The Importance of Teen Voices: “Nothing about Us without Us”

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Judith W. Herrman, PhD, RN, ANEF

For some of us, remembering how teens think means only to conjure up our thoughts from a few years ago. For others, it feels like ancient history and requires some time and effort to truly represent the thoughts of a young person. But it is with these thoughts and perspectives that we often shape those policies and programs designed to foster health in today’s teens. Rather than simply guiding our initiatives based on our recollections of youth priorities, or worse yet, using our adult insights to decide what is “best” for today’s youth, we need to seek out authentic teen voices and ensure that teen perspectives guide our efforts.

Although we cannot be assured that all teens speak with one voice, nor can we shape policy based purely on teen insights, we do need to “try our best” and consider the voices and perspectives of youth in all we do. There are various ways to do this—from informally talking with youth on what they consider is in their best interest, to rigorous research that controls variables ensuring valid findings. Each pole of this spectrum has pros and cons as we generate programs and funnel our energies toward those initiatives that are most effective in helping teens.

Key to developing this youth-based framework is the art of listening. We may spend a lot of time talking to teens, and perhaps complaining when they don’t listen to us, rather than actively and intently listening to their thoughts and priorities. By listening to teens we may best hear their perspectives and concerns and, thereby, attend to the realities of current teen life.

Helping teens articulate their thoughts should also be a role for adult advocates. Current knowledge of brain development demonstrates that the maturing prefrontal cortex allows teens to put their thoughts into words. Assisting teens to find the words that accurately describe their thoughts and using other media, such as journaling, art, drama, dance, and creative expression, may help teens find their voices.

Research methods that may help us discover and use teen voices include surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Each of these allows us to “listen” to teens in a systematic way and to interpret their thoughts in accurate ways. Although these methods have their positive attributes, they also have limitations. For instance, teens often tire of long surveys, yielding inaccurate results. Teens may feel intimated during personal interviews or limited in their expression during a focus group based on the dynamics of the group. Creative methods to conduct youth-based research that reveal the candid voices of teens are being developed to allay these concerns. Using journaling via text messages or written word, open-ended sentence completion exercises, videos, photographs, and other expressions of voice through media are now more common ways to access the views of teens.

Just using teen-oriented methods is not always enough. We need to ensure that teens are part of the process such that the youth lens truly depicts the thoughts and perspectives of teens. Youth advisory boards, teen representation in program planning, and teen involvement that truly relies on their perspectives—rather than just allowing them to serve as “token voices”—are integral in developing youth-focused initiatives. The phrase, “Nothing about us without us,” can go a long way to ensure youth-based and youth-oriented programs and policies designed to promote teen health and speak to the realities of teen life in today’s world!

Judith W. Herrman, PhD, RN, ANEF, is a Professor, School of Nursing, University of Delaware and a Healthy Teen Network Board Member

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Connect, Create, and Cultivate: Methods for Networking at a Conference

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Rita Lassiter

At our annual conference, we’ve discovered that one thing attendees come hoping to do is make the most of the networking opportunities the event affords. For many people, the word “networking” evokes hesitation and even fear. We often associate the art of networking with a forced effort to meet every person in the room through something like a speed networking exercise, or the aimless collection of business cards. However, networking is a key component to expanding our personal and professional circles and creates unbelievable opportunities.

What does it take to have a successful networking experience at your annual conference or meeting?

Jodi Brockington, founder of Friends of Jodi and NIARA Consulting, a full service marketing and business development company, suggests that a successful networking experience comes with a plan of action. “You MUST have a networking strategy—you cannot just wing it. Networking is an art and vital to your career success, but you must have a vision for doing it right.”

With all this in mind, here are some tips to connect, create, and cultivate new relationships at the Healthy Teen Network conference and other events.

THE MASTER PLAN

Networking Is A Two-Way Street
When you ask “What’s in it for the other party—not just what’s in it for me,” you seek to be a useful resource to others. An effective networking relationship should be mutually beneficial to each party. The goal of networking is to make a connection, so your mission is to be a connector of people, ideas, and information. Everyone has something to give, whether it’s time, talent, or performance. You get value by giving value, so make yourself worth getting to know.

Who You DON’T Know Will Hurt You
It’s perfectly fine to step out of your comfort zone and meet other professionals from other organizations. If you believe in six degrees of separation, then you know that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. If you’re looking to expand your network, then you’ll find that the theory holds true—even down to as few as two or three degrees sometimes. You should network laterally, vertically, and horizontally. Never underestimate the power of the grapevine. There is a wealth of information just waiting to be exchanged with people that you don’t know.

