Week 6: Evaluation with and by, rather than for or of, children

Jessica Sinclair Taylor

BetterEvaluation hosted a webinar this week with Sonal Zaveri and Mallika Samaranayake of the Community of Evaluators South Asia, on working with children in evaluation.

Working with children poses particular challenges for evaluators, including safeguarding and enabling children to express their opinion where they may not be used to doing so. In the webinar, the presenters discussed three major issues:

Why children’s voices matter

  • Children have a right to participate and express themselves – including through evaluation.
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to express their opinions and to have a say in matters affecting their social, economic, cultural, religious and political life.
  • By listening to children and enabling them to express themselves, it is possible to discover new insights and ideas, or solutions to problems which affect them.
  • Adults can only partially understand the changes projects bring to children’s lives

Taking a child lens in evaluation:

  • Create a friendly environment for children to interact in
  • Be informal and spend time on building rapport – don’t rush in with questions and expect to get frank answers
  • Use a participatory approach, and allow for creativity and time to express ideas
  • Be non-judgemental and avoid imposing adult views on children
  • Use simple language and ask how interventions have influenced their lives, relationships and aspirations
  • Be aware of cultural factors: asking ‘how do you feel’ may meet stony silence in cultures where children are not encouraged to have an opinion

Keeping children safe:

  • Be prepared to adapt questions to the children’s responses – gently probe anything that seems untoward
  • Have a responsible adult (aside from the evaluator) nearby but out of earshot
  • Be prepared for tension that may arise from children reveal power imbalances in projects – think about how to report on children’s responses safely, if they reveal something about the adults surrounding them

Some techniques and methods for engaging children in evaluations:

  • Draw and write tool: Ask children to draw a picture then write why they have chosen to draw the one they have. E.g. draw a picture of your best friend, then write what attracted you to that friend
  • Mapping: draw maps of schools, villages or homes to highlight key problems
  • Role play: get children to sing or act out solutions to a problem they have been discussing.
  • Communication map: draw mind maps of who children communicate with and what they talk about with those people.

Children and evaluation webinar


Mallika Samaranayake's Powerpoint presentation

Listening to smaller voices: using an innovative participatory tool for children affected by HIV and AIDS to assess a life skills programm
For a more detailed case study of using participatory approaches with children, this paper details the evaluation of a Life Skills programme implemented by Family Health International (FHI 360), India. The evaluator and author, Sonal Zaveri, describes the evaluation process used to determine how the programme had changed (or not) the lives of children who were infected, orphaned, affected or vulnerable to HIV.

Evaluation and children
Working on an evaluation with, by, for, or of children? Browse our theme page on Children and Evaluation.