This library is a comprehensive collection of national and international good practice, policy, legal and academic publications, reports and resources on children and young people’s participation in decision-making.
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Can you hear me? The right of young children to participate in decisions affecting them
Can you hear me? The right of young children to participate in decisions affecting them emphasises that participation enhances children’s self-esteem and confidence, promotes their overall capacities, produces better outcomes, strengthens understanding of and commitment to democratic processes and protects children more effectively. Participation provides the opportunity for developing a sense of autonomy, independence, heightened social competence and resilience. The benefits are therefore significant, and adults with both direct and indirect responsibility for children need to acquire a greater humility in recognising that they have a great deal to learn from children. But the case for listening to young children goes beyond the beneficial outcomes. It is also a matter of social justice and human rights. All people, however young, are entitled to be participants in their own lives, to influence what happens to them, to be involved in creating their own environments, to exercise choices and to have their views respected and valued. Creating environments where these entitlements are fulfilled for young children will necessitate profound change. In most countries throughout the world, there is a continued perception of young children as passive recipients of care and protection. Their capacities for participation are underestimated, their agency in their own lives is denied and the value of involving them is unrecognised. Yet there is a growing and persuasive body of evidence to challenge these barriers.
Conceptualising children and young people’s participation: Examining vulnerability, social accountability and co-production
Children and young people’s participation in collective decision-making has become a popular policy and practice concern. Yet challenges persist, such as tokenism, limited impact and unsustainability. This article examines ways to address these challenges and realise children and young people’s participation, particularly in child protection contexts. Conceptually, the article investigates three popular ideas – vulnerability, social accountability and co-production. Each idea potentially suggests revised and more emancipatory relationships between the State and service users. Practically, the article matches these ideas to examples of children and young people’s participation. The article concludes that claims to vulnerability’s universality are persuasive; however, conceptualisations fail to address adult power. Social accountability addresses power, but insufficiently addresses the current challenges of participation. Co-production has the most potential, with participation examples that have been meaningful, effective and sustainable.
Saying It Like It Is? Power, Participation and Research Involving Young People
Developments in the conceptualisation of childhood have prompted a fundamental shift in young people’s position within social research. Central to this has been the growing recognition of children’s agency within the landscapes of power between child participants and adult researchers. Participatory research has rooted itself in this paradigm, gaining status from its principles of social inclusion and reciprocity. While participatory research has benefitted from a growing theoretical analysis, insight can be deepened from reflexive accounts critiquing participation ‘in the field’. This article presents one such account, using the example of an ethnographic study with young people living in a ‘disadvantaged’ housing estate in the UK. It describes how efforts to ‘enable’ young people’s participation were simultaneously embraced, contested, subverted and refused. These, often playful, responses offered rich insight into how the young participants viewed themselves, their neighbourhood, and ‘outsiders’ efforts to give them voice. The article concludes by emphasising the importance of conceptualising participation not simply as a set of methods, but as a philosophical commitment which embraces honesty, inclusivity and, importantly, the humour that can come from this approach to research
Too Vulnerable to Participate? Challenges for Meaningful Participation in Research With Children in Alternative Care and Adoption
In recent years, a significant amount of research has been conducted with children from a rights perspective, especially concerning the right to be heard and participate. However, children living in alternative care and adoption have often been excluded from participating in research because they are viewed as vulnerable children who lack agency and also due to an adult-centric perspective of protection. In this article, we challenge this idea under the view that participation is a main component of protection, children are experts in their own experiences, and their views should be considered through participative research design and methods. Particular challenges that protection contexts impose for research are analyzed and several ways in which these challenges can be faced are outlined. We provide principles and examples that can be implemented to ensure that children who live in alternative care or adoption have the right as any child to be informed, be listened to, and have their views considered regarding topics that affect them.
