Memorandum submitted by Gary Craig (CP
An adequate income is probably the most important
way of addressing the poverty of children and young people. However,
it is important not to see children and young people merely as
victims of poverty but as potential participants in action to
combat poverty. Community development is the means by which this
may be encouraged and there is growing evidence from across the
world of success in this area. This work addresses many of the
wider dimensions of poverty, such as the poverty of children's
environments, their housing conditions, safety, disabilities and
discrimination, urban decline and the impacts of economic decline;
the evidence suggests there are few areas of social policybroadly
understoodin which children and young people cannot engage
as committed political actors.
The Committee is urged to note the importance
of engaging children and young people in the struggle to combat
poverty; there are widespread examples of important work in this
area within the UK, particularly amongst the major children's
charities (eg the Children's Society, Barnardo's and Save the
Children), and abroad, and, to a more limited extent in the work
of the Local Network Fund, sponsored by the DfES. The submission
draws on a recent review of the literature undertaken for one
of the children's charities.
1.1 This paper reviews reported experience
of community development with children and ways in which the effectiveness
of that work might be assessed. Children and young people have
traditionally been, almost as a matter of course, excluded from
adult policy debate, being regarded as ill-equipped to contribute
effectively. However, as the reviewed evidence shows, this need
not be the case and there are many examples world-wide of the
ways in which, using the techniques of community development,
children and young people can make effective and appropriate contributions
to policy issues which affect their lives. Although this evidence
covers a range of contexts, and children of mixed backgrounds
and experience, much of it focuses on ways in which children and
young people from more deprived backgrounds can become important
policy actors in their own right.
1.2 The growth of this work has coincided
with a more general revival of interest in community development.
The language of "community involvement" and "participation"
is again common coinage in political and policy circles, with
the 1997 New Labour government locating a central plank of its
policy approach to combating deprivation in the "New Deal
for Communities" (SEU 1998). Although community development
has long been associated with attempts to address poverty and
deprivation, "community", as one commentator once so
aptly put it, has however yet again become a "spray-on additive",
one which frequently obscures as much as it clarifies issues and
processes under discussion. Hoggett (1997: 3) observes, "nowhere
is the idea of community more ubiquitous than in contemporary
social and public policy". This widespread usage however
conceals widely differing widely meanings and political orientations.
Frazer (1998: 8) suggests there is a danger that the fact that
"community has become the dominant political idea of the
centre left . . . will obscure the need for serious social analysis."
Consequently, it is important initially to clarify what is meant
by the notions of community and community development.
1.3 Community development takes as a key
tenet the importance of working with people in a way which starts
with their own perceptions of their needs and then organising
with them to meet those needs in appropriate ways. In the context
of this paper, this raises a number of key ethical and methodological
issues, both for children in general and particularly those with
disability or impairment, who are doubly impeded from fully participating
in society. Some of these issues are addressed elsewhere in this
1.4 In discussing working with children,
how far is it possible to work with children as independent actors
in their own right, separate from the adults who have kinship,
caring and/or legal responsibilities for them? Because of the
contemporary legal frameworks which define the state of "childhood"
(albeit differently within particular cultures), children can
never be seen as entirely autonomous. Childhood is now widely
recognised not as a fixed concept but one which is a social and
political construct. It is not possible to review this issue here
(although I do so in detail elsewhere: see Craig 2000) but the
boundaries of the answer to this rather basic question are important
in defining what is appropriate, possible and permissible in working
with children. It is important to note the strong current of thinking
which increasingly defines the child as a semi-independent actor
with social and political rights, and provides a policy and political
framework for working with children. This framework legitimises
the development of work with children but, at the same time, spells
out the competing political and legal issues which have to be
considered and clarified in the course of such work. Social research
has incidentally made a useful contribution to exploring the ethical
and methodological questions which need to be addressed in working
with children. Research findings have much to offer practitioners
and, to a large extent, have led where practice is following (ibid).
