Webinar: Children and Adolescents Speaking Truth to Adults: Ethics and Participation

In April 2019, Nick Petten, along with a few colleagues working in the intersections of children’s rights and program development, presented their work to YouthPower, a USAID-funded education initiative. The webinar and a description can be viewed on the USAID website here.

Event Description:

In order to speak truth to power, children and adolescents have to overcome multiple obstacles. Despite several conventions supporting their right to participate in decisions that concern them (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Treaty of Lisbon), their involvement often remains limited. Children and adolescents’ meaningful engagement in research and evaluation is indeed challenging. It requires time and resources to adapt to evaluation tools and materials. It also involves specific ethical issues, such as informed parental consent and child assent.

This panel brought ethics to the forefront of their discussion on children’s participation. It considered how several gatekeepers (parents, schools, local authorities) can facilitate or interfere with their right to participate. The panel offered cross-national perspectives with examples from Canada, Europe and Low and Middle Income Countries and focused on ways to ensure meaningful participation, such as visual methods and robust consent processes.

Event: Critical Reflexivity for Program Evaluators

Nick Petten recently presented at an EvalCafe event on his work around critical reflexivity. The event description and links to resources can be accessed on EvalCafe’s event listing page on Meetup.com.

Content from the presentation can be accessed here for free.

Event description:

Reflective and reflexive practice is increasingly being recognized as a method by which evaluators can monitor their biases, better understand their privilege and increase their awareness of power dynamics. The intended goal of reflexive practice is to reduce the risk that an evaluator uncritically perpetuates systemic oppressions during the course of an evaluation. Furthermore, if the aim of a program or service is to be equitable, integrating a disciplined practice of reflection is increasingly being recognized as a method of practicing social justice and anti-oppression when evaluating those programs and services (Archibald, Neubauer & Brookfield, 2018; Caldwell & Bledsoe, 2018; Jewiss & Clark/Keefe, 2007; Hall, 2019; van Draanen, 2016).

Nick Petten has been practicing reflexivity in his evaluation practice and has opened this practice to investigation through a research project on team-based critical reflexivity. He also occupies some leadership positions within his professional associations, CES and AEA, and is aware of the increasing importance that is being placed on reflective practice and reflexivity as a core competency within the profession. His ecology of evidence tells him that reflective practice and critical reflexivity can be used by evaluators to maintain an ethical stance and be culturally responsive to groups of people that do not fully identify with the dominant ideology in contemporary Western society.

In this presentation, participants will have a chance to learn more about some techniques and practices in critical reflexivity and then discuss the role and impact of critical reflexivity on an individual’s practice, within the dynamics of a team and within the professional community of evaluators.

Those interested in attending are encouraged to read the following short articles:

– AEA’s Statement Regarding Racism and Inequality in our Society (https://www.eval.org/Full-Article/statement-from-the-aea-board-of-directors-regarding-racism-and-inequality-in-our-society)

– CES’s updated competencies on Reflective Practice and Ethics (https://evaluationcanada.ca/sites/default/files/crwg_revisions_clean_version_april_23.18.pdf)

New Resources on the YFE Website!  Child and Youth Participation in Speaking Truth to Power

New Resources on the YFE Website!
Child and Youth Participation in Speaking Truth to Power

Written and assembled by Nick Petten

Seeking children and young people’s perspectives, ideas, opinions, and experiences through participatory approaches in research and evaluation is a valued focus of study and has the ability to speak truth to power. The power that adults typical wield in society often speak on behalf of children and young people and may not truly represent them and, sometimes, completely misrepresent them in order to gain more power.

Children and young people are one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups in society. And yet, today’s adults expect that tomorrow’s adults (children) will solve some pretty wicked, global, complex and complicated challenges that we face as a civilization—climate change, growing income inequality, a resurgence of autocratic and nationalist governments and policies, to name a few. We pin our hopes and dreams on our children and yet deny them the chance to truly participate in society, whether we allow them to vote at a younger age, decide what to learn in the classroom, or design an evaluation or research project.

Thankfully, there are lots (and growing number) of academics, evaluators, thought-leaders and practitioners that are acting in the best interests of the child and young person by co-designing approaches, methods, and processes to genuinely include their participation in things that matter most to them, like how the local playground should be designed, choosing politicians that represent their best interest, or how national policies could be designed to benefit their adult lives and thus the future of humanity. From these approaches, methods, and processes, children and young people stand a better chance of ‘speaking truth’ to powers that haven’t traditionally represented them authentically or have even co-opted their ‘voice’ to progress their own agenda.

If you are someone that works with children and young people and are looking for ways to design, implement and/or evaluate programs and services for them, we’ve collected and curated a list of resources that could help you in your journey.

News: Published Article on Reflexivity

We are proud that one of our associates, Jenna van Draanen, has published an article on ‘Introducing Reflexivity to Evaluation Practice’ in the American Journal of Evaluation. The practice of reflexivity is something that we are actively exploring and employing in our evaluation and research work at Petten Consulting. We believe that it makes us more culturally competent and responsive to the complex needs of our clients. If you have access to scientific journals, please visit the Journal’s website and download the article.

Feel free to contact us with any questions. We’d love to hear what you think about the practice of reflexivity!


There is currently a paucity of literature in the field of evaluation regarding the practice of reflection and reflexivity and a lack of available tools to guide this practice—yet using a reflexive model can enhance evaluation practice. This paper focuses on the methods and results of a reflexive inquiry that was conducted during a participatory evaluation of a project targeting homelessness and mental health issues. I employed an action plan composed of a conceptual model, critical questions, and intended activities. The field notes made throughout the reflexive inquiry were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Results clustered in categories of power and privilege, evaluation politics, the applicability of the action plan, and outcomes. In this case study, reflexivity increased my competence as an evaluation professional: The action plan helped maintain awareness of how my personal actions, thoughts, and personal values relate to broader evaluation values—and to identify incongruence. The results of the study uncovered hidden elements and heightened awareness of subtle dynamics requiring attention within the evaluation and created opportunities to challenge the influence of personal biases on the evaluation proceedings. This reflexive model allowed me to be a more responsive evaluator and can improve practice and professional development for other evaluators.

van Draanen, J. (2016). Introducing Reflexivity to Evaluation Practice An In-Depth Case Study. American Journal of Evaluation, 1098214016668401.