Voice, views and the UNCRC Articles 12 and 13
The voice of children aged 4 to 8 years is seldom heard in research circles, within the constraints of high-pressure academic model which is the current education system in England. Children are rarely listened to but expected to listen in the current normative societal cycle. This deficiency of active listening as an everyday occurrence impacts on children’s Mental Health. This article will give reference to an original empirical study, Hear Me and Listen. This study carried out in 2018 highlights the minimalistic practice of listening to children aged 4 to 8 years in the everyday. The research method used consisted of the Mosaic Approach. This approach provides various avenues for communication aside from the verbal. Data collected were analysed through a thematic approach. Themes which came from analysis included ‘This Is Me’, ‘Relationships’, ‘Environment’, ‘Curriculum’ and ‘Practitioners’. This article draws on this analysis and concludes that a change in the normative discourse of ‘hearing’ and not acting to one of ‘active listening’ and supporting is a path worth mapping.
Look who’s talking: Factors for considering the facilitation of very young children’s voices
Grounded in children’s rights, this article advances understanding of the affordances and constraints in implementing Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in educational settings with young children – those under 7. It starts from the premise that if we are to foster democratic skills and understanding in children and young people, we need to develop practices that support this from the earliest age. The article presents the outcomes of a seminar series facilitating dialogue among international academics working in the field and a range of early years practitioners. This opportunity for extended dialogue led to the development of a rich and sophisticated conceptual clarity about the factors that need to be considered if Article 12 is to be realised with very young children. Eight factors were identified as pivotal for consideration when facilitating voices with this age group: definition; power; inclusivity; listening; time and space; approaches; processes; and purposes. This article explores each in turn and proposes a series of provocations and questions designed to support practitioners in their endeavour to elicit young children’s voices.
ECV2020 Keynote Speaker 1 ‘Voice is not enough’: The Lundy model and early childhood
This is a presentation by Laura Lundy, Centre for Children’s Rights, Queen’s University Belfast, UK Presented online at the Charles Sturt University Early Childhood Voices 2020 Conference
Research ON children, ABOUT children, WITH children and BY children: Before and after the COVID factor
This is a presentation given by Harry Shier at Research Week Webinar, Western Sydney University, Parramatta NSW, 20 October 2020.
Child Rights Education: A Study of Implementation in 26 countries
This research report investigates the extent to which Child Rights Education (CRE) is being implemented in countries where UNICEF conducts its fundraising activities. The headline findings indicate that, whilst there has been some progress in relation to what is taught, with over half of the countries including children’s rights in the curriculum for all or some children, there has been less progress in relation to ensuring teachers are prepared to teach CRE, and a similarly low level of monitoring of the quality of provision. A general survey across 26 countries was followed up with focused case studies of aspects of practice in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany (Hessen), Hong Kong, Israel, and Scotland, and the good practice observed in these case studies was used to inform the construction of a set of benchmarking statements, to help educators measure their progress against the best that is being achieved.
Strengthening Participation of Children and Young People with Disability in Advocacy
Participation by children and young people in advocacy and change-making can not only improve and foster positive change in their own lives, but also influence the lives of others. When young people’s participation is supported, meaningful and engaged, multiple benefits accrue. Their perspectives and experiences bring a unique contribution and can result in rights-based empowerment, enacted citizenship and improved relationships. This has the potential to shape policy, to increase the relevance and responsiveness of organisations they use, and to influence change in their communities in positive ways. However, there are significant issues and a range of barriers that discourage, prevent or actively exclude children and young people with disability from participating. A culture of low expectations, social and cultural barriers, relationship and identity difficulties and practical hurdles exist for many young people. As a result, many are precluded from participation, particularly around change-making activities. With this paper we explore ways in which participation by children and young people with disability could be deepened and strengthened to support their involvement in advocacy and change-making at a range of levels. The paper provides a framework for understanding participation for young people with disability. It identifies current barriers to creating opportunities for young people from different perspectives — young people themselves, family, community, and service contexts. We showcase exemplars and outline strategies about how to plan, implement and evaluate meaningful participation which can also work as a practical resource for those working with young people in a range of domains. These ‘how to’ strategies take into account the broad scope needed to accommodate the diverse range of capabilities and preferences of children and young people.