1.5 The practice of community development
as a professional occupational form has evolved within the UK
over the past 50 years, subject to a number of influences, identified
in historical reviews of its growth (eg Thomas 1983; Craig 1989;
Popple 1995). Although these reviews differ, sometimes considerably,
in their political analysis and in the conclusions which the authors
reach, they have in common the understanding that community development
is both a way of working, a practice (or more precisely a praxis,
a form of social action, which attempts effectively to unite theory
and practice: see eg Sayer 1986; CDJ 1997) with a set of techniques
and methods; and a broader philosophical approach to working with
1.6 This broader view of the community development
approach to working with people is critical to understanding its
contemporary importance because it recognises that it is possible
for the principles of community development to inform work with
people in a variety of policy settings (such as housing, education,
planning, urban regeneration and health) or to influence other
professions and social movements (Thomas 1995). For example, community
development principles have informed a significant body of work
which has attempted to give greater control over, and participation
in, the work of social services to their consumers (Croft and
Beresford 1993), and are increasingly used within primary health
initiatives (Jones 1999).
1.7 At the same time, those working within
communities have increasingly recognised the importance of approaches
built as much on difference and diversity as on common interests
and goals. Early sociological discussions about the meaning of
"community" identified the term (from a multiplicity
of definitions) as not only referring to a set of social relations
within a defined geographical area (community as place), but also,
or alternatively, as "a sense of belonging to a group"
(Stacey 1969: 135) (community as identity) (see also Hillery 1955;
Bell and Newby 1971). The Community Development Project (whose
origins, ironically, lay in the changing legislative and policy
framework for children and young people; see eg CDP 1997, 1998),
working within neighbourhoods and using a strong class analysis,
was rightly criticised for the underdeveloped gender dimension
in its analysis. In the last twenty years, both community development
practice and theorising have been informed by an understanding
of the importance of incorporating the dimensions of gender, race,
disability and sexuality, for example (Flynn et al. 1986;
Jacobs and Popple 1994). This has led to different strands of
practice, for example so-called "separatist work" with
specific population groups, such as members of minority ethnic
communities or people with disabilities, or work which has a specific
rural focus (Henderson 1999) as opposed to the urban settings
in which most community development work had previously taken
place. One important issue emerging from practice has been the
recognition that conflict is as likely to be a motive or context
for organising (Hoggett 1997) as is the consensus often associated
with the romantic "myth" of community. Increasingly,
across the world, community development practice has had to develop
quite explicitly in situations of (at times, extreme) conflict
(CDJ 1998). These insights are relevant to work with children
as we shall see.
1.8 Community development practice was undermined
during the 1980s and 1990s in the UK by a combination of a centralising
national state and considerable fiscal and political pressure
on the capacity of publicly-controlled institutions to support
it, leading in some commentators' views to it now being at something
of a "cross-roads" (Miller and Ahmad 1997). Ironically,
at the same time, its salience outside the UK apparently has become
correspondingly greater. As argued elsewhere, (Craig 1998: 4)
`The Brundtland Commission (WCED 1987) argued that one of the
main prerequisites of sustainable development is "securing
effective citizens' participation" and the Human Development
Report (UNDP 1993) commented that, in the face of current challenges
for development, "people's participation is becoming the
central issue of our time". Even the World Bank, better known
for its fiscal conservatism than for its social and political
risk-taking, has argued that community participation can be a
means for ensuring that . . . projects reach the poorest in the
most efficient and cost-effective way."
1.9 This interest in community development
outside the UK has been important in offering a framework for
some imaginative work with children and young people, which is
now increasingly mirrored within the UK. However, this apparent
enthusiasm for community development and community participation
reflects continuing political and ideological confusion about
the goals of community development, this time on a global scale.
In what follows, community development is taken to be a way of
working with people which starts with the needs and aspirations
of groups of disadvantaged people in poor and deprived communities
(whether socially or geographically defined). It seeks to articulate
and organise politically (in the broadest sense) around these
needs and aspirations, placing them at the front rather than at
the end of political and policy debate. It strives to give ordinary
people a voice for expressing and acting on their needs and desires
and, through the process of participating in this approach to
social change, offers people (again often the most powerless and
deprived) support for their empowerment.
1.10 Empowerment is another of the terms
associated with community development which has become part of
the common political lexicon but equally open to the charge of
meaning everything and nothing. Here, the term empowerment is
taken to mean the creation of sustainable structures, processes
and mechanisms, over which communities have an increased degree
of control, and which themselves have a measurable impact on public
and social policy affecting those communities: this definition
incorporates both outcome and process goals. These definitions
have been used as a yardstick against which potential evidence
has been assessed.
