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Creative Youth
Evaluation Guidelines –
Supplemental Information

Developed by Carmel O’Sullivan and Lisa O’Keeffe




Introduction - details

The Creative Youth Evaluation Guidelines are informed by:
  1. A review of the literature on evaluation and monitoring, logic models and evaluation toolkits for community and government programmes (see Appendix 1a);
  2. A scoping of evaluation frameworks for the arts and creativity in health, wellbeing and education with notable insights drawn from the Arts for health and wellbeing An evaluation framework (Daykin, 2016) and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Evaluation Resource Pack (2009) (see Appendix 1b);
  3. Consultation with teachers, creative practitioners, youth workers, early years educators, artists, community organisations, LCYP coordinators and youth trainers who participated in the first Creative Youth Plan (2017-2022);
  4. A review of the evaluation and reporting mechanisms across the Creative Youth Plan (2017-2022), the Creative Ireland programme and the Department of Children, Equality, Diversity, Integration and Youth. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) has compiled a series of guidance notes introduced through the Research and Evaluation Unit’s Evidence into Policy Programme (EiPP), which informs the research-to-policy cycle and provides a useful support for this document;
  5. A review of key skills and wellbeing frameworks across the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and European Key Competences of Lifelong Learning;
  6. Input from the Creative Youth research subgroup (see Appendix 2).

What to consider? - details

Thompson (2009, p. 13) provides a helpful list when deciding what to include when communicating the outputs and outcomes of your initiative, and how these relate to the aims of your project and to stakeholder needs:
  • the number of people involved in the project as participants;
  • the work of the project team – meetings held; activities delivered;
  • the views of the participants – looking at what they have learned or liked about the project; how the project has helped them individually, within their families or community and the wider society;
  • the views of partners and agencies who have a special interest in the project;
  • good practice – what has worked well;
  • constraints - areas where the project has faced obstacles or barriers;
  • problems encountered and how you have dealt with them;
  • impact – how your project has made a difference;
  • unexpected consequences;
  • benefits to individuals, groups and communities;
  • evidence of value for money.
  Making it clear who was involved, how many, when, where and how you asked them for their opinions, and including the voices of participants will strengthen the validity and reliability of your findings and any claims you make as a result.    


Ethical guiding principles - details The Creative Youth Evaluation Guidelines are informed by:
  • Common Good – plan for the shared benefit of all your participants, including equitable opportunities and outcomes, and access to resources.
  • Contextual Factors – acknowledge the geographic location, including cultural, social, economic, political, technological, and environmental conditions in which you are working; considering language, customs, local norms and practices, the timing and other factors which may influence your project and findings from your evaluation.
  • Culturally Competent Evaluator – aim to be an evaluator who reflects the diverse values and perspectives of participants and key stakeholder groups; designs and carries out an evaluation which is appropriately matched to the context; draws upon a wide range of evidence to support/ illustrate outcomes.
  • Environment – recognise and plan for the surroundings or conditions in which your participants live or operate; acknowledge the setting or conditions in which the creative initiative occurs, and its potential impact.
  • Equity – provide fair and just opportunities for all people to participate and thrive in your creative initiative regardless of individual or group identity or difference; work where possible to achieve equity, including mitigating historic disadvantage and existing structural inequalities.
  • Impact on People or Groups – be aware of those who may be affected by your evaluation, including those defined by race, ethnicity, gender, income, status, health, ability, power, underrepresentation, and/or disfranchisement.
  • Professional Judgement – ensure that decisions or conclusions are based on ethical principles and professional standards in the gathering, analysis, interpretation and reporting of evidence in your evaluation.
  • Stakeholders – be aware of individuals, groups or organisations served by, or with a legitimate interest in, your evaluation or who might be affected by its outcomes



Evaluation categories - details

When capturing measurable outcomes quantitative studies may seek to measure, predict, and explain relationships (i.e. what is going on here?). This approach includes experimental or quasi (partly) experimental designs in which you measure the effects of an intervention by obtaining pre and post intervention data. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), the gold standard of medical sciences are difficult to implement in real life settings, so are not generally employed in arts based or creative activities. It would require one group (the control group) not to avail of the intervention. More commonly, evaluation may involve quasi-experimental designs using pre-and post-testing of participants, individually or in groups, and you may or may not have a control group. There are a number of ways to collect quantitative data ranging from simple closed ended surveys, observations or validated questionnaires to more complex quantitative methods such as Social Return on Investment or Cost Analysis often labelled Economic Evaluation (Daykin, 2016).


