Overview

Children's Participation in Community Settings

A Research Symposium at the University of Oslo 26-28 June, 2000. Childwatch International in Collaboration with the MOST Programme of UNESCO.

Summary Report
Symposium Programme
List of Participants
Bibliography

Summary Report

Symposium Goals and Programme

The symposium brought together Advisory Board members of Childwatch International, members of the Growing Up in Cities project of the MOST Programme of UNESCO , and other experts to review and plan research on children's participation in different settings of community life. In addition to a commitment to children's rights, including the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives, Childwatch International and the MOST Programme share commitments to multidisciplinary research, comparative international research, and the application of research to policies to better children's lives. Within this framework, the symposium was intended to summarise what is known and what needs to be known about the following questions:

  1. In what ways do children participate in various settings?
  2. What are children's beliefs and attitudes about their participation? What are the conditions under which they believe that they are being treated as partners?
  3. What happens when children participate? What are the outcomes for the children themselves and the settings of which they are a part?

Symposium participants made a commitment in advance to prepare a brief concept paper (8- 10 pages) on a topic related to these questions and/or create a poster about a program or events related to child participation in their country. On the opening day, representatives of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, the University of Oslo and the Norwegian child research community joined symposium members for a poster exhibit on "Children's Participation in Community and National Developments around the World". During paper sessions, presenters were asked to summarise key points in their papers in 10 minutes, and a group discussion followed. On the final day of the meeting, small groups prepared reports summarising the contributions of the meeting and offering suggestions for future work.

Symposium Outcomes

The symposium included some of the leading authors and experts on the subject of children's participation from around the world. See list of participants >>

One of the goals of this gathering was to determine how much consensus existed among them about the indicators of participation that authentically reflect the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to compare the meaning of participation in different community settings. There was also an interest in discovering whether agreement existed about the most important research questions that need to be pursued. See programme >>

Drawing together the papers and discussions, the symposium organisers are preparing a variety of publications.

In addition, Nadia Auriat of the MOST Programme of UNESCO organised a review of the draft Poverty Reduction Strategy Sourcebook of the World Bank and submitted a response on behalf of the group.

A bibliography of selected publications on children's participation drawn from the bibliographies of the various concept papers was assembled. See bibliography >>

Conclusions from the Discussions

There were several points of agreement reached during the meetings:

  1. the importance of everyday life as a setting for children's participation
  2. the importance of working on children's participation in settings where children are already engaged
  3. children's participation needs to be understood within a social and cultural context
  4. attention needs to be paid to creating environments in which children are invited to participate and feel comfortable participating; therefore adult attitudes and the role of adults as mentors are critical
  5. stages of competence rather than chronological age are preferable for considerations of participation preparation; and competence needs to be evaluated in the context of the meaningfulness of the participation process for the child
  6. There are basic characteristics of good participation that can be specified and observed
  7. The key outcomes are community change, social change and improved quality of life, which require that in addition to general developmental goals, the effects of participation need to be measured in terms of locally relevant outcomes for children
  8. Research on participation in early childhood and middle childhood is important in addition to the traditional focus on adolescence.

In addition there was agreement about some of the questions for future investigation:

  1. How are children already participating in their everyday lives and settings? How could these activities be made more visible?
  2. How do children take part in participatory processes and to what extent do they take part in implementing programs based on their ideas?
  3. What are children's beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions about participation?
  4. When children participate, what are the outcomes for them and their communities?
  5. How does participation change adult-child relationships? Child-child relationships? Local and national cultures of childhood?
  6. When people try to increase children's participation, what are the dilemmas, tensions, and barriers that this involves?
  7. What current legislative and structural models exist for reaching out to a broad array of children to inform government decisions?
  8. How can structures of governance be changed to accommodate children on their own terms? How can the culture of participation be aligned with children's own cultures?
  9. What are the implications for organisations when they support children as partners?
  10. Can it be demonstrated that child participation improves poverty reduction programming and policies for poor children and their families?
  11. What are the links between children's participation and socially responsible democratic citizenship?

