This article is cross-posted on the Measuring Outcomes blog.
In writing my dissertation, I’ve been researching evaluation in the field of youth work. This included two (provocatively worded) questionnaires that caused some more extreme responses from workers! 😉
Although there are a wide range of opinions, generally speaking people seem to fall into one of two categories: those for and those against outcome-based evaluation.
In critiquing the Government’s 2002 green paper ‘Transforming Youth Work’, Mark Smith draws a similar dividing line. His expectation was that this divide will be formed between statutory and voluntary agencies – or more precisely, those that are tied into Government targets (through funding) and those that are not.
the freedom to actually engage in youth work (as against case-management and tutoring) within state youth services, and within agencies heavily dependent upon the state for funding, will be seriously curtailed… Workers within local youth services will have their work cut out to maintain and develop youth work based around relationship, association and learning. Some space will no doubt be found, but direct youth work will be such a small part of most state workers’ practice (and of those in receipt of significant state funding) that it is difficult to describe their overall role as youth work anymore. The bulk of youth work practice will continue to be found around voluntary agencies and community groups. http://www.infed.org/youthwork/transforming_youth_work_2.htm
All of this may be overly pessimistic and negative towards the statutory sector (which I don’t mean to be), but it is clear that there is a distinct difference of opinion when it comes to outcomes (although it may not be as clear-cut as stated above).
However, this is not to say that evaluation, accreditation and recorded outcomes are not useful. I’m excited by some of the tools that are being developed to help young people understand their competancies, and I love certain accreditation schemes (such as DofE).
There is a wider question though about how the nature of youth work seems to be against evaluating work, and instead relies on faith and trust in the process. I had some interesting conversations last week with workers who admitted to “playing the game” of evaluation to satisfy funders, but really felt that the facts and figures they provided didn’t fully reflect the depth of their work.
So is there a divide between workers on the issue of evaluation? Can there be a valid model of fully evaluating youth work? Does it depend on the definition?
Have your say in the comments below.