In 2012, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched its Policy on Youth in Development that strengthens and expands high-quality youth programming by the Agency, as well as calls for increased rigor in the evaluation of such programs (USAID, 2012a). To support better research on youth development, USAID’s Education Office asked JBS International, Inc. to scan and review tools designed to measure developmental assets,1 workforce readiness skills, and life skills – all areas identified as key stepping stones for young people to achieve positive life outcomes (USAID, 2013a; USAID, 2013b; USAID 2013c).
The search included identifying measurement tools through outreach to youth serving organizations and researchers, as well as a scan of organization websites and resource repositories. As a result, the JBS research team examined 47 measurement tools covering multiple concept areas, including: communication, daily living, and work/study skills; home life; self-care; social relationships; housing/money management; career planning; and work life. Assets also measured by the tools included: self-confidence, managing emotions, personal responsibility, respecting self and others, team work, creative thinking, problem solving, decision making, and conflict management. This set of tools was reduced down to a list of 15 based on a number of factors including the tool’s relevancy to the main topic areas of interest to USAID (e.g., positive youth development, workforce readiness, conflict mitigation), expected ease of implementation, previous history of use in developing countries, etc.
An expert panel was then brought together to formally review the top 15 tools. They ranked the tools based on a set of questions posed to help think about issues such as validity, reliability, user-friendliness, cost, and availability. After the panel thoroughly discussed their feedback, five top tools were identified for consideration by USAID as possible measurements to be used in their youth programming, assessment, and evaluation activities.
A meeting that included the expert panel and staff from the USAID Office of Education was then held to discuss the top recommended tools, as well as to consider the challenges of measuring youth development outcomes in developing countries. The group deliberated on the pros and cons of USAID making additional investments in existing tools (e.g., reliability and validity testing) and/or developing or adapting components of existing tools to measure an identified set of core developmental assets, workforce readiness skills, and life skills of importance across Agency youth programs. The meeting led to a discussion of possible next steps for USAID as they continue to work toward the goal of improved research and evaluation in youth development. At this point, USAID is meeting internally and with stakeholders to discuss the best steps forward for a new measurement approach.
This briefer summarizes the process of the measurement tool scan and review; offers background and reviewer feedback on the top five tools; discusses challenges facing USAID and others interested in measuring youth development; and presents recommendations for next steps.
Last updated: May 07, 2014