Welcome to this first publication on youth policy evaluation in Europe! For over 20 years, the partnership between the European Union and the Council of Europe in the field of youth (hereinafter EU–Council of Europe youth partnership) has been gathering, analysing and disseminating knowledge for better youth policy and practice.
It functions as a “think tank” and a laboratory, gathering and producing knowledge, translating it for its effective use in youth policy and practice, developing and testing new approaches and considering traditional themes and innovative trends. The EU–Council of Europe youth partnership has supported knowledge-based youth policy development in a variety of ways, including by organising thematic events and training on youth policy, publishing the Youth policy manual, a youth knowledge book on cross-sectoral youth policy, and “Youth policy essentials”, as well as by organising the massive open online course (MOOC) on youth policy and other activities focused on the same theme.
The EU–Council of Europe youth partnership collects, analyses and publishes information on the conditions of young people and on youth policy and practice in the European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy (EKCYP), supported by a network of EKCYP correspondents and the Pool of European Youth Researchers (PEYR). Yet little is known in Europe about the national realities of youth policy monitoring and evaluation.
Based on the principle of promoting knowledge-based youth policy and taking into account the benefits of youth policy evaluation, this review aims at supporting those involved at diverse levels in evaluating youth policy design and implementation, in order to enhance youth policy’s relevance, effectiveness and impact.
The 2018 Annual Meeting of EKCYP correspondents undertook a first reflection on approaches to youth policy evaluation based on case studies at country level. The conclusions of that reflection were that youth policy evaluation is very complex – it involves a variety of stakeholders, each with their own perspectives on the purpose of such exercises – and there is little knowledge of how it takes place at country level.
In 2019, EKCYP correspondents pursued this objective of gathering knowledge on how youth policy evaluation takes place and analysing how it can better support youth policy and practice.
This review is the first result of that process. This study provides an overview of youth policy evaluation at national level, including a selection of nine national and two European level case studies to help the readers better understand different approaches, methods and aspects of youth policy evaluation. The mid-term evaluation of the current EU Youth Strategy and the series of international reviews of national youth policies undertaken by the Council of Europe are integrated into Chapter 4, which presents case studies for several countries, highlighting the added value of international initiatives in the field.
It concludes with a section explaining concepts, theoretical approaches and methods of policy evaluation, as well as with a practical checklist. Monitoring and evaluation of public policies, including youth policy, contribute to ensuring accountability as they offer the information needed to understand how each policy is planned and implemented and allow the sharing of different perspectives on the same policies, thus helping to understanding the resulting benefits, shortcomings and even losses. Monitoring and evaluation of polices also support the dialogue held during policy formulation and implementation and contribute to legitimating policies by allowing public participation, including youth participation. Therefore, monitoring and evaluation support the development of knowledge-based youth policy and interinstitutional and public communication. They support the dissemination of the learning outcomes, results and impact of youth policy. All these benefits of monitoring and evaluation of youth policies are important reasons for learning more about how youth policy evaluation is conducted in Europe.
The needs of young people are evolving even faster than the context of public policies. The learning outcomes of monitoring and evaluation of youth policy are extremely valuable to support decision makers in amending and adapting youth and all policy targeting young people to better answer those changing needs. This review pays special attention to impact evaluation because it contributes to the accountability, learning and communication of youth policy, offering policy makers, stakeholders and young people information on the meaningful and lasting (short- or long-term) change generated by youth policy. Impact evaluation informs about the results achieved by the policy, which is relevant when planning new policies, so as to ensure their future impact, and provides data to decision makers when planning budgets.
The horizontal, trans-sectoral nature of the youth policy and the numerous correlations needed with other sectoral policies, such as education, social inclusion, employment, health, sport and housing, should also be kept in mind. In this context, monitoring and evaluation are needed to increase the accountability of each institution and stakeholder involved and they allow the promotion of specific results in the field of youth to all relevant policy makers. Participation of young people in the policy process is an important principle in the youth field and the review also takes into consideration participation in evaluation. The participation of policy beneficiaries in the policy process, including its monitoring and evaluation, is very important for each sectoral policy in a democratic society. By participating in youth policy evaluation, young people learn to exercise active citizenship. This is an investment that they take with them as they make the transition to informed, active and involved adults.
The review includes the result of a survey conducted among the EKCYP and PEYR on the evaluation of national youth policy across Europe, followed by expert discussions in June 2019 and November 2019. The publication presents several good practices of concrete ways youth policy or elements of youth policy are evaluated throughout Europe. Definitions are presented at the beginning to clarify the meaning of the most important concepts used. A final section of the review presents the conceptual framework underlining the idea of knowledge-based policy and provides short presentations of the main theoretical and conceptual approaches in policy evaluation, when they can be used and for what purpose, as well as what advantages and challenges each of those perspectives entail. This review concludes with a practical checklist on youth policy evaluation. The checklist and the whole content of this review should be seen as a complementary resource and not as prescriptive methodology for youth policy evaluation initiatives.
All review is public. You can find it here.