Methods: The current study reviewed the published literature on cross-sector youth data systems, and strategies for and benefits of youth participation. Cross-sector data systems related to OST spaces were considered for this analysis. Youth participation in research and evaluation, or the involvement of youth in knowledge development at the program or community level, was also considered.
Results: Both strategies are important for quality, equity and access in the OST sector. Cross-sector data systems are particularly well suited to supporting youth who may represent a small portion of the population, but have complex social or health needs. Through the process of engagement and education, participatory approaches to quality assessment serve to increase individual, organizational and community capacity for addressing complex social issues of a particular community, closing that data collection mismatch. A conceptual model was developed to identify the ways these two strategies could work in union with one another for a data-use strategy aimed at increasing equity in OST.
Conclusions: The emergence of cross-sector data systems presents many benefits to the quality of out-of-school-time programming, as it offers a systemic approach to issues of equity and access. However, youth participation in these systems remains largely unexplored and has many challenges. Implications for how cross-sector data systems can serve as a catalyst for increasing youth participation, resulting in data systems that are reflective of youths’ OST program experiences and more responsive to community needs.