Child and Youth Participation in Speaking Truth to Power

children
ethics
youth-engagement

(Nick Petten) #1

Child and Youth Participation in Speaking Truth to Power

Written and assembled by Nick Petten
Originally posted on The Youth-Focused Evaluation Topical Interest Group of the American Evaluation Association Spring 2018 Newsletter

Seeking children and young people’s perspectives, ideas, opinions, and experiences through participatory approaches in research and evaluation is a valued focus of study and has the ability to speak truth to power. The power that adults typical wield in society often speak on behalf of children and young people and may not truly represent them and, sometimes, completely misrepresent them in order to gain more power.

Children and young people are one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups in society. And yet, today’s adults expect that tomorrow’s adults (children) will solve some pretty wicked, global, complex and complicated challenges that we face as a civilization—climate change, growing income inequality, a resurgence of autocratic and nationalist governments and policies, to name a few. We pin our hopes and dreams on our children and yet deny them the chance to truly participate in society, whether we allow them to vote at a younger age, decide what to learn in the classroom, or design an evaluation or research project.

Thankfully, there are lots (and growing number) of academics, evaluators, thought-leaders and practitioners that are acting in the best interests of the child and young person by co-designing approaches, methods, and processes to genuinely include their participation in things that matter most to them, like how the local playground should be designed, choosing politicians that represent their best interest, or how national policies could be designed to benefit their adult lives and thus the future of humanity. From these approaches, methods, and processes, children and young people stand a better chance of ‘speaking truth’ to powers that haven’t traditionally represented them authentically or have even co-opted their ‘voice’ to progress their own agenda.

If you are someone that works with children and young people and are looking for ways to design, implement and/or evaluate programs and services for them, we’ve collected and curated a list of resources that could help you in your journey.