Lessons learned on children and young peoples’ participation in development

Lessons learned on children and young peoples’ participation in development

Including children and young people in CIDA programmes

To demonstrate the potential for children and young people's participation in its programming, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) launched a series of pilot projects integrating participation of children and young people at different levels of the project cycle. In 2005, CIDA commissioned this review to capture lessons learned and good practices from those pilots to inform and strengthen current and future programming.

This review notes that there are several significant reasons to include children and young people’s participation in CIDA projects. Three overarching lessons about children and young people’s participation in CIDA projects were identified in the course of this review:

  • it is important to commit sufficient time, at all stages of the project cycle, to building trusting relationships with all stakeholders, in particular children and young people
  • it is vital that there be a clear understanding, by all partners, of the definition of children and young people’s participation in a particular project 
  • in exploring the potential for participation in different contexts, donors and projects may need to accept that ‘best practices’ might not be achievable at the outset or, indeed, at all.

Building on these lessons, this review makes several recommendations to CIDA and its executing agencies to strengthen future programming:

  • CIDA should ensure that meaningful participation begins at the conceptualisation stage of project development and plan ahead for longer timeframes and greater levels of risk than are normally anticipated
  • practitioners should continue to pursue participation at the inception phase but avoid the tendency to ‘over-design’ for children and young people’s involvement 
  • practitioners should ensure that all stakeholders (including children, young people and adults) are prepared for participation through appropriate means 
  • practitioners should budget appropriate time and financial resources, recognizing that children and young people’s participation in implementation, governance and reporting does require greater effort.

Ultimately, this review concludes that supporting the participation of children and young people in CIDA projects (both as the focus of projects and as a cross-cutting issue) is good development practice that improves project results and contributes to the longer-term development of strong democratic societies. [adapted from author]