Children’s Citizenship & Participation in Governance

From its inception, CERG has taken every opportunity to create ways to involve children in the process of research, planning and design of environments, beginning with three special issues of Childhood City Newsletter on “Children’s Participation” that we edited with Robin Moore in 1979 and 1980. In 1989, recognition of the rights and capacities of children to have a greater voice in their own development and in the development of their communities took a giant leap forward with the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  We embraced this new vision, and our exposure to the creativity of child rights advocates in other countries began to extend our thinking in important ways (link to our CERG Publications on children’s participation).

Many instances of governing with children has been through formal participation structures designed and controlled by adults, such as children’s councils and parliaments. These are commonly non-representative, tokenistic and involve only small numbers of children for a limited time, and so, not surprisingly, are often seen as undemocratic. We believe that children’s participation in governance should be thought of as a fundamental means of enabling children to act cooperatively on their rights and  their best interests:  sometimes to protect themselves and more generally to play meaningful roles in the betterment of their communities.  To this end, CERG is interested in finding ways to document and evaluate the different structures and processes used by communities and municipal governments to involve children in local government decisions (see Sheridan Bartlett’s special issue of CYE on Governance with children) and developed tools to promote and involve children in community level governance. Moreover, to develop the participatory and democratic potentials of these current practices, CERG developed a framework to critically analyze the system and processes of municipalities that involve children in local level governance (Jen’s work).

Additionally, CERG has developed frameworks and tools to critically analyze the participatory democratic processes of governance structures for children’s self-governing groups. CERG  partnered with World Vision and Save the Children (Norway) in 2010 on an international  program called “Article 15”, and with their funding, a set of tools has been developed to enable children to assess and reflect upon their organizations ( Also, too much of the effort has been concerned with higher levels of  government, in international and national conferences,  with little serious experimentation with ways of involving children in community governance. In reaction to this state of affairs, CERG  is finding ways to help children build on their everyday desire to collaborate with one another on issues that concern them (Hart, R. Children, self-governance and citizenship. In C. Burke & K. Jones, Eds., Education, Childhood and Anarchism: Talking Colin Ward. Routledge: