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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Youth and technology are like a hand and glove—a natural fit. Inspired by conversations with Time Warner Inc. Office of Corporate Responsibility, this section offers a set of articles on how youth programs are using media and video production to engage youth in participatory evaluation, and the challenges and benefits of using technology in youth programming and other settings.

PeiYao Chen discusses how information technology is used in outcome measurement at Girls Incorporated.¹

With local roots dating to 1864 and national status since 1945, Girls Inc. has long responded to the changing needs of girls through research-based programs and public education efforts that empower girls to understand, value, and assert their rights. In 2002, Girls Inc. was able to reach 685,000 girls through its affiliates, website, and educational publications.

Girls Inc. has a history of committing resources to outcome measurement in order to provide evidence of the effectiveness of its programs and to help continuously improve its work. An example of this commitment is the Affiliate Results Project, which uses information technology to support and coordinate the efforts of Girls Inc. affiliates in measuring and reporting outcomes for girls. Launched in the fall of 2003, the project has two main components. The first is the development of a national evaluation system to document changes in knowledge, skills, and attitudes of participants in specific Girls Inc. identity programs. Identity programs are research-based programs created by Girls Inc. that focus on science, math and technology, health and sexuality, economic and financial literacy, sports skills, leadership and advocacy, and media literacy for girls ages 6 to 18.

In the past, Girls Inc. has included sample pretests and posttests (i.e., measures of participants' knowledge, skills, and attitudes before and after participation) with each program curriculum, and affiliates have adapted these for their own reporting, to funders and others. These tests, however, were not used for national data collection. With the development of a computerized, primarily quantitative, national system, affiliates will be able to measure and submit outcomes to the national office, which will supply them with analyses and comparisons for their use.

The project team, composed of researchers and program technology specialists, first worked with affiliate volunteers to simplify and refine the existing pre/posttests for selected identity programs. These tests are then mounted onto an already developed, secure, and confidential website, Girlhood, which is connected to a structured query language (SQL) server.² Once participants are registered, affiliate staff members schedule the dates on which the pre/posttests will be available for individual girls to complete online. The data are then transmitted directly to the national office for analysis, and results are reported back to the affiliate.

Recognizing that girls are the experts in evaluating and improving the community in which they participate, we are partnering with four affiliates to launch Girls Study Girls Inc., a participatory evaluation that engages girls ages 12–18 as evaluators, to explore the meaning and impact of Girls Inc. and uncover ways the Girls Inc. community could be improved. This second component of the Affiliate Results Project focuses on developing primarily qualitative tools for girls to measure and report outcomes from participating in comprehensive Girls Inc. programming, and identifying key factors that account for those outcomes. This endeavor is guided by our theory of change,³ which posits that by creating a community that fosters a sense of belonging, safety, and responsibility, Girls Inc. empowers girls to be strong, smart, and bold, and to gain competence and confidence by exercising leadership skills, confronting gender barriers, and engaging in decisions that affect their lives—in short, to achieve their full potential.

At each affiliate, between 10 and 20 girls will be recruited to receive training on research and evaluation, including lessons on concepts, methods, and processes. With the support of staff members, girls will use photography and interviews to collect data to answer the research questions they have created. In the data collection process, they will use a secure and confidential website to file and organize their data and share their work with team members if they so choose. When the project is completed, they will present their photos and findings through Girls Inc. websites, printed materials, and public exhibits to which families, friends, colleagues, and people in the community will be invited to learn about the research.

While the two components deal with different types of evaluation methods and outcome information (quantitative pre/posttests versus qualitative participatory evaluation), in both cases the use of information technology will help streamline the evaluation process, enhance outcome data management, and promote greater information sharing that will lead to program improvement.

¹ Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be “strong, smart, and bold.” [This is Girls Incorporated's mission statement. See Girls Incorporated. (2003). Girls Inc. annual report 2003. New York: Author. Available at (Acrobat file).]
² Structured Query Language is a language used for entering and requesting information from a database.
³ A program's theory of change explicitly articulates how the activities provided lead to the desired results by linking service receipt to intermediate changes (such as changes in attitudes or in-program behaviors) to short- and longer-term outcomes in participants.

PeiYao Chen, Ph.D.
Research Analyst
Girls Incorporated
National Resource Center
441 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3287
Tel: 317-634-7546 ext. 114

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