1.11 One distinction which needs to be made
is between community development work targeted at adults but which
claims to bring indirect benefits to children; and work directly
with children themselves. This is an important distinction because
community development strategies are being turned to again as
a potential panacea for dealing with a range of social issues
such as the "youth problem". There is some evidence
in recent literature of the indirect benefits which children derive
from community development (eg Alexander 1992; Henderson 1995;
Barr et al 1995; and see below) and much basic community
development work with adultssuch as work with residents
campaigning for better housing or clean waterbrings fairly
obvious benefits to children and adults alike. Much of this work
is premised partly however on the assumption that it will bring
benefits to children by a form of "trickle-down" process.
For example, community development-oriented public health, housing
or employment programmes to reduce smoking, address dampness or
disrepair, or improve labour market skills, should, it is claimed,
impact on children in terms of health gains or improvements in
their self-esteem. However, there has been very little attention
to evaluating the extent to which these assumptions are valid
and indeed the "trickle-down" theory of economic and
social development is now thoroughly discredited within social
development literature (Craig and Mayo 1995). It is important
that these claims should be the focus of careful evaluative work.
1.12 Community development is, as we have
noted, a highly complex organic process, in which it is not always
possible to trace a definitive causal line between "input"
and "outcome". Most of this discussion in this paper
examines the impact of community development with children, but
it has often been tentatively suggested that being part of a community,
and therefore also being involved in community development, has
a beneficial impact on the life and well-being of the child, even
when children do not form the direct focus of the intervention.
Gaffikin and Morrissey (1994), reviewing one of the major UK interventions
forming part of the European Third Poverty Programme (Geddes 1997),
draw some cautious conclusions on the effects of the Brownlow
Community Trust on the lives of the residentsincluding
childrenof Brownlow, Northern Ireland. They focus on tangible
outputs, from which assumptions about lasting value are drawn.
These outputs include the establishment of a women's centre and
activities focusing on family support, a health centre users group,
cre"che facilities and child play facilities, and the raising
of awareness on policies as they affect young people.
1.13 The model employed within this programme
has subsequently been applied to Barnardo's Anti-Poverty Strategy,
Traynor, Smith and Hughes (1998) suggesting that such an approach
is promising in affecting the lives of children but that it is
too early to assert that the change will be sustained. Much early
effort in this strategy went into the development of an infrastructure,
without which long-term outcomes were unlikely to be achieved.
Apart from these and other isolated examples, little reference
is made in the literature to the impacts of an impoverished community
on the child, nor on the impacts on the child of an improved or
sound community. One notable exception to date is Henderson (1997)
which notes in a discussion of general community development work
with children that:
Other projects do not necessarily aim at children
and young people but nevertheless involve and benefit them. A
post-war council estate included a street where the houses had
not been modernised like those in the surrounding streets. Part
of the problem was the fact that kitchens and bathrooms were not
properly separated, a situation which was seen as basic to the
whole family's health (p 171).
1.14 What also remains largely untested,
and this discussion is intended to advance the debate, is the
extent to which community development directly with children
offers benefits to the children themselves.
Community development is being promoted
energetically across the world but differing groups understand
it in different ways.
The language of community development
and empowerment often masks different values and practices.
It is important to distinguish between
community development with communities in general and work targeted
specifically on particular groups, including children.
2.1 As much community development literature
and practice now acknowledges (eg Craig and Mayo 1995), the distinction
between "developed" and "developing" countries
is often a misleading and unhelpful one. The processes which impact
on local communities, resulting in poverty and deprivation, social
and economic dislocation, are increasingly global in their origins
and similar in their effects in disparate national contexts. Despite
important local differences (in terms of social, economic, cultural
and political contexts and differing understandings of the meaning
of childhood in differing countries), the local impacts of these
global processes, local analyses of these processes, and community
responses to them, are increasingly following parallel paths.
2.2 Community development in the "developed"
world is increasingly recognising the nature of these connections
and how much it has to learn from the insights and practice of
those in the "developing" world: this has been, for
example, the critical insight which has led Oxfam, the UK-based
development aid Non-Governmental Organisation, to develop an anti-poverty
programme within the UK, in parallel with its extensive work in
other countries, and which has informed the cross-country comparative
thinking within organisations such as Save the Children. The need
for these connections is increasingly reflected in practice and
the evidence drawn on here correspondingly comes from a very wide
range of contexts from both the "North" and the "South".
