The new EFC Children’s Thematic Network kicks off with an exploratory meeting looking at children’s participation and the next steps of the network

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The inaugural meeting of the EFC’s brand new Children’s Thematic Network took place on 3-4 December 2019 in Philanthropy House, Brussels, with the aim of exploring common ground on children’s projects, policies and research and establishing the next steps of the network.

The meeting was opened up by the EFC’s Maria Orejas briefly presenting a general overview of where the EFC’s membership stands on issues related to children, utilising data from the EFC Knowledge Hub. While the data does not cover all of the EFC’s membership it presented a broad overview of just how cross-cutting issues related to children are within the sector, and highlighted that approximately 49% of EFC members fund issues related to children, even though many do not work directly in the area. These opening remarks were followed by a quick fire ‘speed-dating’’ ice breaking session, pairing everyone in a long line, facing each other, and giving each pair 1 minute to introduce themselves before they would move onto the next person.

With the ice sufficiently broken, the meeting then moved onto a series of presentations showcasing innovative examples of projects targeting children’s issues, but also seeking to involve them in the process, and give them a voice in the creation of the projects. Daniel Kropf, Camee Comperen and Maria La Paz, Learning for Well-being Foundation introduced Act2gether, an intergenerational partnership seeking to bring together different perspectives to work together and contribute towards improving society. This initiative is being replicated all over the world, with Anette Stein and Stefan Mispagel, Bertelsmann Stiftung providing one example of Act2gether in Germany, and the success of 2GetherLand. 2GetherLand saw 230 participants of all ages, backgrounds and parts of Germany come together 6 days at a summer camp to learn from each other, connect, share and have fun, and is a project itself also being replicated worldwide. These presentations were rounded off by Jan Despiegelaere, Community Foundation West-Flanders sharing with the meeting the work of MyMachine, an innovative project that takes school children’s dream machines and has then designed and built into prototypes by university and college students to present back to children. The multidisciplinary project has received a UN award and international recognition for its work in Europe, the US and South Africa.

An exchange on current policy opportunities by Jana Hainsworth, Eurochild and Gisella Gori, Council of Europe followed on from the discussions on children’s programmes. This session sought to look into children’s participation rights, explore 30 years of the UNCRC and pinpoint current opportunities to support children’s participation at a policy level. Jana Hainsworth for example underlined the fact that the new Commission will offer a great opportunity to advocate for children’s rights, and to put the issue of children’s participation on the table, and delved into the need to develop programmes that take children’s voices into consideration. Gisella Gori however focused more on the experience of Council of Europe in supporting and fostering children’s participation and the various steps they had taken with member states to implement it through assessment tools.

The second day of the meeting began by building upon previous day’s discussions, and seeking to open up a conversation on children’s participation but more with an eye on measuring impact and seeking different methods and means of measuring the evidence of the impact of children’s policy and programmes upon participation. David Anthony, UNICEF guided the group through a brief overview of research into youth participation with the aim of amplifying impact. Anna Dahlman, Dance4Life presented a slightly different approach showcasing the methodology that Dance4Life utilise to boost participation and empowerment in their work and Mieke Schuurman, Eurochild finished the session with insights into their Advocacy Toolkit and how it is used in support of the organisations work on child participation and to engage children in advocacy work.

The meeting was finished with two sessions, offering participants the space to discuss and share reflections on lessons learned from the meeting and shared priorities and interests in any potential movement forward, and also a small funders’ only session to discuss the next steps for the network and a work plan for 2020.

For further information on the Children’s Thematic Network, or the kick off meeting contact Letizia Manzoni.

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