Improving Local Data and Decision Making With Youth Surveys

Posted November 15, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A young white man sits at a table with two of his peers — one Latino and one white. He holds a pen in his hand, and there are papers and pens on the table in front of them.

A new pub­li­ca­tion pro­vides vital guid­ance for any­one cre­at­ing or invest­ing in pro­grams for youth. How Youth Sur­veys Guide Col­lec­tive Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment and Plan­ning: Ben­e­fits of Using Youth Data high­lights the val­ue of sur­vey­ing local youth to help com­mu­ni­ties make effec­tive deci­sions that sup­port young peo­ple and fam­i­lies. The report explains how local pro­gram lead­ers can use these sur­veys and describes the expe­ri­ences of com­mu­ni­ties that have imple­ment­ed them.

Down­load the report

The Edna Ben­nett Pierce Pre­ven­tion Research Cen­ter at Penn State Uni­ver­si­ty devel­oped the report with fund­ing from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. The report is based on the expe­ri­ences of com­mu­ni­ties imple­ment­ing Evidence2Success™, a Casey Foun­da­tion frame­work that gives cities and states a road map for involv­ing com­mu­ni­ties in mak­ing smart invest­ments in evi­dence-based programs.

Why Sur­vey Youth?

Sur­vey­ing youth ben­e­fits com­mu­ni­ties in three key ways:

  • Learn­ing about youth expe­ri­ences in a fea­si­ble, effi­cient and effec­tive way: Data from youth sur­veys allow local orga­ni­za­tions and deci­sion mak­ers to learn about youth from the voic­es of youth themselves.
  • Using more data for com­mu­ni­ty deci­sion mak­ing: Shar­ing data among com­mu­ni­ty stake­hold­ers lets more of the per­spec­tives and opin­ions of young peo­ple inform local deci­sion making.
  • Improv­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion among youth-serv­ing orga­ni­za­tions, pub­lic sys­tems and the com­mu­ni­ty: Col­lab­o­ra­tion on youth sur­veys helps local stake­hold­ers part­ner more effec­tive­ly on solu­tions and inter­ven­tions to bet­ter serve youth.

How Com­mu­ni­ties Can Imple­ment a Youth Survey

For com­mu­ni­ties seek­ing to con­duct their own youth sur­veys in part­ner­ship with local schools, the pub­li­ca­tion out­lines a year­long three-phase approach:

  • Phase 1: Plan­ning and admin­is­tra­tion — com­pris­es 69 months, includ­ing defin­ing roles and process­es and gain­ing buy-in from dif­fer­ent stakeholders.
  • Phase 2: Analy­sis and report­ing — com­pris­es 26 months, includ­ing steps to ensure data qual­i­ty and mech­a­nisms for shar­ing results.
  • Phase 3: Mak­ing deci­sions with data — com­pris­es 12 months of ini­tial work, includ­ing engag­ing com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers on pri­or­i­ties high­light­ed by the data.

Local Youth Input Matters

When select­ing pro­grams to sup­port young peo­ple, com­mu­ni­ties have often relied on data from nation­wide sur­veys, such as the Youth Risk Behav­ior Sur­vey and Mon­i­tor­ing the Future. But local lead­ers seek­ing to dig deep­er into the expe­ri­ences and per­spec­tives of the young peo­ple liv­ing in their areas need spe­cif­ic and cur­rent infor­ma­tion to max­i­mize the effec­tive­ness of their strate­gies. The Youth Expe­ri­ence Sur­vey (YES), for exam­ple, allows lead­ers — from school dis­trict offi­cials to neigh­bor­hood orga­ni­za­tions — to make deci­sions using data and input that come direct­ly from local youth.

Ben­e­fits of Using Youth Data is the first in a series of five pub­li­ca­tions. Each part will exam­ine a pre­ven­tion prac­tice used by com­mu­ni­ties to shift the way deci­sions are made about pro­grams, resources and strate­gies that affect the well-being of youth and their families.

Learn about one com­mu­ni­ty’s imple­men­ta­tion of the Evidence2Success framework

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