2.3 I noted earlier that social research
has offered considerable methodological and ethical insights into
working with children; it also demonstrates that there are few
policy areas now where research has not sought their views. Social
research and community development share common values, in particular
the importance of listening carefully to what people have to say,
the need to synthesise and/or analyse a range of data (both qualitative
and quantitative), and the over-riding importance of respect for
the views of those with whom the professional is working. Research
is, however, not the same thing as community development although
it is not uncommon that community development workers find that
they need to draw on research findings to inform their activities.
It is, in part, the process of moving across the threshold from
research into action alongside individuals and community groups,
that differentiates the community development worker from the
researcher. This raises further important issues about the capacity
of children to be the subjects of community development work,
not least because initiatives arising from community development
work take these subjects into the world of political and social
action, a world largely controlled and shaped by adults. The crucial
question for those concerned with community development with children
is therefore to what extent can groups of children defined geographically
or on the basis of some common interest, organise to change their
2.4 Given the relatively recent development
of both a general awareness of children's rights, and the growing
understanding of the need to offer children means to having a
voice of their own, it is not surprising to find that the literature
regarding community development with children is itself both relatively
recentthough growing rapidlyand "thin",
much of it in the form not of books or journal articles but published
in "grey" sources such as magazines, house journals
and monographs. In reading this literature, as suggested above,
a clear interpretation of the use of language remains crucial
to understanding what is happening: the boundaries between manipulation,
consulting young people (eg Kealy 1993) and full-blown community
development with children are often ill-defined, even within given
cultural circumstances. This issue is considered again below when
thinking about measures of effectiveness.
2.5 Although the accounts below demonstrate
the encouragingly wide range of actions which children and young
people have been helped to take to promote their own interests
in policy development, it is important to remember that this work
operates against a context of the many structural inhibitors to
effective child or young person participation, such as dominant
rural and urban planning trends, or generalist community approaches,
for example, which do not recognise the need for children to have
a separate voice.
2.6 General political and social arguments
in favour of the participation of children and young people, particularly
within a "Northern" context, are explored in Lansdown
(1995), Goodman (1997), Treseder (1997), Wellard et al
(1997) and NEF (1998). Most of these also provide a range of case
studies, including pictures of a variety of structures and mechanisms
which have been developed at local levels. Willow (1997) classifies
initiatives into six approaches: corporate strategies to promote
participation; permanent structures and mechanisms; long-term
projects; time-limited projects; national initiatives; and European
2.7 It is perhaps hardly surprising that
the main foci of accounts of policy development work with children
within the UK and other "Northern" countries, are in
relation to regeneration, frequently to do with policy issues
such as the environment, play and leisure with which children
can apparently engage more easily. Henderson (1995) provides a
number of detailed examples, organised into policy themes (such
as environment, education, care and protection, and the neighbourhood),
describing case studies of such work such as work with children
over traffic calming measures, planning play provision and the
involvement of children in neighbourhood action. French experience
is cited where local children's councils have become an accepted
part of civic life in more than 700 towns. Willow (1997) reviews
both the experience of French children's councils and German Children's
Parliaments. Reviews of regeneration work are also provided by
Fitzpatrick et al (1998), who note that the intensity of
support required for working with children is much greater than
for working with adults; by SCF (1998), which aimed to involve
young people and children (age range 9-25) in forming mechanisms
for their inclusion in the seven-year regeneration programme in
Leeds; and in Robinson's (1997) review of Salford's regeneration
strategy, premised on the involvement of local communities, including
children and young people. Cannan and Warren (1997), covering
experience in France, Germany and the UK, unusually include case
studies of the ways in which it is possible to integrate both
a child protection and a community development approach to working
with children, illustrations of work such as involvement in a
Festival on the Rights of the Child and attempts to encourage
the participation of children within long-term neighbourhood work.
2.8 Adams and Ingham (1998) provide accounts
of children's involvement in wider environmental issues and programmes,
drawing on a range of local projects. These include case studies
under six major headings, Local Agenda 21 groups; research; local
plans; urban regeneration; art, design and the environment; and
school grounds (see also Davis and Jones  on play provision;
Woolley et al,  on shopping issues; and Nieuwenhuys
 on Dutch experience in relation to the built environment).
