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Children’s Participation. Overview of the Issues :. 1. Definitions - children’s public action and participation. 2. Why are theorisations of childhood important? 3. Bias and the dominant models of childhood. 4. Our country contexts – India, South Africa, Scotland

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Children’s Participation

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Children’s Participation

Overview of the Issues:

1. Definitions - children’s public action and participation.

2. Why are theorisations of childhood important?

3. Bias and the dominant models of childhood.

4. Our country contexts – India, South Africa, Scotland

5. Issues of power and governance

6. Ideas about competence - learning from children

7. Organisational issues

8. The ethics of children’s participation

Hart’s Ladder of Participation

Hart, R. A. (1992) Children’s Participation: from tokenism to citizenship, Geneva: UNICEF Int. Child Development Centre.

1. Definitions - public action and participation.

  • Instrumental as stakeholders vs social transformation

  • Private sphere vs public sphere

  • Competence as agents of social change vs spaces and legal frameworks

  • Do we have examples of acknowledging (even financing?) children’s own forms of participation?

  • What examples do we have of children’s participation leading to policy impact?

  • What constitutional rights relating to participation are accorded to children? (does this translate into budgetary expenditure, other initiatives?)

2. Why are theorisations important?





  • Emergent policy

  • Research methods

  • Programmes & projects

  • Funding decisions

  • Enhanced Understanding

  • Lesson learning




3. Bias and the dominant models of childhood.

  • The age bias – where are resources focused?

  • The protection bias - what are children’s own priorities?

  • The working child bias – who participates?

  • The family unit bias – have we understood the context?

4. Country contexts – India, South Africa, Scotland

  • South Africa – strong constitution with human rights’ focus – participation weakly theorised

  • India - strong civil society and progressive approaches. Media attention puts pressure on the private sector. Child advocates have gained policy prominence.

  • Scotland - ‘top-down’. Participation rights in legislation but lacks a strategy for sustainability. NGOs often implementers. Political engagement falls short of citizens.

  • How have predominant models of childhood and their relative status - influenced the extent to which children are engaged as public actors in different regions?

  • Why are there so few ‘grass-roots’ organisations run by children?

  • What are the range of adult roles in children’s participation?

5. Issues of power and governance

  • Children’s perceived place in society shapes the nature of participation

  • The power of social institutions and the power of individuals interdependent

  • Is access inevitably controlled by adults?

  • What do we understand by governance?

  • What processes support or inhibit children’s public actions?

  • How can political theories enhance our understanding of the process of children’s influence on policy?

  • Are there models of power that offer a more nuanced and complex account that moves us beyond polarizations?

6. Ideas about competence - learning from children

  • Development psychologists and stages of childhood

  • Articles 12 and 14 of the UNCRC

  • Limiting factor - adult or child competence?

  • How can the understanding from psychology help inform how we engage with children as social actors?

  • How can an enabling environment be created that is free from bias such as age, gender, economic background and caste?

Example –Child Rights Project

  • Working children

  • NGOs - Rugmark

  • Ministry of Labour

  • Central Carpet Industry

  • Donors - DFID

  • Sociocultural context

  • Law and custom

  • Children’s perspective – past and present histories

  • Organisational histories

Post Project Evaluation

Ex Post




Sectoral & Regional Syntheses

Activity to Output

Concurrent Evaluation

Output to Purpose




Organisational issues - DFID PCM


Design &


Project Submission










8. The ethics of children’s participation

  • Are existing protocols and mechanisms to protect children sufficient?

  • Whose responsibility is it to ensure the transfer of knowledge into policy or practice?

  • How do current understandings of research ethics in relation to children affect their participation in research?

9. The impact of children as public actors

  • Empirical knowledge limited

  • Influence of history, cultures and policy processes

  • Local understandings of family and childhood

  • New theoretical models needed

  • What goals of social transformation are aspired to – and reached?

  • How to we judge the impact of children’s public action

  • – and from whose perspective?

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