Table of Contents

  • Firstly, we would like to thank the Nordic Council of Ministers for the opportunity to prepare this publication. It has been both interesting and inspiring. We would particularly like to thank Cecilia Sjølander of the Children’s Ombudsman in Sweden, Flemming Schultz of the National Council for Children in Denmark, Thomas Wrigglesworth of the Ombudsman for Children in Norway, Elina Nivala of the Ombudsman for Children in Finland, Margrét María Sigurðardóttir, Ombudsman for Children in Iceland, Tórhild Højgaard of the Ministry of Social Affairs in the Faroe Islands, Sabitha Jørgensen of the Ministry of Social Affairs in Greenland, and Janina Björni of Save the Children, Åland. We would like to thank them for their enormous engagement, for extremely valuable comments on the text, and for all their practical help.

  • This report was produced by Norwegian Social Research (NOVA) as commissioned by the Nordic Committee for Children and Young People at the Nordic Council of Ministers. The report contains 23 articles about children’s involvement in different arenas in the Nordic countries and in the self-governing territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland. The articles illustrate a broad spectrum of models for children’s participation, and these examples are intended to serve both as an inspiration and as toolkits for others who work with children and young people. The articles show the importance of involving children, that there are many different ways of practising involvement, and that the type of involvement depends on intention and objectives.

  • This report was produced by Norwegian Social Research (NOVA) as commissioned by the Nordic Committee for Children and Young People (NORDBUK) at the Nordic Council of Ministers, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We present 23 articles, four from each of the Nordic countries and one each from the self-governing territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland. The articles are based on projects, all of which were aimed at promoting children’s involvement, and they describe concrete examples of participation in important arenas in the everyday lives of children and young people: pre-schools and schools, cultural and leisure time activities, municipal planning and political participation. We have also included articles about the involvement of children and young people with experiences as clients of the welfare system.

  • Since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified, rhetoric about children has changed considerably. There has been greater focus on humanisation, individualisation, user-adaptation and democratisation. Within these different disciplines there has been greater perception of children as active and competent players with unique experiences and as an important part of society. The attitude to children has changed from seeing them as objects and passive recipients, to instead regarding them as subjects with rights and thoughts that should be respected.

  • Schools today have a responsibility to promote democracy so that children are educated to develop democratic attitudes, and are trained in decision-making processes, political processes and cooperation. School is perceived as an arena where children can both learn about democracy and where there is the opportunity to exercise democracy in practice. This view has also filtered down to pre-schools, and young children have become entitled to participate actively in planning day-to-day activities. Involvement at pre-school level concerns children’s participation in various ways, but depends a lot on the adults’ attitudes and the way they relate to children. Both in school and preschool, there are many conflicting interests that both include and exclude. Our perception of children’s capacity is fundamental to how we treat them and how we structure educational activities.

  • Children’s knowledge and perspectives receive far too little emphasis in municipal plans and decisions. There is now growing awareness that this must change. In this chapter, we look at seven examples of how foundations can be laid so that young people can participate in shaping their own leisure time and exert influence over planning their surroundings. Three of the articles mainly concern the physical surroundings and how children’s involvement can strengthen the planning and decision-making processes. We learn about whether the Norwegian MIABE method is usable for making children and young people aware of the physical planning of their local environment, and involving them in simple, small-scale improvement projects. The Soft GIS method described in the Finnish project also shows a model that forms a structure for involvement in planning the surroundings. In the Icelandic project presented towards the end of the chapter, children are involved in planning a new school building.

  • While focus on children’s and young people’s involvement has intensified, there has been a drop in the numbers recruited to traditional children’s and young people’s organisations and to political youth organisations. This applies both to local political activity and locally-based social engagement. Research has shown that young people generally are concerned about themes such as environment, substance misuse, criminality, racism and other tangible issues, but regard political parties and politicians with a certain scepticism. Thus we observe that political engagement is more activityoriented. One interpretation of the drop in membership of the traditional organisations is that these no longer address young people’s issues and needs to the extent they once did

  • By children with unique experiences, we mean children and young people who have a relationship with the welfare support system, and whose experiences differ from those of most children. As a rule, involvement here means participation in decisions that concern them directly. These children face major challenges, and research has shown that children who come into contact with child welfare services have rarely been listened to, informed, or involved in decision-making processes. The reasons for this have often been explained by shortage of available resources, weak organizational structures and guidelines, lack of knowledge about whether children can be included, and conflicts experienced between protecting children and allowing them to take responsibility.

  • The articles illustrate that what we call involvement embraces very different participation processes. What type of involvement is most appropriate depends on the objective of the organisation, but the actual participation can be both a goal and an agent, and content, form and relevance are important for mobilisation. If children and young people are to feel that involvement is meaningful, the influence must be genuine, regardless of its level.