Drawing on our work gathering experiences and resources for the living archive, we cluster the insights of what works into three categories – space, support, and system change.
On this basis, we propose moving on beyond the 3Ps (protection, provision, participation) of the UNCRC, to these 3Ss (space, support, system change).
We need to create and build on existing safe spaces for children and young people. These spaces – both existing and those re-imagined – allow them to build confidence through dialogue with peers and to engage constructively with adults in positions of power. We also expand the concept of space to mean creating space in project and decision-making processes to meaningfully include children and youth.
Our research consistently surfaced examples of children and youth asking adults to listen to and support them. It revealed that young people think not only of themselves but also their communities and future generations. In addition to providing children and young people with space, adults have a responsibility to support children and youth to apply their agency.
Social change requires confronting social norms and structural inequities based on hierarchies such as race, class, gender, sexuality and disability, but also ‘adultism’. Social attitudes towards young people in many global contexts assume they should be seen and not heard. Children and young people are thought to be part of social problems rather than potential allies in finding the solutions to these problems. Adults need to be engaged to change their own perspectives and the harmful institutions and social norms that make young people’s positive contributions to decision-making invisible.