In this blog post, the Centre for Youth Impact reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic and explore their Youth Programme Quality Intervention tool in more depth.
Evaluation, impact measurement, data, evidence. These can feel like forbidding concepts to someone whose primary role is working with and for young people. Evaluation can often feel like it ‘gets in the way’ of the work, or worse, is an active barrier to developing important relationships of trust. But at the Centre for Youth Impact, we think that young people are entitled to high quality provision, and that in order to know whether your provision is high quality, you need to evaluate. To support this, we set up our Regional Impact Networks in 2014, in partnership with the Regional Youth Work Units and other organisations, to bring professionals together to work through, not only the challenges and difficulties of evaluating youth work and provision for young people, but also its successes and rewards.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, youth organisations faced a stark choice: to halt provision altogether, or to find other ways of reaching young people that did not involve face to face contact. Organisations in our networks, especially those already offering digital provision, began to ask us to explore the question of ‘what good looks like’ in a digital environment. At the same time, for many others, this was the first foray into the online space. So, we set up a round of network meetings to examine quality in online youth work, using our pilot ‘continuous quality improvement tool’, the Youth Programme Quality Intervention (YPQI), originally developed by the David P Weikart Center, part of the Forum for Youth Investment in the US.
At its heart, the YPQI ‘quality pyramid’ sets out the four key aspects of high-quality provision:
It’s important to say that in general, practitioners felt that, for digital provision, ‘good’ looked the same as, or very similar to, face to face provision; only, you have to do things in a different way. But what did it mean to create a ‘safe space’ for young people online? How do you create supportive and interactive environments? And how do you embed the opportunity for young people to set, attain, and review goals and show leadership in an online setting? The quality pyramid gave practitioners the opportunity to reflect on their practice and how it provides a high-quality experience for young people. Practitioners observed that:
- Planning is important: knowing what you are going to do before, during and after a session is key to fostering a feeling of safety for young people and creating an interactive experience;
- Getting feedback can be challenging but valuable – even short ‘snap’ polls before the end of a session can provide useful and actionable insight;
- It can be challenging to adjust the difficulty of an activity ‘mid-flow’ if one or more young people are struggling and you are not physically present to help them, so this needs to be borne in mind when planning sessions;
- Asking young people in advance to prepare icebreaker activities is a good way to involve them in the planning and delivery of sessions and offers an opportunity to engage leadership skills.
If you would like to engage with our networks around evaluation, impact measurement or data, contact us to find your regional contact, or for further queries, contact Steve Hillman.