We often have group discussions about Whitworth YC’s progress, but this workshop (designed by myself & Sally) was about getting these opinions on record, collecting more focused responses & more specifically, correlating them with the overall Circuit aims.
We also wanted to talk more directly to the group about the importance of evaluation & exactly why we are required to evaluate. The word is thrown around a lot, however because our role involves much more of the background stuff, we wanted to tell the group a bit more detailed information about what we do as Young Evaluators. We hope that from doing so, as the group programmes events, we can incorporate evaluation to be a part of them from the first stages of planning.
So that the feedback was accurate and constructive to our continued development, we wanted the group to speak openly, honestly & be critical. With this in mind, we kept the session quite informal. This is so that everyone could feel comfortable voicing their opinions & joining in the debate. Instead of simply asking everybody to answer questions on paper, we tried to design the session with some imagination and creativity. We did this through including movement, games, group discussions & also anonymity (for the more controversial questions!).
We began with a Circulate favourite: Post-It notes! Writing ideas down on Post-It notes always seems to be effective. Perhaps it’s because their tiny size only invites a few words or because they feel quite temporary: you quickly scribble your contribution down without too much second-guessing. It was a good way to warm up the group & get the brain cogs turning and the plain white question boards were quickly filled with colour.
After the warm up, our Youth Engagement Assistant Sally gave the group a more in-depth explanation of Evaluation’s key position within the Circuit programme.
Following this, we got the group back on their feet and created our very own human-sized scale (who needs the gym?!). We placed two posts at either end of the room (marking 0-10) & asked everybody to give their responses by positioning themselves on the scale to show how accurate they felt each of the statement’s read out were, for example: “How relevant is Whitworth YC to young people?”. It was quite interesting to see how with this exercise the group seemed to want to confer with each other. Most of the responses became group decisions, with a cluster of bodies crammed into one space to give a united front!
Our third exercise ‘The Anonymous Bowl’ (duh duh DUHH) gave the group no such opportunity to deliberate with one another, with each answer given in top secrecy. We felt this was more appropriate for the questions that may garner a more negative response, or be much more personal to an individual’s experience of the programme.
The final exercise was what Whitworth YC are already pro’s at: a good old group debate! This activity was perhaps the most effective of them all. We focused the discussion on the crucial question “How could we make Whitworth YC better”. We placed a recording device in the centre of the table to capture every word, then simply let the group talk. For me personally, the advantages of this method are two-fold. Firstly, you soon forget you are being recorded and so give accurate, honest feedback. Secondly, one person’s comment will often provoke a succession of responses and agreements or disagreements. So, with everybody feeding off each other, you are left with a really thorough set of answers.
We really achieved what we had set out to do for the session and I feel like the group as a whole have a much better understanding of the importance of evaluation within Circuit & Whitworth YC. Although we often like to discuss ideas as a group, on a personal level it was really interesting to do this in a more in-depth way and with more focus. I think all the feedback from the group will really help us to continue to grow.