Youth Perspectives | Youth Data Collection in Action
by Rebecca Choi
YouthREX Eastern Hub BSW Placement Student
I never imagined I would be collecting and analyzing data as a Carleton University Social Work placement student with YouthREX. However, my time at YouthREX gave me many opportunities to see research and evaluation from a new perspective. During my placement, I worked with the YouthREX team to collect survey data at a local event entitled SIXUNTROIS for Francophone youth. The event was organized by Le movement d' implication francophone d’Orleans (MIFO).
A Bit of Context
MIFO is an organization whose mission is to preserve and engage Francophone culture by organizing events and opportunities for the Francophone community in Ottawa. Each year, MIFO organizes the SIXUNTROIS event for students in the French school boards around Eastern Ontario. The purpose of this event is to inform students about different services that are available in French related to art, culture, education, employment opportunities, and sports. The YouthREX Eastern Hub is working with MIFO through our Customized Evaluation Supports service. To understand how and if SIXUNTROIS’ purpose is being fulfilled, the YouthREX team collected participant feedback by asking youth to complete a French-language questionnaire about their experience of the event. Gathering the opinions of youth participating in the SIXUNTROIS event, was part of the Action Phase of MIFO’s evaluation plan. Youth feedback will enable MIFO to pinpoint exactly which aspects of the event were successful and which could be improved or changed for next time. It also allows youth to share suggestions for what they would like to see the following year.
Informed Consent: Discussing the data collection details
Before allowing youth to complete the questionnaire, I had to ensure they were 16 years old or above, and get them to read and sign a consent form for ethical purposes. The informed consent conversation created an opportunity to discuss any questions that youth had about the survey, its purpose, and what we would do with the information. Some youth read the details and declined to participate. Others completed the survey enthusiastically. The most common question youth asked was how long it would take to complete it. Knowing that the questionnaire was 2-3 minutes, I was surprised that this wasn’t a deterrent and they were willing to finish it.
Collecting the Data: My Approach and Two Strategies
When I was initially given the task of asking youth to fill out the survey, I was unsure about how I could get multiple respondents. I expected youth to decline, as completing an evaluation about the event may not seem too interesting. However, the longer I thought negatively, the more I realized that watching youth pass by me would not get any data collection done. That is when I decided to think like a youth.
Thinking about my teenage self, I knew I would be more likely to do something when in a group than by myself. So, that is exactly what I decided to look for: a group of three or four youth to approach. When one youth agreed to complete the survey, many others were willing to do it as well. I noticed that youth recruited their friends. When they were in the process of completing the questions, they told their friends, and those friends asked to do the survey next. It was great to see youth interested in the questions and encouraging their peers to complete the survey as well.
My second strategy for recruiting survey participants was to approach youth who were waiting for activities. I imagined that doing a survey would get their minds off waiting. For example, I went up to the students who were waiting in line to get their faces painted. I looked at the long line-up and calculated the approximate time the person would have to wait before getting their face painted. As a result, the youth I approached agreed to do the survey and even continued to complete it while their face was getting painted.
It was also useful to use a web-based rather than a paper-based survey. Some research suggests that web-based surveys lead to better response rates. They are also more cost effective and make it easier to transfer raw data into readable data. We used internet-connected Ipads to access our web-based survey. Using the Ipad was appealing to youth, and it also increased participant confidentiality and anonymity.
Overall, it was a successful day of data collection! Being a part of the survey data collection process changed my perspective on research and program evaluation. I never thought I would enjoy asking youth to do a survey! Putting myself in the youths’ place and thinking like a teenager helped me approach the event participants. Having a goal to enable as many youth to give feedback as possible encouraged me to bravely and strategically approach as many youth as I could.
I recommend to anyone collecting program evaluation data to consider the many different ways surveys can be administered, and to put yourself in the shoes of the respondent for the best results!