Preparing for Participation
Having successfully bid for the delivery of the pilot the primary concern of the planning partners was to ensure that the experience of participation was positive for all, particularly for children and young people. While the three-events model was established there was scope to consider how to make it work in terms of the experience itself, and also to create a longer-term impact.
Considering children and young people, it was felt that they should be ready for participation in this programme - a three-event model delivered within a tight timeframe and focused on large gatherings. The model is also demanding in that it necessitates working in groups with others who might not be known, with children and young people expected to meet with adult duty-bearers on their second get-together. For this to be inclusive of children and young people from a range of backgrounds and abilities the project partners were of the view that participants needed to bring some level of understanding of rights, skills and confidence. While many children and young people develop such capability through their normal social and educational experiences, some of the children and young people the partners wanted to engage in this process have only done so with the support and experience gained by engagement with Children's Parliament or Young Edinburgh Action - so that the active and engaged child/young person they are now is because of their participation in the facilitated, supported and safe programmes they have experienced to date.
Our learning from this pilot reinforces the need for children and young people to be ready to engage in the process. This does not mean that children or young people who need support cannot be involved, it means that the three-event model works when the children and young people that are involved have had opportunities to build capacity to engage meaningfully. In other words, a barrier to engagement in this model would be if there was too much of a focus on time constraints and not enough on efforts to ensure inclusion, support and preparedness for engagement.
Considering adult duty-bearers, the planning partners wanted them to come to Event 3 (with children and young people) with an understanding that they must set aside the power they have as they participate, but then understand that we need them to exercise that power on behalf of children and young people when they leave. To establish a sense of equity, adults participated in their initial session in the same activities as the children/young people had in their event - they used creative props, they worked in small groups, they used only first names, they were asked to leave the restrictions or burdens of their day job at the door. Adult participants were also given some input on what a rights-focus and rights-based approach means in the context of this pilot programme.