Considerations when selecting methods

Care Experienced Young People, like all research participants, are experts in their own lives and they are in a unique position to share with us their experience of the care system and the effectiveness of services and policies on their wellbeing. However, to date Care Experienced Young People have commonly been under-represented in evaluative activity.  

Although Care Experienced Young People are often referred to as a ‘group’, it is important to remember that they are all individuals and as such all have different experiences. This is a key consideration in terms of not generalising views but also because of the often probing nature of evaluation and research – some young people will understandably be more sensitive to topics than others and all evaluation must respect this.

It is essential to consider the effect of evaluation on the young people you work with. If topics are sensitive to young people or they raise historical feelings it is important to provide additional support to help the young person. Furthermore, it is essential that the young people you work with do not feel as if the evaluation of a service is more important than the service they receive. To try and prevent this it might be helpful to think about how you can build in evaluation processes into your everyday work as much as possible, which should also reduce the constraints on staff.

Building trust and confidence are vital when communicating with young people and you must think carefully about different ways that they can be supported to express their views. 

Good practice: Involvement

When gathering views from Care Experienced Young People you should consider the following:

  • Meaningful involvement is central to achieving good engagement from participants.
  • As with all young people some may be more confident than others and it is important to keep this in mind to ensure the evaluation method is appropriate for individuals, as well as to ensure you are gathering a balanced view if working with a group of participants.
  • Create a safe, informal and trusting environment
  • Keep evaluation methods accessible to a range of participants (e.g. use creative methods to collect information with people who have low literacy levels).
  • Wherever possible, allow any research to be interactive and participant-led.
  • Build in evaluation processes into your everyday work as much as possible.
  • Try to establish a good rapport with participants by reducing the ‘professionalism’ of evaluation.
  • Build in time for regular breaks.

Children and young people know their needs and will be able to verbalise these if given the opportunity. 

Selected methods and techniques

In practice, participatory approaches work particularly well with care experienced young people.  These are flexible, adaptable, and engaging techniques, and are designed to ensure that everyone can join in and share their views regardless of background or ability.  They are more accessible to vulnerable young people than classic research and evaluation approaches.

Many guides to evaluation work with this age group include participatory and reflective approaches.  The following tools are suggested in the Unicef guide Useful Tools For Engaging Young People In Participatory Evaluation, and are just a small sample of the approaches available which you might like to consider:

Card Visualization.  Individual input (in the form of an idea or statement) is anonymously presented in the form of a display for everyone to see and discuss.  Group consensus is then formed around the discussion.

Stories.  Elicit in-depth personal narratives and biographies.  Young people tell the story of their own life in their own words and at their own pace.  Interviewers can help guide the discussion but with limited set questions.

Impact Drawings.  Impact drawings are a tool to boost reflection and creativity.  They can be used to describe past, present, or future situations in the lives of young people, and to illustrate change.

Historical Timeline.  Timelines can be drawn and agreed in a group setting to understand the evolution of a situation and record important events over time from the perspective of the young people.

Social/Community Mapping. Mapping allows you to understand the context of the young people’s environment and their perceptions of it. Please also see the following video resource produced by IRISS: Taking Place Seriously – young people's views on living in a children's home.

Other useful approaches include Participant Diaries, Photo-Diaries and Scrap Books, and Video and Audio Diaries, which are discussed in the Diaries and Blogs section of this guide.