Copyright 2005
Girl's Best Friend Foundation

Girl's Best Friend Foundation (GBF) closed November 2007. 
GBF’s records are archived with Special Collections of the University
of Illinois, Chicago.  In fall 2008, they will be made public:

Learning from Evaluation

aka: research, investigation, deliberate learning

What is evaluation really like? Your experienced peers in girls programs say:

Initially, the teens had a difficult time understanding the value of doing the research project. Why couldn't they simply ask the girls in the programs what they wanted to do, and then just do it?

Staff reminded the teens about how ineffective that strategy had been thus far, and eventually the teens agreed that it would be valuable to utilize a process that would give deliberate time and attention to the issue. It became even more appealing to the girls when they learned that they would be paid researchers whose responsibility it would be to make a decision and take action on an issue about which they were vitally concerned: What would be the new direction of the program?

A critical moment of understanding occurred for the teens when staff reframed the research as a metaphor: You are trying to figure out if John will make a good friend for you. You could just ask John if he would make a good friend, but that may or may not be a reliable method. Some more accurate and revealing ways might include: observing his behavior; interviewing his family and friends; cataloguing his interests; and analyzing what you learn.

-- Tawanna Brown, former program director of Sisters in Unity and Sisters of Struggle, Family Matters

One unexpected complication to the project was that different girls excelled at different data collection methods. One of the girls had a very difficult time approaching her peers and interviewing them, but she took amazing photographs.  In an effort to adjust to the varying skill levels, we allowed the team members to choose the methods they were most comfortable with and, as a result, we got back much better photographs and more in-depth interviews.    

-- Jessica Palmert, former program director of Girl World, Alternatives, Inc.

Inquiring girls

Have you ever thought to use evaluation to engage girls in critical thinking, analysis, and creativity? (We have found "inquiry" to be a more girl-friendly word.) It really can!

As the evaluation project has progressed over the years, we have come to understand that the process of creating critical questions, interviewing peers, analyzing data and media messages, and presenting research findings are all incredibly powerful and transformative. It is transformative because it helps girls to develop and explore critical questions in their lives. One young woman summed this idea up when she said during her final evaluation, "I learned to analyze more things, everything is much deeper now there is always a cause and an effect, I see things in a different way."

-- Jessica Palmert, Girl World, Alternatives Inc.

The young women's current analyses and experiences come across so clearly in the film [follow up to evaluation research] -- and I definitely saw their own analyses and perspectives being challenged throughout the process itself, which was even more rewarding.

-- Yas Ahmed,former Director of Sisters Empowering Sisters, GBF

Inquiring girls: find info here

It's critical to understand the quality of the experience girls have in programs -- not just how many attended or how often, or even whether they "liked it." We need to know about the meaning of the experience to them -- did it provide some new understanding or develop a particular set of skills or attributes? Did it encourage a particular kind of behavior, or provide them with an opportunity to bring their voices to an issue? Did girls feel they were involved in something bigger than themselves, and what did that mean to them?            

-- P. Catlin Fullwood, On Time Associates

Sisters Empowering Sisters began with a research question and ended with a great DVD: Respect Me, Don’t Media Me!  Read more about the video clip and research report.

Three Ways to Evaluate

Before you begin, carefully consider what you want to know more about, so your evaluation is really useful to you.

We offer three ways proven useful to youth workers:

  1. Participatory evaluation research
  2. Focusing questions
  3. Mapping a Path for Evaluation: A Planning Guide

Two case studies

Here are two examples of successful investigation and evaluation work by young women and youth workers

Girl World (MS Word, 41k)

Family Matters (MS Word, 48k)

Share your information, or learn more about what we can offer

Do you have a great example to share? Tell us.

Do you work for or with a GBF grantee organization? GBF offers periodic training and supports consultation for grantees who want to learn more about evaluation/investigation.  If you're interested, contact your GBF program officer.

Read profiles of some GBF grantees

Resources to get training in organizing, LGBTQ youth, youth
development, and more

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