Media Hub

New rules for participation
18 Sep 2019

Over the summer I got the chance to go and share with an older audience to the ones I usually work with. The event was at a friends church where local people, brought by the delicious homemade treats, gave time to engage with issues relating to social justice in their community. 

I had been asked to come and talk about children.

Talking about children to an audience of older people can be challenging, as the difference in each groups everyday lives can sometimes be a barrier to understanding.

However, that was not the case with this group. After a short presentation one man got the discussion going by asking where children’s voices were in relation to political issues! 

A good question!

Adults in this group were simply not aware of what children thought about some of the challenges facing the UK at the moment and notably, they were interested. 

The group then moved to questioning their own practices and particularly whether the opportunities they provided for children’s participation, were meaningful. 

This resulted in an important conversation. Was simply delivering a youth group, as was expected, the answer? Or, did a little more thought need to go into a project that created a more meaningful space? A space that could be created with children and which could then be connected with the experience, enthusiasm and ability of the adult team that would be involved. 

But the conversation went even further than simply providing activities. What about governance? In fact “why”, they asked, “should children not be on the church council”? Someone pointed out that there might be rules on what age children could get involved. To which another said, “we can’t let such barriers get in the way”.

It is all too common that adults will find barriers to restrict children’s voice. What was so encouraging here was was that there was a willingness to recognise the value of breaking the rules and allowing for change! 

I hope they follow through on the challenges they set themselves, for enabling children’s voice only creates possibilities that all of us, young and old, benefit from. 

Indeed it is a message that adults in much more prominent circles could benefit from hearing. Climate change is just one area, where generational engagement unbound by the rules of the past would make a significant difference. Finding ways for children and adults to be effective partners is fundamental in creating lasting transformation.