News and Comment

Introducing our new blog series – engaging children and young people in research and evaluation

Tuesday 9 August 2016


At OPM we jump at the opportunity to work on projects involving children and young people. Not only are they tremendously fun to work with, but we passionately believe in the importance of their voices being heard in issues that affect them.

From researching young people’s views on police stop and search powers to evaluating their experiences of major government policies like the SEN and disability pathfinders, I have been privileged to meet some amazing and inspiring young people in the course of my work here. And we are constantly developing our practice in this area to make sure our research combines meaningful participation by young people, with compelling evidence generated for our clients.

OPM Group colleagues have written a series of thoughtful blogs on this topic. First we have two linked pieces on challenges around measuring impact – both highlighting examples of our recent work with young people, but with plenty of relevance for research with adults too.

Tim Vanson’s blog draws on a recent impact evaluation of an innovative peer mentoring programme for HIV charity Body & Soul to explore the current emphasis on baseline and follow up methodologies, and the challenges of using surveys in this way to demonstrate impact. When surveys don’t show the results you might expect, how do you make sense of this and present the findings so that they actually tell us something meaningful?

Caitilin McMillan and Bethan Peach focus on soft skills, which many programmes and interventions aim to improve, particularly those involving children and young people. And many succeed in doing so, but it’s notoriously hard to prove this with any accuracy or consistency. In OPM’s evaluation of the GLA’s Stepping Stones programme, we are taking a fresh approach to this using the ‘virtual young Londoner’ tool. Read about how this enables participants to speak more openly about their aspirations, behaviour and attitudes, without feeling overly vulnerable or exposed – especially when speaking in peer groups.

Finally, Bethan Peach shares her 7 top tips for conducting qualitative research with children and young people, based on her recent experiences during a project for Essex County Council evaluating the impact of early help for families, children and young people. A sneak peek: don’t assume you know what’s going to work with any given group of young people, because they’ll probably surprise you. So be prepared for anything to happen, and enjoy when it does!

If you’d like to get in touch to discuss any of this work, or the other research we have done with children and young people, then drop me an email.