Quality Not Quantity
Networking is more than collecting business cards and contact information at a networking event. Brockington suggests that conference attendees “focus on making a few high-quality connections. People who network merely to collect business cards have completely missed the mark. You can’t meet 50 people at a three-day conference and expect to remember their names or instantly have a viable network. It takes time, but you must start and continue at it.” People want to connect on a deeper level than spending five minutes with an individual and then moving on to the next person. Take advantage of  opportunities before and after conference sessions to connect with fellow attendees. Exploring the host city on a venture out of the hotel/conference center or a chat during conference meals are a couple ways to network within the time constraints of busy conference agendas. Early-career professionals want to meet seasoned colleagues who can help them learn the ropes. Experienced professionals desire to tap and amplify their existing network. Everyone turns to events to make connections with like-minded people who will share knowledge, opportunities, and ideas that will help them do their job faster, better, and easier.

THE APPROACH

Be Likeable
Outside of being armed with business cards and a charged cellular phone/tablet, approachability and likability is key. First impressions are lasting impressions, so be certain to make eye contact, focus on remembering the other person’s name, and use it in the conversation.

Be Interesting
Be interested in what the other person is saying, but don’t be afraid to shake up the conversation. Who’s to say that the topic of conversation has to stay within the confines of work? Discover what that person’s interests are outside of the office (e.g. philanthropic work, hobbies, etc.). Why not test the six degrees of separation theory to see if you have acquaintances in common based on personal or professional backgrounds (e.g. hometown, current residence, school, fraternal organizations, etc.)?

THE FOLLOW UP

Managing Your Connections
Having a strong network requires relationship building. Stay plugged in to your network after your conference/meeting concludes with a follow up email or a handwritten note, a gesture that is becoming a long lost art. The general rule of thumb is that any follow-up correspondence should take place no later than 48 hours after meeting someone, but never longer than a week. In addition to an email or handwritten note, the use of social media is another popular way to build relationships with colleagues (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

Remember that networking isn’t about being the most extroverted, or just passing out a stack of business cards, promoting yourself, or making a sales pitch. There is commonality that can be found in exchanging information and experiences. Take the time to connect, create, and cultivate opportunities for you, the other party, and your individual networks as well.

We hope to see you—and network with you—soon at the Healthy Teen Network conference!

How do you make the most of conferences and other events?

What networking tips would you share with a colleague?

Rita Lassiter is the Meeting and Event Planner at Healthy Teen Network.

Evaluation on the Cheap

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Genevieve Martínez-García & Valerie Sedivy

Conducting, managing, and reporting your evaluation efforts has become easier and more affordable thanks to many online tools available at low or no cost. Here is a list of useful online resources to help you manage your research resources, collect and analyze your data, and create beautiful diagrams to share your results with the world. This is not an exhaustive list;there are many more online tools like the ones listed below.

Need to chart your project and ideas?
LucidChart.com is a free, web-based design software that helps you create any type of diagram you need. There’s no need to struggle with text boxes and arrows getting out of control in your Word document. You can select from hundreds of icons and textbox styles, draw different types of arrows that align automatically, and change the color or font of any text box. It’s collaborative, so your peers can access your diagram and make modifications as well. You can export your chart in various formats to insert it into your document. Just create a free account and get charting! I’ve used LucidChart to create research study designs and flowcharts. You can also use it to create logic models, design a project diagram for proposals, and to visualize your programmatic efforts.

Need to conduct a literature review in minutes?
GoogleScholar, a member of the extensive Google family of products, helps you search for journal articles published in journals, books, and reports from all disciplines. Just type a key word and GoogleScholar does the rest. It also provides links to journal articles available free. Use multiple filters to focus your search and create libraries of favorite articles. It even helps you format your references by providing the citation for the article in three different formats. It also provides the Bibtex data needed to import the reference in any reference manager. You can also stay on top of the field by creating publication alerts delivered to your email.

Getting lost in research articles?
Qiqqa.com is one (of many) web based resource managers, similar to the famous EndNote or RefManager. You no longer have to read the title of hundreds of PDF articles saved on your computer to try to figure which one was the one that dealt with runaway youth. Qiqqa automatically organizes all of your PDFs in their cloud so you can access them anytime and anywhere. Just import the PDF into a free web account and the “sniffer” will search and enter the metadata for you (e.g., title, author, journal, etc.).  Then search by key words and find your article in seconds. It also allows you to highlight, make notes and then retrieve them; create in-text citations while you write your proposal; have an offline account for your tablet or phone; and create multiple libraries, although you need an upgraded account to get these features. There are others out there that do a good job with similar tasks as well, such as Mendeley and Zotero.

Need a cheap and fast way to collect data?
SurveyMonkey.com is well known online survey platform that allows you to collect survey data. But why stop at surveys? Many evaluators are using SurveyMonkey, or similar platforms, such as FluidSurveys.com, to collect fidelity monitoring data. Go mobile and take it with you on the road to enter data and visualize it immediately. You can administer their surveys through social media, gather and analyze qualitative data, and you can download it as a CSV or straight into SPSS for further analysis.