Efforts to understand children's and adult's perspectives would require interviews, focus groups, questionnaires with some open-ended items, and other qualitative measures. Questions about outcomes under different conditions invite quasi-experimental designs, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary research. For greatest validity, some questions should be addressed with longitudinal designs.

Symposium Programme

MONDAY 26 JUNE:

LUNCH with guests from the Norwegian child research community

Welcome by University of Oslo and UNESCO officials

Brief remarks by Louise Chawla and Gary Melton about GUIC and CWI and the relation of this symposium to those initiatives

Poster session: Children's participation in community and national developments around the world

Estonia: Mati Heidmets
South Africa: Rose September
Western Europe: Jens Qvortrup and Anne Trine Kjørholt
TUESDAY 27 JUNE:
Neighborhoods: Barry Percy-Smith
Schools physical environment: Robin Moore and Nilda Cosco
Social environment: Karen Nairn
Health care facilities: Nittaya Kotchabhakdi
Continued discussion of organizations facilitation of child participation and children's effects on the organizations, with reference to the poster session

WEDNESDAY 28 JUNE
Personality: Louise Chawla
Moral and social development: Andy Dawes
Small group discussions

Synthesis: Research plans: Louise Chawla (Moderator)

List of Participants

Agnes K. Andenæs
Norwegian Social Research (NOVA)

Andy Dawes
Department of Psychology
University of Cape Town, South Africa

Anne B. Smith
Children's Issues Centre
University of Otago, New Zealand

Anne Trine Kjørholt
NOSEB/Norwegian Centre for Child Research
NTNU/Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Annette Giertsen
Redd Barna (Save the Children Norway)

Barry Percy-Smith
SOLAR
University College Northampton, United Kingdom

Dalia Ben-Rabi
Center for Children and Youth
JDC - Brookdale Institute, Israel

Gary Melton
Consortium on Children, Families and the Law
Institute on Family and Neigborhood Life
U.S.A.

Hanne Wilhjelm
Arkitekthøgskolen i Oslo

Irene Rizzini
Universidade Santa Úrsula
CESPI - Coordenação de Estudos e Pesquisas sobre a Infância [Center for Research on Childhood], Brasil

Jens Qvortrup
NOSEB/Norwegian Centre for Child Research
NTNU/Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Jiri Kovarik
Centre for Substitute Family Care and Health and Social Work Faculty
South Bohemian University, Czech Republic

Jo-Ann Amadeo
Department of Human Development
University of Maryland, USA

Karen Malone
Faculty of Education
Monash University, Australia

Karen Nairn
Children's Issues Centre
University of Otago, New Zealand

Kim Sabo
Innovation Network
City University of New York Graduate Center
Centre for Human Environments
U.S.A.

Louise Chawla
416 Logan Street
Frankfort, KY 40601
U.S.A.
Mati Heidmets
Tallinn Pedagogic University, Estonia

Målfrid Grude Flekkøy
Tirilveien 8
0875 Oslo
Norway

Nadia Auriat
MOST Programme
UNESCO

Natalie Kaufman
Consortium on Children, Families and the Law
Institute on Family and Neigborhood Life
U.S.A.

Nilda Cosco
School of Design
North Carolina State University
U.S.A.

Nittaya J. Kotchabhakdi
National Institute for Child and Family Development
Mahidol University
Thailand

Per Egil Mjaavatn
Institute of Pedagogy
NTNU/Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Per Miljeteig
Childwatch International Research Network

R. Dev Griesel
P.O. Box 101032
3209 Scottsville
South Africa

Robin Kimbrough-Melton
Consortium on Children, Families and the Law
Institute on Family and Neigborhood Life
U.S.A.

Robin Moore
School of Design
North Carolina State University
U.S.A.

Roger Hart
Children's Environments Research Group
City University of New York Graduate Center
U.S.A.

Rose September
Institute for Child and Family Development
University of the Western Cape
South Africa

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