Improving Local Data and Decision Making With Youth Surveys
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.
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 6–9 months, including defining roles and processes and gaining buy-in from different stakeholders.
- Phase 2: Analysis and reporting — comprises 2–6 months, including steps to ensure data quality and mechanisms for sharing results.
- Phase 3: Making decisions with data — comprises 1–2 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.