Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What does transformative participation mean for children and young people?

CRFR Co-Director, Kay Tisdall has recently co-edited a book on the theme of children's participation in public action. As Scottish 16 and 17 year olds prepare to vote in tomorrow's referendum vote, this blog sets outs the key questions the book seeks to address:

Children and young people’s participation in decision-making is increasingly promoted in countries across the world and internationally. Yet such participation continues to face remarkably similar challenges across contexts and countries: challenges such as tokenistic involvement, lack of impact, short-term and unsustainable activities, and concerns about who is included and excluded in such activities. How can we move beyond these?

Through the Leverhulme Trust’s International Academic Network, we had the chance to learn from children and young people, practitioners and academics in Brazil, India, South Africa and the UK. We became intrigued by the phrase ‘transformative participation’ and whether such participation could transcend the common list of challenges. But what was ‘transformative participation’ and for whom was it transformative? What is it transformative of and transformative to? How would one know participation was transformative?

We have just published an edited book that seeks to address such questions. Titled Children and Young People’s Participation and Its Transformative Potential, the book wrestles with conceptual debates and has overview analytical chapters for each of the 4 countries with an accompanying case study. We found the writing together challenging and inspiring – and not always consensual – as we sought to bring together different academic, theoretical and disciplinary backgrounds.

World-wide attention is now focused on Scotland, as we go towards the referendum on Thursday. With 16 and 17 year olds voting for the first time at this national level here, the publication date of the book is timely. How do we ensure that children and young people’s participation is meaningful, effective – and sustainable?

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