Recommendation 7—All community programs for youth should undergo evaluation—possibly multiple evaluations—to improve design and implementation, to create accountability, and to assess outcomes and impacts. For any given evaluation, the scope and the rigor should be appropriately calibrated to the attributes of the program, the available resources, and the goals of the evaluation.

Recommendation 8—Funders should provide the necessary funds for evaluation. In many cases, this will involve support for collaborative teams of researchers, evaluators, theoreticians, policy makers, and practitioners to ensure that programs are well designed initially and then evaluated in the most appropriate way.

Data Collection and Social Indicators

Over the past decade, social indicator data and technical assistance resources have become increasingly important tools that community programs can employ to support every aspect of their work—from initial planning and design, to tracking goals, program accountability, targeting services, reflection, and improvement. There are now significant data and related technical assistance resources to aid in understanding the young people involved in these programs. Community programs for youth benefit from ready access to high-quality data that allow them to assess and monitor the well-being of youth in their community, the well-being of youth they directly serve, and the elements of their programs that are intended to support those youth. They also benefit from information and training to help them use these data tools wisely and effectively.

  • Even when exploited to their full potential, administrative, vital statistics, and related data sources can cover only limited geographic areas and only some components of a youth development framework. Adding local survey data in diverse communities, as has been done in a number of states and individual communities, can help create a more complete picture.

Community programs for youth are interested in building their capacity to assess the quality of their programs. To produce useful process

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