Qualitative methods can explore more in-depth project outcomes and causal links. Qualitative methods can range from simple open-ended interviews or questionnaires through to detailed ethnographic research (a qualitative method where researchers systematically observe and/ or interact with a study’s participants in their real-life environment employing field notes, observations, informal conversations etc. to collect evidence). Creative and arts-based methods using techniques such as photography, film, visual arts, poetry, creative writing, puppetry, music, drama and dance can also be used to support qualitative evaluation. Qualitative methods can reveal hidden perspectives, strengthen the voice and presence of participants in the evaluation, providing rich and nuanced insights into the outcomes of an initiative (Daykin, 2016). Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a qualitative evaluation design often used in arts and creative health and wellbeing research which places participants at the heart of the process (see Appendix 1b for further details).

Why Use Creative Approaches to Evaluation?

  1. Improves response rates. Low response rates from children and young people can be attributed to a degree of tedium with the instruments used, a lack of purpose and perceived value or meaning in what they are asked to do, and an absence of enjoyment/ motivation in the evaluation task. Increasing child participation can be achieved by encouraging relational and shared decision-making, respecting the developing autonomy of the child (Paquette et al., 2020), and providing more engaging and creative approaches to evaluation.
  2. Enables inclusive voice. Particularly those of children and young people, and seldom heard voices, such as young children and those who experience barriers in being heard (children and young people in care, those who live with a disability, come from an ethnic minority, or live in low-income households, those who experience discrimination on any grounds such as sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, sexual orientation or other status) (McEvoy, 2015).
  3. Enables multiple and diverse ways of communicating. These Creative Youth guidelines recognise the different ‘voices’ or languages of children, and participants’ differing sensory and communication processes. Therefore, we recommend the use of creative methods to invite and elicit a diversity of communication styles and preferences. We advocate developing and basing your evaluation strategies on participants’ strengths, interests and preferred language styles. This will support and maximise authentic reporting of experiences, minimise evaluator interpretation, and focus on looking at ‘lives lived’ rather than only knowledge/skills gained (Clotworthy and O’Sullivan, 2024).
  4. Treats children and young people as experts and agents in their own lives. Creative evaluation addresses power imbalances where participants may feel there is a correct answer that the teacher/evaluator wants to hear, or may be uncomfortable expressing their true feelings (Winstone et al., 2014; Dennis & Huff (2020).
  5. Creative data “provide policy makers with valid, reliable, and actionable measurement tools that can support evidence-based decisions” (OECD, PISA, 2022, p. 6). Imagination and creativity are universally acknowledged as supporting individuals, groups, communities and countries to achieve better outcomes personally, socially, culturally, educationally, economically and politically. They promote identity development, happiness, wellbeing, and academic and career fulfilment. In the Creative Youth Plan, having inclusive, reliable data from all participants will address a concern mentioned earlier that “what we cannot see is hard to improve, and what we cannot measure will fail to get deserved attention (OECD, PISA, 2022, p. 3


Collecting Sensitive Data

Demographic data refer to identity and socioeconomic information expressed statistically, including age, gender, sexuality, education, income, ethnicity, marriage rates, birth and death rates (Weber et al., 2021). When used correctly, this data rarely has any negative impact for individuals. However, data collection around ethnicity and class is now viewed as problematic in many countries, with 20 out of 38 OECD countries not collecting racial or ethnic identity data (Shendruk, 2021) and approximately half of European countries choosing not to collect it (Öhberg & Medeiros, 2022). Concerns include worsening of discrimination or stigmatisation, the relevance of the data collected, and privacy of information (Kirst et al., 2013).

