Participant or Protagonist? Exploring the personal in children and young people's participation

  • Victoria Karen Jupp-Kina

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This research aimed to respond to the recent shifts in thinking around children and young people’s participation by exploring participatory practice in three community-based NGOs in São Paulo, Brazil. There is profound confusion within children and young people’s participation both in theory and in practice. A credible and coherent body of theory to inform practice is lacking and consequently wide variations in the quality of practice have been identified. Current theoretical frameworks for children and young people’s participation within Northern literature rely upon sequential and hierarchical models of participation and largely fail to incorporate the fluidity of participatory practice. This has led to calls to shift attention towards the relational dimension of participation resulting in the re-emergence of the role of the adult in the participatory process. However, as yet theoretical frameworks for children and young people’s participation have failed to incorporate this perspective.

    By working in three small community-based NGOs in São Paulo, Brazil, I set out to respond to these shifts. Adopting a participatory action research approach, I worked alongside staff members to develop, plan, facilitate and reflect upon a range of participatory methods to unravel current attitudes to and understandings of children and young people’s participation amongst adults involved in the participatory process. The findings of the research are founded on two key points. First, that participation should be viewed as a process rather than an event. Second, that participation should be viewed as a relational process between all involved. I propose a new framework for participatory practice that recognises the fluidity of the participatory process and the continual learning of all involved through conceptualising participation as a scale that is directly related to the notion of ‘consciousness’. I explore ‘consciousness’, focusing on the role of the adult, and argue that increasing of levels of ‘consciousness’ is based upon increasing coherence between emotional and intellectual levels of understanding; that the ‘adult’ needs to move beyond the intellectual decision to ‘do’ participation and actively include themselves in the process of transforming subjectivities. I then explore the role that participatory methods can play in the process of increasing ‘consciousness’ and propose that whilst participatory methods can facilitate the dialogical relationships between the emotional and the intellectual, there needs to be a more realistic vision of their potential.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Durham University
    SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council, UK
    SupervisorHelen Charnley (Supervisor) & Rachel Pain (Supervisor)

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