2005 MCD: Evaluation of Young Poeple's Participation. Report from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
In the Country Programme of Cooperation between UNICEF and Macedonia from 2002 – 2004 a youth project was implemented as a part of the Education Programme. The purpose of the youth project was to improve young people’s health and their opportunities for participation and development. The key objectives were:
- To establish an adolescent friendly family, community and education environment promoting youth development and participation
- To promote adequate information and preventive measures and services for youth with risk behaviour
- To promote life skills among adolescents and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among the general population and especially among drug users .
The initiative ‘What every Adolescent has the Right to Know’ (RtK), launched globally by UNICEF in 2001, became the main tool for UNICEF in Macedonia to empower young people to educate their peers in HIV/AIDS prevention through participatory action research and participation of young people in the identification, design and implementation of a peer communication strategy targeting young people and especially vulnerable young people with HIV/AIDS prevention. It aimed specifically at supporting key Government and NGO partners in providing adolescents with information and life skills for HIV/AIDS prevention through the recognition and implementation of the right of adolescents to have the vital information, services and networks that can help them to make informed and healthier choices. The aim was to be achieved by strengthening youth organisations’ and young people’s capacities in the areas of PAR (Participatory Action Research), communication strategy development and evaluation implementation.
The variety of projects realised and carried out within the framework of the RtK project since 2002 are the key focus of this evaluation of youth participation in UNICEF supported projects.
The purpose of the evaluation is to serve as an evidence base to further improvement of young peoples participation in UNICEF supported programmes, projects and activities in the new Country Programme of Cooperation with the Government of Macedonia from 2005 – 2009.
The field evaluation in Macedonia should be seen as a thorough evaluation of the RtK project and its processes with youth participation in Macedonia and could therefore also be useful for other countries that are in the process of implementing interventions within the same frame work or frameworks similar to the UNICEF led ‘What Every Adolescents has the Right to Know’ project. The evaluation will generate inputs to a larger evaluation on Youth Participation in the CEE/CIS & Baltics Region commissioned by the UNICEF Regional Office in Geneva.
The main objective of this field evaluation is to determine the levels of youth participation in UNICEF supported HIV/AIDS prevention activities within the RtK project in Macedonia, to better understand the ways in which UNICEF is promoting young peoples participation, and to provide recommendations for further strengthening of youth participation in UNICEF supported interventions.
The rationale for the choice of methodology, participatory evaluation, and the development of indicators, definition of key questions and data sources and methods of data collection, was linked to the fact that young people were participating fully in the whole process of evaluation. This was done to ensure a greater understanding of the evaluation process of the target group and to work to towards ensuring that the qualitative evaluation results would be as objective as possible. The evaluation process started with a training workshop in participatory evaluation for the 14 young peer educators age 15-18 who then would participate in the evaluation.
The evaluation approach consisted mainly of qualitative methods. Indicators include number of young people involved in projects, young people's participation in projects, motivation of young people. Tools and techniques consisted of participatory evaluation tools, for instance social mapping, historical timeline, card visualisation, as well as classic evaluation tools such as questionnaires, key informant interviews or focus groups discussions.
It was found that the fact that young people were functioning as evaluators in combination with the chosen tools and methods for data collection ensured a safe and fun environment for the young people during the evaluation.
Major limitations to the methodology were the large number of research/evaluation questions that were time-consuming for the evaluators, or the fact that the majority of project activities in Macedonia had already been completed.
Findings and Conclusions:
The main findings illustrate how the key objectives of the youth project were met by pointing out how participation has changed young people in terms of:
- increased knowledge and information with regards to the project subject;
- increased understanding towards their peers through meeting other people of different social backgrounds;
- freedom to express ones own ideas and development of creativity;
- opportunities to influence the immediate environment through active project participation;
- positive change of attitudes towards tolerance and team work;
- improved communication among family members, peers and the wider environment; and
- making a better use of free time and gaining of professional orientation/life skills.
The key conclusions of the youth participation evaluation are that youth participation is an excellent tool for getting essential messages across to other young people for example when it comes to information, skills and attitude building. Youth participation ensures a learning environment that is fun and creative and gives meaning to the young people participating, when they have the right and opportunities to influence. In addition youth participation makes young people more tolerant and understanding towards their peers and it increases their motivation for participating in society and their feeling of responsibilities and of having an important place in the society.
Conclusions that were drawn concerning the capacities of organisations and institutions involved (the duty bearers) showed that youth participation requires understanding, openness, transparency, responsibility, but also facilitation from the duty bearers side. Youth participation start processes that require strategies that are flexible and adaptable to the young people participating and to their needs and wishes. The challenge for UNICEF and partners involved in implementing projects where young people are participating is to strive towards achieving the expected results while at the same time being true to the processes that the very participation of young people has initiated.
When summarising the recommendations based on the evaluation of youth participation in UNICEF supported projects it is evident that youth participation works and that we should continue to engage young people in the design and planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of project activities targeting young people.
A key recommendation for duty bearers, that we would like to point out here, is the need for implementing activities where it is mostly needed, for example among especially vulnerable young people and in rural areas, where young people do not have many other opportunities to be engaged and to learn. This also requires that tools and methods implied in the different strategic interventions are adaptable to the young people they are targeting and to their environment. For example, the evaluators found it difficult to use evaluation tools where writing and reading skills were required, when evaluating youth participation of especially vulnerable young people such as young people that are institutionalised as this group often found it difficult to concentrate over a longer period and when met with challenges of reading and writing.
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