Australian Government agencies have employed the term culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) in preference to historically negative and fluid terms such as race and ethnicity (Pham et al., 2021; Williams and Husk, 2013). However, it is suggested that the use of such:

non-committal collective terminologies makes visible minorities invisible, leads to the distorted allocation of government support, and legitimises and institutionalises racism and othering, hence perpetuating exclusion and the risk of victimisation. (Renzaho, 2023, p. 1)

Demographic change throughout the world has forced social issues to the political and social forefront and frequently gender, race, class and ethnicity are used in political campaigns to fuel ethnic, racial and social discriminatory attitudes (Bainton et al., 2021). Reliable data are fundamental to combat stereotypes and encourage greater understanding and tolerance amongst a population at large, for research and policy development, and to provide an accurate picture of societal problems and how best to target the cohorts most affected by these issues. Evidence in the health, education, and cultural fields, suggest that collecting robust, reliable and consistent data is a national and international imperative to ensure proper advocacy and equitable service provision, and to monitor progress towards reducing racial and ethnic disparities (Aktar et al., 2020).

Similarly, there is growing evidence supporting the necessity of gathering demographic data on publicly funded arts, cultural and education events as a way of informing and directing future government spending and processes (Johanson et al., 2023). One of the challenges of gathering personal data through surveys is to avoid a crude or reductionist approach where data gathered “are absent of real meaning” (Baumle, 2018, p. 281). In attempting to bridge the challenges associated with collecting sociodemographic data through quantitative methods (i.e. surveys) where groups are simply counted, emphasis is placed on how complex data such as gender-sensitive data (e.g. maternity and childcare), are collected, analysed and presented (Engender, 2020; Guyan et al., 2023). This is particularly relevant in the cultural and arts sectors (Conner, 2022; Ashton and Gowland-Pryde, 2019; Noble and Ang, 2018). Open text questions instead of preselected lists allow respondents to enter their own ethnic/cultural identities and have been shown to improve response rates and acceptability of such questions (Connelly et al., 2016) but can be time consuming to analyse. Context sensitive tools are being designed to advance mutual learning and benefit from participation in research, such as the Gender Equality Audit and Monitoring tool (, the Gender equality and empowerment measurement tool Gender and Empowerment and the Belong To LGBTQ+ community toolkit ( wp content/uploads/2022/09/Stand-Up-AwarenessWeek-Toolkit-2022-Belong-To.pdf).

Notwithstanding the challenges associated with collecting sensitive data, there is considerable support for the power of quantifiable methods to provide evidence of collective oppression, marginalisation and exclusion (Guyan et al., 2023). Drawing on the seminal work of Ann Oakley (1999) who describes the potential of quantitative data to transform personal experience, Guyan (2021) notes the value of using UK census data for example, on sexual orientation and trans/gender identity:

to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people in the United Kingdom [arguing that] … the census is a reflection for how some groups see themselves, present to others and transform identity characteristics into constituencies that form the basis for action to address inequality and injustice. (p. 8)

Sensitivity to data collection underpins the approach to gathering sociodemographic information across the Creative Youth Plan, however it should not prevent us asking questions we need answered in order to understand social and cultural inequities and build social cohesion amongst diverse communities. As (Öhberg & Medeiros, 2019) observe “to be able to better understand the social changes brought forth by ethnic diversity, debates related to ethnicity need to be thorough. Therefore, the effects of this ‘sensitivity’ towards ethnicity are important knowledge gaps that hamper the development of policy responses to social ills” (p. 371). The same holds true for sensitivity towards race, age, gender and social class. Data should be as complete and accurate as possible (Rossi et al., 2013).

On collecting demographic data, be that for grant reporting, ensuring equity, or assessing alignment with your mission/objectives, it is important to briefly explain to your participants why you are collecting the information, what you will do with the information, where the information will be stored and who will see it. It may also be helpful to highlight that socio-demographic data can help us to understand, address and prevent inequities; can help us to improve outcomes and effectively allocate resources (Bates et al., 2017); and can facilitate understanding and improve inclusion of previously excluded or marginalised groups. Above all, the Creative Youth Plan acknowledges that people are people first (Magoon et al., 2022) and sociodemographic indicators hold second place to that.