Hart et al (1997) provide a comprehensive review of experience
of children's participation in environmental issues, drawing largely
on experience from "Southern" settings such as Ecuador,
Brazil, Nicaragua and the Philippines. The scope of "the
environment" and planning is widely-defined, covering such
issues as conservation, monitoring of school grounds, the conditions
of working children, and health hazards. Hart et al, defining
childhood as up to 14, attempt to identify ways in which the experience
they report could be used within differing cultures. The focus
on environmental issues arises because, as they note, "people's
relationship to nature is the greatest issue facing the world
at the turn of the century . . . [and] . . . the planning, design,
monitoring and management of the physical environment is an ideal
domain for the practice of children's participation; it seems
to be clearer for children to see and understand than many social
problems". This is perhaps the case because children can
approach the environment in an holistic fashion, not subject to
departmental or functional boundaries. In incorporating a community
development approach to working with children on environmental
issues, the authors challenge the increasingly-discredited idea
that development is essentially about growth (Korten 1990), arguing
that an appropriate response to the over-exploitation of the world's
resources requires a strategy which links the local to the global,
an approach to which children can contribute strongly.
2.9 Pearce (1998) reviews the experience
of involving children in the life of museums, especially from
the USA. He demonstrates that through involving young people and
older children as volunteers and through consultative exercises,
"the target age-groups of a children's museum could acquire
both the right to influence and the means of influencing the organisation
and the governance of the institution."
2.10 A growing body of writing nevertheless
reports the involvement of children and young people in more "difficult"
policy areas, or with more "hard-to-reach" groups. These
reports include work on health (de Groot 1996) which provides
examples such as young people's health forums, in large housing
estates and small markets towns, and working with young people
with learning disabilities; anti-poverty work (Wilkinson 2000)
which reviews ways in which children and young people have been
involved in the development of strategic anti-poverty initiatives;
residential care (Ward 1995), evaluating the development of regular
community meetings within a residential care home; housing and
homelessness amongst "at risk" American children and
young people (Good 1992). A study of community safety in France
and England (Pearce 1995) explores the link between bullying within
schools and violence outside it, shows the value of comparative
study. Students from East London, visiting French counterparts,
came to appreciate the ways in which older youths took responsibility,
including managing a school radio station, becoming involved in
school management tasks and school-community relations. The English
students developed in their own school ideas for working with
local immigrant communities, a school safety committee, and a
school mentoring scheme.
2.11 Work with the most excluded street
children is described by West (1997), who analysed participatory
research undertaken by street children in Bangladesh to establish
a policy framework for change. Other examples of work with profoundly
deprived children includes Dallape and Gilbert (1994), on working
with street children in Kenya, Munene and Nambi (1996) on similar
work in Uganda; and Ennew (1994), who includes short case studies
of the Metro Manila Street Children's Conference, in the Philippines,
children's responses to a research project in India, campaigning
around health issues near a waste tip in Peru, and an investigation
into the deaths of working children (carried out with help from
adults) by children in India.
2.12 Other more sensitive policy areas where
children and young people have effectively been engaged include
work on race relations (Treppte 1993) which describes a community
developmental approach to working with Turkish mothers and children
in a German town. Similar community-focused approaches to pre-school
children are reported from the Netherlands in Kieneker and Maas
(1997) and, drawing on the example of the Head Start programme
of the US 1960s War on Poverty, from Ireland in Kellaghan and
Greaney (1993); and in the field of disability, where CIS (1998)
describes work to promote the involvement of children with special
needs in Scotland. Russell (1998) and Beecher (1998) have analysed
the work of the Council for Disabled Children and other agencies
promoting the views of disabled children, including minority ethnic
disabled children, and McIvor (1995) provides examples of ways
in which disabled Moroccan children have been encouraged to challenge
their dependent status and others' oppressive perceptions of them.
2.13 A UNESCO-funded study (MOST nd) includes
accounts of work in eight countries, including Argentina and India,
covering such disparate activities as dialoguing with local government
representatives, planning resettlement from squatter camps, the
creation of a young person's radio station, and the use of modelling
techniques as a way of designing safe play environments (involving
children as young as three or four; see also Miller 1997). Johnson
et al. (1998) review case study material from many countries,
including instances of children participating in situations of
crisis, war and exploitation, within a number of settings (including
school, the labour market, public services, the neighbourhood
and in cultural activities). SCF (1995a) provides brief accounts
of children's participation including an example of education
and organisation by village health workers who are themselves
also children; a children's parliament in India; and children's
involvement in participatory research in Kampuchea.
