Systems change evaluation for The Women’s Fund of Omaha: The Adolescent Health Project

The Women’s Fund of Omaha
The Women’s Fund of Omaha was established in 1990 with the goal to empower women to achieve full partnership in the Omaha community with opportunities for growth. Since then, they have provided more than $35 million in grants to programs working to address critical issues facing local women and girls. Through research, they have identified which issues are the most impactful including economic conditions, access to sexual education and health services, sex trafficking, domestic violence, and the status of women’s leadership. This research informs the initiatives that are aimed to improve the lives of metropolitan women and girls, so they all have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

What is the best strategy for understanding how youth perceive sexual and reproductive health? Hire a team of youth researchers to investigate, of course.

Our clients wanted to change the sexual & reproductive health system in Nebraska by creating an equitable, youth-centered service delivery system that supports youth autonomy. Our team used Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) to ensure that the project would be situated in the youth perspective. We hired a team of paid 15-24-year-old researchers who, with coaching from experienced evaluators, designed research questions, collected and analyzed the data, and reported back what they learned to grantee service providers and project leadership.

In an effort to continually embed youth voices into the evaluation, the YPAR team presented their results at quarterly meetings known as the Learning Collaborative. We facilitated these meetings to better coordinate multiple strategies and to foster collaboration between grantee service providers. Providing the space for open discussion, generating trust, and developing relationships between youth and service providers were all important aspects to improving this system.

To ensure that service providers improved the quality of their services, we worked with Learning Collaborative members to develop and implement guiding principles and determine how to measure them. The YPAR team also developed measures grounded in youth perspective so results could be compared—did the experience of youth accessing these services match up with the grantees’ perceptions of service delivery?

Change Making

Youth-led research leads to better youth-serving strategies

Now in its fifth year, the AHP has exceeded its goals for increasing the number of service providers available to the public, and increased rates for STD testing. Youth-centered evaluation gave service providers real information to use when making decisions about how to improve. It has connected more frequently with targeted populations and improved access to services for those populations.


Youth Mystery Shopper visits