It is in this context that the Creative Youth Plan supports the collection of sociodemographic data, whilst recognising that sensitivity and best practice in data collection is fundamental. It is essential for all partners to promote best practice and where possible consult and engage the targeted communities around language, confidentiality and other issues which may be of concern to them. Best practice in data collection includes:

  1. Careful educational messaging explaining the purpose of the data collection.
  2. Every question should have a purpose and be relevant.
  3. Collect no more data than is necessary.
  4. Confidentiality guaranteed.
  5. Demographic categories should be collected separately.
  6. Depth of granularity should always be supported by sufficient sample size to promote confidentiality and prevent identification/ misuse of the knowledge.
  7. Do not share an individual’s personal data, including their image, with other individuals or the wider community without their permission.
  8. Only keep the data for as long as necessary in compliance with the GDPR.
  9. Keep data secure.
  10. Erase data without delay if requested by a participant. (Magoon et al., 2022; Kirst et al., 2013).
The evaluation forms created in order to capture sociodemographic data across the Creative Youth Plan (see Part 4) have been devised with the above best practice principles in mind, however organisations, individuals, teachers, artists and youth workers have the liberty to decide when the collection of certain data is appropriate or not within their specific setting.

Who Owns the Data? Research generates data and clarity around ownership, usage and storage of data is increasingly sought by respondents. It is a legal requirement under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation that such information is in an easy to read, accessible format and provided at the outset of engagement with participants. Under the GDPR, individuals own the rights to their personally identifiable data, with a few exceptions. Where organisations demonstrate the need and purpose for collecting personal information, they are allowed to do so under the legislation once informed consent has been freely given. and they assume responsibility under the GDPR principles below for maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of that information (see Figure 3).

Fig. 3: GDPR principles (Data Protection Office, Trinity College Dublin)

Personal data include names, email addresses, date of birth, etc. (see appendix 3) and as a general rule of thumb, best practice suggests that no more than 3 identifying pieces of personal data should be collected in any instrument to safeguard people’s privacy (data minimisation).

The Creative Youth Plan and the Creative Ireland Programme are governed by the data protection and freedom of information policies of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (DTCAGSM) and Department of Education (DE) (see appendix 3). Research and evaluation are being conducted by the Creative Ireland Programme and the Creative Youth Plan in the public interest, and research data generated as part of funded activities is owned by the Creative Ireland programme who are responsible for ensuring that research is conducted ethically and in compliance with GDPR and other relevant regulations (e.g., the Health Research Board).



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  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is in force as of the 25th May 2018 and is directly applicable as a law in all EU Member States. In Ireland, the Data Protection Act 2018 gives further effect to the GDPR:
  • A helpful summary of the law is available at: and a searchable tool can be found here:
  • Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (DTCAGSM) data protection policy:
  • Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media (DTCAGSM) Freedom of Information policy:
  • Department of Education (DE) data protection policy:
  • Department of Education (DE) Freedom of Information policy:
  • The GDPR defines relevant legal terms. Below are some of the most important ones in the context of these guidelines (adapted from the resource and the Data Protection Office, Trinity College Dublin):
  • Personal data — Personal data is any information that relates to an individual who can be directly or indirectly identified by reference to an identifier such as name, image, ID number, location data or online identifier.
  • Data processing — Any action performed on data, whether automated or manual, including collecting, recording, organizing, structuring, storing, using, erasing, etc.
  • Data subject — The person whose data is processed.
  • Data controller — The person who decides why and how personal data will be processed.
  • Data processor — A third party that processes personal data on behalf of a data controller. The GDPR has special rules for these individuals and organizations.
  • Special categories of personal data: Data revealing an individual’s racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious beliefs or philosophical beliefs, data relating to trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying an individual, data concerning health and data concerning an individual’s sex life or sexual orientation.

There are strict rules about what constitutes consent from a data subject to process their information.

Consent must be “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.”

Requests for consent must be “clearly distinguishable from the other matters” and presented in “clear and plain language.”

Data subjects can withdraw previously given consent whenever they want, and you have to honour their decision.

Children under 13 can only give consent with permission from their parent.

You need to keep documentary evidence of consent.

  People’s privacy rights The GDPR recognizes the privacy rights for data subjects, which aim to give individuals more control over the data they loan to organizations. Data subjects’ privacy rights include:
  1. The right to be informed
  2. The right of access
  3. The right to rectification
  4. The right to erasure
  5. The right to restrict processing
  6. The right to data portability
  7. The right to object
  8. Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling.

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