COLLECTING DATA FROM CHILDREN
I’ve now accumulated some experience leading SiMPACT SROI evaluation projects that involve children under 13 years old.
The youngest members of some social programs with which I’ve done an SROI for have been five or six years old.
The SROI framework encourages highly participatory, stakeholder-informed contributions to the evaluation, from the design through the data collection and impact calculation steps of an SROI study. This means that much of my work conducting SROI’s with children has involved facilitating, capturing and analyzing their feedback on how a project ‘changed their lives.’
Needless to say, I have been forced to think creatively about collecting data from children and to explore specialized resources. Data collection from
kids presents fun challenges of adjusting and customizing evaluation tools and processes to get insight into how change they are experiencing change. Some of the challenges I’ve had to learn to work creatively with are:
- Literacy and comprehension. With limited levels of literacy and comprehension among kids, the evaluator can’t rely on surveys, etc. for collecting data, as might be used in evaluations with adults as a way to be efficient and resourceful in minimizing costs of an SROI study.
- How kids interpret things. For example, according to Chris McLeod of Right to Play, kids are more likely to tell you about how their day is going, when asked about how the program is going or went. Sometimes with SROI, we depend on as much personal insight as possible into complex change, and have the challenge of engaging kids in creatively expressing themselves in describing the change that they experience. At 8 years old, how many of us are able to tell someone about if our confidence has increased? Much less, to describe by how much, for how long and how much of the change is a result of the program?
- There is also the inherent vulnerability of the sector, McLeod pointed out. By nature of some of the programs, participating kids are likely to have experienced neglect, abuse, violence, homelessness and other experiences in their short lives that amount to trust issues. Trust issues interfere with authentic communication and personal expression which can help shed light on personal change.
And there are a plethora of other things to think about when it comes to data collection with children. It is a fascinating area of learning, with emerging resources of support, such as Right to Play’s child and youth-focused, play-based facilitation workshops.
At SiMPACT, my team and I are enjoying learning and building expertise in SROI analysis with children through direct application. In this way, we are also directly exposed to the promise and excitement of exposure to social programs that are managing to improve the lives of children.