Young people’s participation in action: Training Young Champions to evaluate a national mental health campaign

At Ecorys, we believe that participatory methods have a central role to play in evaluating services and programmes. Where used effectively, they can empower individuals or communities to set the research agenda, and they can ultimately help to ensure that end users have a say over the decisions affecting their lives.

Participatory research has been at the heart of many of our evaluations. One current example comes from our evaluation of the Time to Change Children and Young People’s Project, which Ecorys is carrying out on behalf of Rethink Mental Illness. The campaign is now in its third year, and aims to tackle stigma in relation to children and young people’s mental health by working with schools across England.

As part of the evaluation, Ecorys recently held an evaluation training day for the campaign’s Young Champions. The workshop was facilitated by Ecorys’ professional researchers and involved the Young Evaluators learning about evaluation methods; interviewing each other about their experiences within the campaign, and carrying out a mini research project from start to finish. Many of them will now go on to gain our Award in Participatory Evaluation, which is accredited by the Open College Network (OCN) and be involved as actual participant researchers in forthcoming school case studies.

“Everyone was really engaging, which means the tasks were more accessible”, one of the young people said after the training workshop. Another Young Champion added “I enjoyed the practical aspect rather than just covering written work” and “the team were great going around speaking to the groups”.

Our trainer Eleanor Stretch reflected on the Young Evaluator training, saying that: 

“It was an inspiring day and so fantastic to see the young champions walk away with new skills, knowledge and experience in evaluation that can contribute to the wider programme evaluation. Participatory engagement is so important to reflect the experiences of those engaged, so that evaluation captures what is the best way to engage those who would most benefit from the programme, or similar programmes, in the future”.

For Ecorys, this was not only about empowering young people but also about ensuring that our evaluation work continues to be as comprehensive as possible. As Laurie Day, Director of the evaluation, noted:

“Young people are at the heart of the Time to Change Campaign, and it was a logical next step to equip the Young Champions with research skills, alongside their advocacy work. The training will help to build capacity for evaluating the campaign, while also giving the participants an opportunity to gain accreditation”

For more information about Ecorys’ training for peer researchers, or our evaluation of the Time to Change Children and Young People’s Project, contact Kate Merriam


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