How to measure the quality of children’s participation

With the Lessons Learned Report, we evaluated the whole Time to Talk! project and process – and also the quality of children’s participation.

Children have the right to participate in all decisions that affect them, including policy and practice developments. Furthermore, letting children participate in this processes helps to protect their rights. But how can we ensure that the participation of children is effective, ethical and valuable?

To evaluate the quality of children’s participation in the “Time to Talk!” project the “9 basic requirements for effective and ethical participation of children” were used. Throughout the whole project partners, CAC members and everyone involved tried to ensure that these principals would be fulfilled at all times. These requirements demand that participation is: Transparent and informative, Voluntary, Respectful, Relevant, Child-friendly, Inclusive, Supported by training, Safe and sensitive to risk and Accountable.

But how can you measure the quality? The requirements can be used as planning tools, which help to implement ethical child participation step by step in a projects design and planning process. Here is how it was used in the “Time to Talk!” project:

Requirement 1: Transparent and Informative

The NGO partners have met this requirement by constantly communicating with children and informing them about the situation of working children and adolescents. In order to make such information more accessible to the children, a child friendly version of the report “Paul’s Diary” was produced, including cartoons to make it easier to understand even for younger children.

Requirement 2: Voluntary

Throughout the whole process it was always communicated to the children that their participation in the project was absolutely voluntary. Children were able to withdraw at any time and furthermore were encouraged to only answer questions they felt comfortable answering. For instance, in some countries NGO partners tried to schedule meetings in the evenings or on weekends to not interfere with school or working hours of the children to promote voluntary participation.

Requirement 3: Respectful

The “Time to Talk!” partners and CAC members felt the requirement of respectful participation was met with the several opportunities of consultation in which children had the opportunity to let their voices be heard. Furthermore children engaged in creating ground rules to encourage respect for one another.

Requirement 4: Relevant

The aspect of relevance was met so far as children’s work is part of their daily life. They were able to answer questions based on their experience as well as sharing their views openly. In the context of public actions and national exchange, children were also able to plan and implement actions with key relevant stake holders.

Requirement 5: Child-Friendly

According to NGO partners, some children especially in rural areas have been shy in the beginning. An ice breaker activity as an opener for the workshop proved to be very useful. The most effective activities to encourage children to share their opinions have been Body mapping, Timeline and Flowers of support.

Requirement 6: Inclusive

The consulted children were engaged in a wide variety of paid and unpaid work in the formal and informal sector. However there was an over-representation of girls and boys doing unpaid household or agricultural work. But the working children did come from diverse backgrounds as well as different settings such as rural areas, small towns or big cities. Moreover NGO partners tried to balance age and gender during the consultations. Additionally efforts were made to ensure language was not a barrier.

Requirement 7: Supported by Training

Four regional face-to-face training workshops were organised for NGO partners to provide an opportunity to ensure a better understanding of the campaign and its tools. Additionally recorded tutorials have been made available.

Requirement 8: Safe and Sensitive to risk

The partner always tried to create a safe environment for the children to feel comfortable when attending consultations or CAC meetings. Furthermore all NGO partners made it a priority to ensure privacy and anonymity. The transport was organized sensitive to all existing risks.

Requirement 9: Accountability

T he most important role CAC members had, was meeting this requirement. They were asked for advice on the research tools and also for feedback on draft report findings. Furthermore, this input was integrated in the final report  is available in English, French, German and Spanish. Furthermore the “Time to Talk!” team made efforts to engage with the media on a global and domestic level (Germany).