questionnaires. But written evaluations don’t have to be traditional or ‘formal’. VSI use a tool called ‘reflection feet’ where young people take a card or paper cut out in the shape of a foot and they can write positive or negative things about the day. The young people also write postcards to themselves in their own languages which VSI will post to them after the project. VSI have also given the young people a disposable camera for residential projects, and each day they were given time to take a photo reflecting how they felt that day.
“I’m learning the important thing that is dialogue with persons when you work with them, even if we don’t have the same ideas in the start because the results are incredible!” (VSI Teenage Programme participant)
External evaluation can also be usefulas it provides an objective assessment of your work. It is important to have the perspective of someone working outside the organisation. It is also important to demonstrate to funders that you have fulfilled the aims and objectives of your project, especially when you plan to apply for further funding. YMCA Cork had an evaluation of the Ninos Club done by a student at Waterford Institute of Technology which the student did as part of her own course work. For the YMCA youth worker, it helped them to value their own work even more. In Ninos, they are so closely involved in the day-to-day running of things that they might not see the impact that the Club has on the bigger picture. Having the external evaluation done helped immensely, in terms of getting feedback from parents and teachers as well as key findings and recommendations from another perspective.
At some point, staff and leaders must also take time to take stock of how the organisation and their group are doing. Regular staff meetings are useful, but some youth workers may wish to take a full-day or other occasion to fully evaluate what is going on. Feedback to senior management is also essential.
Additional Resources/Training on Monitoring and Evaluation:
- NYCI resource “Why don’t we?” http://www.youth.ie/resources/why_don_t_we_youth_participation_resource_pack
- NYCI ‘Access All Areas’ Diversity Toolkit for the youth sector http://www.youth.ie/diversity
How would you rate? /How is your organisation doing?
- Castlebar Neighbourhood Youth Project ‘Talking Heads’ project , Foróigehttp://www.foroige.ie/index.cfm?fuseaction=Neighbourhood_Youth_Projects&content_id=22
- Localise, Multicultural School www.localise.ie
- No. 4 Drop-in centre, Galway Diocesan Youth Service (GDYS) http://www.gdys.org/index.php?page=tagaste-house
- Ógra Chorcaí, Bishopstown Youth Project; contactable through this forum: http://homepage.eircom.net/~clvyc/home.html
- Tyrrelstown Youth Initiative, Foróige http://www.foroige.ie/index.cfm?fuseaction=Local_Youth_Services&content_id=16
- VSI (Voluntary Service International), Dublin, Teenage Programme http://www.vsi.ie/volunteer/teenage.html
- Youth Work Ireland, Galway, SPARK (Support Project for Asylum Seeker and Refugee Kids) http://www.youthworkgalway.ie/projects.php?project=24
- YMCA Cork, Ninos Club http://www.ymcacork.org/index.htm
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