3. LESSONS FROM
3.1 Defining the characteristics of effective
policy development work with children is an urgent political task.
Whilst there is, on the one hand, growing concern about the ways
of involving children and young people as a prelude to effective
citizenship, increasing numbers of young people have been driven
further from participating in the life of their societies indirectly
and directly by the impact of government policy, not least in
the UK (Craig 1991; Coles and Craig 1999); in many countries children
are predominantly seen only as units of labour. The literature
reviewed briefly above suggests that there are few policy arenas,
contexts, or approaches, where the involvement of children and
young people in decision-making is not possible or appropriate.
This review encompasses work with children in situations of war,
with children who are profoundly disabled, and those whose entire
life has been spent on the streets, disengaged from any of the
normal trappings of citizenship. The scope of this work and the
literature will doubtless continue to develop. Similarly, the
techniques for engaging with children and young people, incorporating
a range of innovative means of promoting such work, for example,
the use of video and film, drama, narrative, fictionalised accounts
and tape and, for very young children, through play, will grow.
3.2 This review of the literature draws
on others' accounts of work, accounts which may be partial or
limited and were not, in any case, written with wider evaluative
goals in mind. It is therefore not appropriate to attempt to evaluate
the range of work described here in detail. From these accounts,
on more general accounts of community development, analyses of
the boundaries of childhood, and on the increasingly wide literature
on the evaluation of qualitative social policy and community development
interventions (eg Feuerstein 1986; Craig 1988; Harding 1991; Breitenbach
and Erskine 1994; Carley 1995; Barr et al 1995, 1996a,
1996b; McKendrick et al 1996; Connell and Kubisch 1998;
Sanderson et al 1998; Alcock et al 1999), it is
nonetheless possible both to draw out some general lessons from
the literature and to provide a framework against which future
policy development work with children might be assessed.
3.3 The literature suggests that there is
no doubt that it is possible for children and young people to
have an effect on the policy process. Bringing young people togetherand
supporting them with adequate resourceshas enabled their
views to be elicited on policies and services, which have been
adapted to suit their needs better. Children can be helped to
become organised, to undertake research, and to marshall findings
to present to policy actors. The literature shows many differing
types of structure, some of them developed specifically by children
and young people themselves, through which this process of policy
influence has been conducted. However, there remains much work
to be done.
3.4 One clear area which needs to be explored,
as noted above, is the nature of the relationship between programmes
which are developed for all members of a community, and those
developed specifically for children and young people. As with
the marginalisation of black and minority ethnic groups in, for
example, regeneration programmes (Alcock et al 1998) or
within voluntary sector development work (Craig et al 1999),
there remains a real danger that children's interests may be marginalised
within general community programmes. We still know relatively
little about involving children effectively within community life
but the evidence reviewed above and from the general community
work literature suggests it is better to explore this separately
from work with adults.
3.5 Another area for further work is to
explore the appropriate balance between seeing the child as a
person with needs and a person with rights. At present, and driven
by the language and practice of the UK Children's Acts and similar
legislation elsewhere, there tends to be an overemphasis on children's
needsfor protection and carerather than seeing them
as political actors, with a desire to become involved in discussions
affecting them. The evidence suggests that, despite a number of
barrierscultural, political, attitudinal and resource barriersthe
democratic participation of children and young people can function
well, albeit still largely within paradigms shaped by adult expectations.
Such participation needs to be linked to the total context in
which the child lives; otherwise it cannot succeed. Most children
and young people do not feel constrained by the increasing compartmentalism
of policy and ideas with which adults are familiar. This participation
needs to be seen not only as an end but also as a means, of helping
children and young people explore ways in which they can most
effectively express their ideas and needs. The task for those
working with children and young people is a particularly difficult
one since it requires them effectively to empower children in
ways which may be challenging to adult ideas and power, and to
take social and political risks in a context of physical and emotional
3.6 Exploring the characteristics of effective
community development work with children connects this discussion
to wider discussion of the evaluation of policy interventions.
