Participation and citizenship

Participation of children and young people is a basic principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Children and young people have the right to be heard in decisions that affect them. In our research and advices, KeKi applies a broad and dynamic interpretation of the concept participation. It is operationalized by four basic components: (a) the objective of participation, (b) the context in which participation takes place, (c) the actors involved and (d) the form of participation. These components each have their own interpretation, but they are always inextricably linked to one another (Herbots & Put, 2015). Due to the transversal nature of this topic, participation is also dealt with throughout other themes of KeKi’s expertise.


Projects in Flanders

REFLECTOR 2.0 – Policy participation as a catalyst for a Flemish Government-wide youth- and children’s rights perspective  

Coordination: Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre 

Project duration:  1 January 2022 until 31 December 2023 

Project objectives:  The Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre develops various tools enhancing knowledge and skills of Flemish Policy makers concerning policy participation of children and young people. This includes a platform, a tool, an awareness-raising campaign and educational plans. 

Method: The Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre develops these tools together with the end users of the project, i.e. Flemish policy makers in a cocreative process. Through this cocreative process, the participants develop a sense of ownership over the developed tools, which enhances the support base and eventual use of the developed tools. 

Project activities: 

1. Research concerning policy participation of children and young people 

During the previous project on the topic, REFLECTOR, insight was gained into the needs, views and experiences of Flemish policy makers concerning policy participation of children and young people. This knowledge is deepened through a literature study in the current project. Furthermore, the existing needs and views of Flemish policy makers are researched through an online survey. Additionally, the current state of policy participation of children and young people at the different governmental levels in Belgium is examined through an analysis of current and finished policy participation projects. Finally, through a participatory action research, different forms of support for Flemish policy makers are researched.  

2. Development of support tools for policy makers 

The project aims to further develop the three prototypes which were conceived in the project REFLECTOR. In a cocreative way, together with the Flemish policy makers as the end users of these tools, the different tools are refined. An important element to this is the implementation and sustainability of the prototypes. As an outcome of the project, recommendations for the use of these tools in the wider youth- and children’s rights perspective at the Flemish level are made. 

The first product to be developed is an awareness-raising campaign, addressing policy makers themselves. In this campaign, the perspectives of children and young people on policy participation take a centrale role, and policy makers are challenged to think about the difficulties they experience when it comes to involving children and young people into their policy work.  

The second product is the “participation circle”, an instrument with questions concerning various aspects of planning, executing and evaluating policy participation projects. During the project, the participation circle is further refined and tested.  

Thirdly, policy makers indicated they need further support from external organisations in order to effectively involve children and young people in their policy work. This prototype was named “Platform REFLECTOR”. The different shapes such a platform may take, is researched and elaborated upon in REFLECTOR 2.0. 

A final product, which is new to REFLECTOR 2.0, is the development of a coaching- and training offer in order to further strengthen the knowledge and skills of Flemish policy makers concerning policy participation. 

Should you have questions about the project, please contact Heleen, the project coordinator, at 

This project is commissioned by the Flemish Department of Culture, Youth and Media.  


Coordination: Children's Rights Knowledge Centre (KeKi)

Project duration: 1 July 2018 to 1 July 2019

Project objective: In this project, KeKi will develop a concrete and applicable support with a view to strengthening the participation of children and young people in the Flemish policy. 

Method: The final product will be developed by means of a co-creative process in which the end users of the product are systematically involved. Co-creation or 'creating together' has the important characteristic that an equal relationship between the different participants is guaranteed. This means that a co-creative process has a direct influence on the sense of ownership and support of the target group involved and therefore also on the final use of the end product.

Other partners: De Schakel and Twisted Studio support KeKi with their expertise in the field of co-creation. 

Project activities:

  1. Participant observation research with Flemish policy makers: To provide adequate support, it is necessary to define the right problem. During the qualitative interviews we will empathize the needs and requirements of the target group ‘Flemish policy makers’. The qualitative interviews are a way to acquire more detailed information about their work context and their vision on and attitudes towards children, young people and children’s rights. Also, we will examine to what extent policy participation of children and young people already is implemented in their work and how support should look like. A total of 29 policy-makers were reached through face-to-face interviews and an online survey. Flemish minister Sven Gatz was followed for an entire day to comprehend the place of children and young people in his policy.
  2.  Workshops “From insights and challenges to ideas and solutions”:

    25 October 2018: presentation on the insights research and thinking of ideas. You can read the report of the first co-creationsession in the presentation, available on request (in Dutch).
    13 November 2018: prototyping workshop: making the ideas concrete. You can read the report of the second co-creationsession in in the presentation, available on request (in Dutch).

  3. Testing and development of prototypes

    Raising awareness among policymakers about the necessity, responsibility and importance of policy participation proved to be a first step. The first support is therefore a 'REFLECTOR' awareness-raising campaign. In this online campaign, the policy maker is given a place in the perspective of children and young people on policy participation and we challenge policy makers to reflect on the challenges they experience in the field of policy participation of children and young people by means of questions. A second support that was developed throughout the project REFLECTOR is the participation circle; an instrument with concrete questions for policy makers working on different policy levels, to shape a process of policy participation. Finally, there appeared to be a need for the creation of a support offer of external organisations to which Flemish policymakers can appeal. This prototype was given the name 'platform REFLECTOR'. The prototype of the REFLECTOR platform is not yet being concretized during this project.

    Prototypes are still under development. A project report (in Dutch) is in preparation and will be published here. 

For more information, contact

This project was made possible with the support of the Flemish Department of Culture, Youth and Media.

European projects


Coordination: City government of Genk. Genk is a diverse and young center city with an ambitious governance that strives for an optimal development of the talents of its citizens and maximum use of the available social capital. The city looks at etnic-cultural diversity in the first place as an opportunity to enrich the local society in various fields. Genk recently received the label ‘Child-friendly city’.

Project duration: 1 May 2018 to 30 April 2020

Project objective: Examine how the young people of third-country nationals from the age of 12 in Genk experience their city and the way they interact with other young people of Genk, their neighbourhood and their city.

Other partners: Regarding the methodology, the city appeals to the local expertise of PI-elements. The HIVA plays a supporting role in the monitoring and evaluation of the entire project.

Project activities:

There will be a study on the perspection on themes that young people are interested in and how active citizenship can be stimulated. Through interactive methods several stakeholders enter in an intercultural dialogue with each other. Young people will formulate policy-recommendations. The project will support young people who can inspire and include others by their action or engagement, and this both financially, logistically and in terms of content.

KeKi’s expertise:

The expertise of KeKi is used to shape the project from the frame of reference of children’s rights. The motivations are the reflection-instrument about policy participation, the input of KeKi during the HIVA-study on the policy participation of third-country nationals in Flemish policy, the DemoDram-research on citizenship at school, the policy-advices about children’s rights education and the general inspiration that the children’s rights framework can provide for local authorities.

For more information, contact

This was financed by the division ESF of the Department Work and Social Economy and the European AMIF-fund.


Van Vooren, E. (2018) Embarking on a reflective journey – Strengthening children and youth participation for policy makers. Presentation as part of the 'Human Library' during the Eurochild Conference 'Building a better Europe with children: All aboard!', Opatija Kroatië (29-31 October 2018)


Herbots, K. & Put, J. (2015) The Participation Disc. A Concept Analysis of (a) Child ('s Right to) Participation, in The International Journal of Children's Rights 23(1), 154-188. 

  • This article critically examines the notion of participation through a literature analysis that cuts accross several academic disciplines. A framework of understanding participation is offered in the form of a participation disc.