Participant Voice


Blue Lotus Consulting & , LLC. (2020). Thrive Outside Evaluation 2019-2020, Participant Voice Combined Protocol.


This toolkit was developed for the Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative, a collective impact effort across multiple communities in the United States to connect youth and families to the outdoors. It was developed in deep collaboration with the organizations and program leaders within each . It builds off of a similar approach used for the Colorado Collective Outcomes project and taps into the best practice as outlined by various research and approaches.


Semi-structured , , photo-elicitation, and digital storytelling


Generally ages 10-99+ years; however, some of these approaches can be used with children as young as 5 years old (digital storytelling excluded).

When and how to use the tool

This tool can be used as pre/post and retrospective, depending on how your program is structured. Generally speaking, this tool is best used for longer programs, but can be adapted for use in week-long camps or for field trip experiences.

It’s intended to capture authentic experience and what resonates most with youth. Because of the authentic responses offered by each participant, you may find “emergent” outcomes. In other words, outcomes you didn’t plan for or anticipate in your , mission or vision.

How to analyze

Qualitative data requires a type of analysis called “coding”; in short, you’re looking for themes or patterns in the data.  If you have specific outcomes you’re looking for, these can serve as your predetermined codes (e.g., “joy”; “nature connection”; “positive experience”; “peace/calm”, etc.). You’ll want to be sure you define these codes so that you’re consistent across all responses.

Additionally, you’ll want more than one person to look at the responses. This is called “inter-rater reliability” and helps you make sure that what you think you're seeing is what others would also see in the data. You can also invite participants to help here (“member-checking”) to make sure that they agree with what you think they said.

These tools offer a great way to capture rich quotes, stories and images to help communicate with others how participants experience your program(s).

What to do next

Check-in with staff and youth participants about what you found through this process. What did you hear? What did you learn? Did anything surprise you? Why or why not?

Consider sharing this feedback at a celebratory event where a variety of stakeholders will be present. Visuals and quotes are a powerful communication tool.

How to see if this tool would work with your program

Do your participants moan and groan when you hand them a survey? Can you tell they are enjoying themselves, but the survey responses fall short? Qualitative tools like this offer a way to creatively and authentically capture youth experience.  

Short on time? You can BUILD this into your program design. A focus group can be as simple as a 15-30-minute end-of-day reflection. Just audio record it and ask the same questions to each group to reflect on. Then use the audio file to transcribe into a word doc to help you analyze.

Tool tips

  • Qualitative tools can seem daunting at first but offer a rich glimpse into participant experience
  • Allow TIME to analyze and understand your findings
  • BUILD this into your regular programming