Again, it is not possible to review these debates in depth here
(but see eg Alcock et al 1999; Craig 2000). Although the
language and practice of evaluation has developed considerably
in the past fifteen years in particular, and has challenged the
dominant obsession of quantitative "value-for-money"
approaches of governments as largely irrelevant to the complex,
multi-sectoral and qualitative approaches characteristic of community
development, very little of this evaluative practice has yet found
its way into the arena of work with children. A review of the
evaluation literature (Craig 2000) highlights a number of key
elements which can be regarded as the most important building
blocks for the evaluation of community development. These building
blocks could, in general, equally be applied in relation to community
development work with children. The key elements identified in
this review are:
the importance of qualitative indicators,
used in a way which complement quantitative ones;
the need to observe process goals
as well as output and outcome goals;
the stress on participation (which
is not tokenistic) in all stages of programmes; and
the importance of sustainability
in thinking about empowerment.
3.7 To this list of basic criteria should
be added a particular concern in relation to work with children,
that is that it should attempt to meet the competing goals of
being, on the one hand, age-appropriate (a consideration which
runs the risk of being shaped entirely by adult views of what
is appropriate, particularly given the continuing emphasis on
child protection work with children); and, perhaps contradictorily,
liberating rather than controlling. It is, incidentally, an important
research task to see if the criteria developed by children match
this, unavoidably, very adult formulation.
3.8 I observed above that there will always
be contradictions and tensions in working with children within
what is essentially an adult-driven framework. These tensions
are apparent when assessing the extent of participation. For example,
Arnstein's (1969) famous ladder of participation has been adapted
by others to apply specifically to the issue of participation
by children: Wellard et al (1997:10), drawing on Hart (1992),
suggest that the eight rungs might be: manipulation, decoration,
tokenism, assigned but informed, consulted and informed, adult
initiated, child/young person initiated, and equal partnership.
The highest level of participation in their view is where "children
and young people come up with the ideas for a project, they set
it up and then involve adults as equal partners in taking decisions
and implementing them" (ibid). This view, however, still
incorporates an understanding of children as inevitably dependent
on the participation of adults in their lives to some degree.
This tension is apparent too when involving children in evaluation
where the goals of evaluation are not shaped by children themselves.
3.9 A long timescale may be needed to see
through effective evaluations of human service programmes and
this is particularly the case with long-term interventions such
as community development work, which should work at a pace determined
by the capacity and the needs of those who are the subjects of
the programme. Unfortunately it remains the case that most public
policy interventions which fund community development still expect
it to produce results within relatively short timescales, "results"
which are frequently in the form of relatively meaningless quantitative
outputs rather than qualitative long-term outcomes. Where the
subjects of community development work are children, long timescales
may be even more important.
3.10 The issue of sustainability is also
critical to all community development work, to ensure that the
mode of work encourages local communities to take control of initiatives
as community development resources are withdrawn. The definition
of empowerment outlined earlier involves the creation of structures,
processes and mechanisms which contribute to the goals of community
development work with children beyond the initial impetus which
establishes them. Given the domination of most structures by adults,
it is hardly surprising that the evaluation of community development
work with children has particularly to be seen as a long-term
process (perhaps ending only as children cease being children).
In this vein, Ennew (1994: 125-6) suggests that evaluation should
be an integral part of project work, a process of continuous learning
in which the range of evaluative questions asked in work with
children might be open to frequent review and revision. One tension
apparent here is that children's interests change as they grow
up through "youth-hood" into adulthood and that timescales
in work with children, contradictorily, may sometimes have to
be limited. There are also tensions derived from particular cultural
contexts, for example in social development work in the "South",
where the drive for participation may be overriden by the imperatives
of meeting basic needs, such as ensuring the supply of adequate
drinking water or food.
3.11 Those promoting the development of
policy with children and young people, and its evaluation, also
have to accept that the outcome of such work may be, not simply
that the aims or methods of certain interventions are challenged,
but that that challenge extends also to the organisational context
within which such interventions are made: local input to evaluation
may have knock-on effects in terms of local power structures.
Put most simply, effective work with children may challenge the
power of adults.
3.12 Notwithstanding the relative lack of
proper evaluation in most cases, this discussion begins to show
the enormous potential for consulting and encouraging the participation
of children and the potential benefits that it can bring, not
least of all in ensuring that children become active and participating
citizens as they grow into adulthood. Children cannot, and in
general should not, be treated as "little adults": their
intellectual and emotional sophistication and understanding of
the adult world is limited by the very fact that they are partly
or even largely dependent on others for the maintenance of their
lives. Adults, however, have often been guilty of over-exaggerating
the extent of that dependence, particularly perhaps in relation
to children's ability to think critically.
