Participation – defined in this project as the social practice of engaging in personal and social change – links private and public life, biography and history, and forms a mechanism for social action. Twenty years after the ratification of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child (1989) the international community is no closer to identifying what constitutes a ‘good enough’ model for understanding and supporting the development of children’s participation in public life. The project asks game changing questions about the emergence of children’s orientation towards social action through qualitative, longitudinal and cross-national research. Building on biographical interviews with children, relational and geographical mapping techniques, selective participant-observation with children, and children social research workshops in three cities (London, Athens, Mumbai), the project examines the meaning of personal and social change in middle childhood (6-11 year olds), the circuits of social action that children tap into in an attempt to make changes real, the extent to which privilege, marginalization and economic crisis shape children’s practices of participation, and the ways in which encounters with difference (gender, ethnicity, race, religion) challenge children’s orientation towards social action. By sampling children from a diverse cross-section of each city the project will collect and follow a total of 100 children over a five-year period. The project will provide a rich data sources for making within and between country comparisons and in doing so enable the development a theoretical paradigm for understanding children’s participation that is derived from the bottom-up, that is generated in diverse settings, including non-Western, and that takes advantage of the current rupture to established socio-economic realities to ask questions about the future of social action.
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