Original Research - Special Collection: UNICEF Engaging with Children and Young People

Shifting power in evaluation: Lessons from child-led evaluations

Laura Hughston
African Evaluation Journal | Vol 11, No 1 | a682 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v11i1.682 | © 2023 Laura Hughston | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 February 2023 | Published: 29 September 2023

About the author(s)

Laura Hughston, Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Consultant, London, United Kingdom


Background: In 2015, Plan International UK undertook a bold experiment: enabling children in participating in the multi-sectoral programme Building Skills for Life to evaluate the programme.

Objectives: The primary objective of this experiment was to assess if a child-led evaluation is feasible, valuable and desirable. Feasible, in consideration of children’s abilities and the intricacies of a multisectoral evaluation; valuable in comparison with expert-led evaluations and desirable in relation to the evidence already available.

Method: These experiments used a range of methodologies to facilitate children’s collecting and analysing data to return full evaluative judgements. While these experiments were deemed successful and credible on account of the reviews and support received by the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) community and the donor, the years that followed did not see child-led monitoring and evaluation flourish across the international development sector, despite renewed interest and international commitments, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Results: This article explores the contribution these experiences can bring to today’s evaluation practice and argues that child participation in monitoring and evaluation is not simply desirable; it is a right and an opportunity to sharpen the objectives of programmes addressed to children.

Conclusion: This article concludes that it is time to abandon M&E practices carried out on children particularly in child-focused programmes and insist on M&E to be, at the very least, carried out with children, if not, as is preferable, by children.

Contribution: This article highlights that involving children in social development aimed at changing the societies in which they will grow up and live, is not a matter of good practice or inclusion, but a matter of justice.


child-led evaluation; child-focused M&E; child participation; child focus; localisation; shifting power; participatory evaluation; Cambodia; Zimbabwe; Kenya.

JEL Codes

I10: General

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals


Total abstract views: 923
Total article views: 1053

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.