Evaluating With Hart’s Ladder

In 1993, Roger Hart, an environmental psychologist with UNICEF, published a book in which his now-popular “Hart’s Ladder of Children’s Participation” was included. I adapted it for the Freechild Project website in 2001. Since then I’ve heard Hart say he doesn’t expect the Ladder to be an evaluation tool, per se. Alas, following I offer it as one. Enjoy!

Use the following chart to map current activities and their potential growth towards authentic meaningful youth involvement. The higher level, the more meaningful it is likely to be for youth. There are three steps:

  1. Name of youth involvement opportunity: ________________________

  2. Write a brief description of the opportunity in the box that best illustrates what the current opportunity is.

  3. Use the remaining boxes to explore potentially progressive and regressive opportunities for youth involvement are. For instance, if your opportunity is currently at level 7, use the remaining levels to project what youth involvement could be, both in higher and lower levels.

Opportunity Type

Current description

Future possibilities

Levels of Meaningful Involvement

8. Authentic Opportunities

7. Youth-Initiated, Youth-Led

6. Adult-Initiated, Shared with Youth

5. Youth Consulted by Adults

4. Youth Assigned by Adults

Non-Meaningful Involvement

3. Token Involvement of Youth

2. Youth Used as Decorations

1. Youth Manipulated

Note that here I offer the bottom three rungs as “non-meaningful” involvement, meaning that there is no way they can help build investment in democracy, community, or education among young people. This is different from Harts’ original assertion that these were merely forms of “non-participation.” 

For more information about how to implement youth involvement in meaningful ways visit The Freechild Project Youth Voice Toolbox.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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