Thursday, 21 January 2016

Involving children and young people in research and consultation: lessons learned from Scotland

Sara Lembrechts, of the Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (KeKi) in Ghent, Belgium, attended our series of continuing professional development (CPD) courses exploring research with children and young people last year. In this post, Sara reflects on her time with us in Edinburgh and what she took away from the course and implemented in her day-to-day work back home.

In Spring 2015, my colleague and I attended the CPD “Involving children and young people in research and consultation” with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. In three times two days, dr. Susan Elsley and prof. Kay Tisdall guided us through the do’s and don’ts of meaningful and ethical participation of children and young people in research and policy making. The programme was a success – it stimulated our critical perspective on innovative creative and digital methods, made us become aware and question the assumptions that implicitly guide our work, and encouraged us to return to Belgium with a whole set of new ideas to implement.

The course conveners managed superbly well in creating a welcoming and comfortable environment in which interaction with the small group of participants was only natural. We have benefited greatly from the knowledge and experience of fellow researchers, practitioners, youth workers, artists, TED-speakers, poets, academic writers, resource persons and – last but not least – the children who joined us with their views and tips & tricks throughout the programme. The invitation to be creative and go digital ourselves was refreshing, as it opened our mind to new resources we were previously unfamiliar with. What is our own image of childhood, and how does it influence our work? How do you make sure participation is not tokenistic? How can we use the arts or digital media as a “way in” to get in touch with young people? How do you translate creative output into data?

The debate about such questions has indeed proven its great use in our day-to-day work at the Flemish Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (in Dutch Kenniscentrum Kinderrechten vzw, abbreviated as KeKi). Operational since 2010, KeKi aims to gather, make available, disseminate, stimulate and increase knowledge on children’s rights. As such, KeKi operates as a bridge between (1) researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines, (2) policy makers in local, regional and federal government, and (3) practitioners working on matters concerning youth and children’s rights. In this role, KeKi develops tools, trainings and content that encourage critical reflection and can, at the same time, help in translating knowledge on children’s rights to these diverse domains (see

One example in which we were able to implement what we had learned in Edinburgh, is a policy advice we recently wrote for the Flemish Government Administration on child participation in (local) policy making. We were asked to collect good practices, in particular on how to involve vulnerable youth (including children in poverty, children with disabilities and children in institutional care) in local and regional (i.e. Flemish) policymaking. Using the resources Susan and Kay had generously made available, we were able to show Flemish policy makers what they could learn from their colleagues abroad and hint at the tips and tricks we learned from everyone we met in Scotland.

Thanks to all who contributed in making our stay in Edinburgh so relevant and inspirational!

CRFR’s next CPD course Involving children and young people in research and consultation takes place in March and there are a limited number of spaces available. For further information and booking details, please visit:

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