3.13 Many of the lessonsand techniquesof
research and community development are relevant, appropriately
and sensitively used, to work with children and the role of adults
has to be to liberate their abilities and creativity, within a
negotiated framework of rights and responsibilities. The boundary
of this framework will continue to be a subject of discussion
and a source of tension, not least between children and young
people, and adults themselves, and the power of adults and the
boundary between childhood and adulthood will continue to be tested
through this process. Adults cannot, of course, absolve themselves
from their legal and other responsibilities for the overall direction
of children's lives and community development with children will
always have to be seen within this overarching framework of responsibility.
Similarly, governments need to ensure that their frameworks of
legislation and policy do not, directly or indirectly, create
obstacles to involving children and young people in important
policy arenas. Despite all these caveats, there is much more that
can be done to encourage children to take control of important
aspects of their lives or of policies which affect them. The benefits
of this will be seen in their increasing engagement as they grow
4.1 What works, then, in community development
with children? The literature referred to in this paper is perhaps
surprisingly large and illustrates a growing range of work setting
out to engage the participation of children and young people in
a very wide spectrum of settings, and from many different cultural
contexts. The sophistication with which the effectiveness of this
work is evaluated remains, however, relatively crude.
4.2 This is hardly surprising. The complex
social, political and legal context for work with children has
been developing rapidly in the past few years and, taken together
with the relatively recent emergence of theoretical and political
challenges to dominant evaluative currents, it would perhaps have
been more surprising if a strong body of evaluative outcomes had
been reported. This clearly remains a major task for the next
few years. Much of the literature exhorts the reader to accept
that community development work with children is a "good
thing": politically, socially, educationally and developmentally.
However, this is not enough. It has to be seen to work, to bring
the benefits for children claimed of it and to do so as a result
of the interventions described. We can also observe that the more
general literature on community development generally fails to
address the issue of its impacts on children. A review of the
community development literature, both radical and more pluralistic,
suggests that the relationship between community work in general
and the lives of children is under-represented. Whilst it may
be reasonable to assume that a healthy community will be of advantage
to the child, it does not appear that it has been considered important
to make this explicit, or, with a few exceptions, to explain the
relationship in depth. This is a task which remains for those
writing about community development to address.
4.3 We cannot therefore at the moment be
sure of what works, except in a relatively few instances, although
there is fairly convincing evidence drawn from all over the world
that direct engagement with children in a community development
context is possible and brings benefits to them. The extent to
which those benefits can be attributed directly to the nature
of that engagement remains to be tested in most cases. The evaluative
literature, however, now provides more than adequate tools to
make progress on this front. The literature on work with children
also now provides a wide enough range of examples to test approaches
in many differing contexts. Where more work also needs to be done
is in exploring more fully the boundaries of childhood and the
appropriateness of differing interventions to work with children
or young people of differing ages in these various cultural contexts.
This is an area where research with children (as opposed to research
on children) has offered and can continue to offer much. Some
of the interventions described have in fact attempted to engage
with children through a variety of methods: one useful further
advance would be for the value of these different approaches to
be assessed separately.
4.4 In facilitating this developing understanding,
what might be encouraged is the development of more good quality,
critical but accessible literature. Until recently, the choice
for those searching literature has been between formal texts which
had to meet certain perceived publishing standards (and therefore
became increasingly inaccessible to a mass audience) or the "grey
literature" of project reports and monographs, much of which
has never formally been published and has been difficult to access.
Virtually all of this literature of course is more or less totally
inaccessible (for reasons of cost or style) to the subjects of
the writing, the children themselves, and this is an important
task for the future too, to engage children and young people in
the process of disseminating the findings of their own work, using
a variety of age-appropriate means. Most of all, it is important
to build effective evaluative work into the growing body of direct
work with children and young people, work which seeks the views
of the subjects themselves as to "what works".
There is a wide range of practice
of community development with children, in differing contexts
and policy areas and using differing methods.
The development of evaluative tools
for this work is at an early stage and needs to involve children
in the creation of appropriate measures.
There are tensions between approaches
which focus on children's rights and those focusing on children's
Empowering children challenges the
power of adults and work with children needs to be set within
an emancipatory framework.
29 November 2003
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