Drowning in interview data?
Dedoose.com is a web-based qualitative data analysis software that allows you to analyze all those focus group and interview data you are still trying to code by hand. Dedoose is available for a very low monthly fee, but you only pay during the month you use it. If you don’t need it, just stop paying. When you use it again, pay one month and regain access to your account and data. It’s easy to use and have many instructional videos online. It is a good alternative to much more expensive software like NUD*IST or MaxQDA.

Need to quickly visualize qualitative data?
Tagxedo.com is a word cloud generator on steroids. Sometime you just need a graphic to illustrate all the wonderful things people are saying about your program. Why rely on a boring table when a word cloud is more impactful? There are many free word cloud generators out there. What I like about Tagxedo is that you can customize fonts, colors and even the shape of the cloud. Below is a word cloud of this blog in the shape of a hand!

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Feeling statistically adventurous?
R analysis software from the R-project.org is a free software for statistical computing and graphics generator. It is an open software, meaning that many people collaborated to create it and now they are sharing it with the world. I have personally not used it, but I have seen it make its way through the research community. It may not look as fancy as some other well known programs like SPSS or SAS, but it gets the job done, it’s free, and it has tons of tutorials online.

Still think that managing research and evaluation efforts on your own is a bit daunting? At Healthy Teen Network we will be happy to provide training, technical assistance, or evaluation support to help you design an evaluation plan suitable for your project. Healthy Teen Network research and evaluation staff have the capacity to conduct, and provide technical assistance on the broad scope of evaluation needs for adolescent health professionals:

  • needs and resource assessments using multiple data collection methods and approaches (i.e., secondary analysis, collecting new data);
  • qualitative data analysis;
  • design and implementation of evaluation plans;
  • design and implementation of quantitative and qualitative data collection tools and methods;
  • design and implementation of participant assessment and instructor observation protocols and tools;
  • data analysis including multivariate analysis and reporting; and
  • continuous quality improvement analysis and implementation.

Submit a service request form today to find out more about how we can support you to build your evaluation capacity.

Genevieve Martínez García, PhD, is a Senior Researcher and Valerie Sedivy, PhD, is a Senior Program Manager at Healthy Teen Network.

Using a Logic Model to Support Your Programs

Have you ever wondered, “Why do I need to develop and use a logic model?”

Logic models should be a clear and concise “10,000 foot view” of the work you’re doing  and relevant for various stakeholders involved in your work. The trick is to think about  how you’ll use it, what you have to do to make it user-friendly, and who can benefit from  working with it ahead of time—a logic model is only as useful as you make it!

Logic models can work for you to…

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Find out more about how to make your logic model work for you with this quick one-page resource by Healthy Teen Network.

As an example, Healthy Teen Network developed a logic model for working with pregnant and parenting teens and their families. The BDI Logic Model for Working with Young Families Resource Kit identifies the critical social determinants relevant for supporting pregnant and parenting teens to achieve self-sufficiency and positive outcomes for themselves and their children.

When working in the primary prevention field, the program goal is more straightforward—the sole focus of the program is usually to reduce teen pregnancy, STIs, and/or HIV. However, when working with young families, while one of many goals is usually preventing (or delaying) subsequent pregnancies and reducing STIs/HIV, this is usually or often times not the sole focus of the program.

This sample logic model provides the map for the sometimes complicated linkages to care, referrals to services, and various supports essential to achieve diverse program objectives, organized into three goal areas:

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Uniquely, the BDI Logic Model focuses first on the goal or intended outcomes, in order to make sure that the intervention activities are strategically and purposefully designed to reach the goal or outcomes. Second, the BDI Logic Model focuses on the behavior(s) of the individual—something practitioners can influence within the context of programs. The third focus is on determinants, or risk and protective factors, that influence decisions and choices about behaviors. Lastly, the BDI Logic Model focuses on the specific intervention strategy, or set of intervention activities, that impact selected determinants that influence behaviors.

The graphic below displays a “thread,” or a piece of a logic model, demonstrating this relationship between the goal, behaviors, determinants, and intervention activities:

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The sample logic model in the Resource Kit may serve as a guide for you in the program planning, design, and/or selection of services for pregnant and parenting teens. It may be used as the foundation for a program and then modified based on the relevant priority population, behaviors, determinants, and intervention activities. By using the logic model as an evidence-based approach, programs may be more strategic, more purposeful, and ultimately, more effective.

To find out more about using a logic model to support your work, complete a Service Request Form today, or contact Mila Garrido at Training@HealthyTeenNetwork.org.

Gina Desiderio is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Healthy Teen Network.

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