Child Trends staff and partners at the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), the national resource office of the YMCA, recently developed a successful researcher-practitioner partnership (RPP) collaboration to evaluate the Character Development Learning Institute (CDLI). Y-USA designed the CDLI to identify, test, and disseminate practices related to youth character development that staff and volunteers could learn and use in their programs to positively influence youth character development across different settings.
Over the course of three years, from the initial conceptualization of the program to its scaling at over 200 sites, Child Trends and Y-USA staff worked closely and intentionally together to clearly communicate about evaluation goals, methodological challenges, interim findings, and suggested tweaks to the CDLI. Child Trends and Y-USA staff also worked together to reduce the burden on program staff when collecting data during site visits, interviews, and focus groups. The iterative, step-by-step nature of the intervention development process that Y-USA uses has clear points when feedback can be shared and changes can be built into newer initiatives, which aligns well with an RPP.