International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership’s Child and Youth Advisory Committee (CYAC)
The International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership (ICCRP) is a rights-based research collaboration, which was established following an international conference held at Ryerson University, Canada, in October 2015. The ICCRP involves scholars, researchers and practitioners from around the world.
We asked their Child and Youth Advisory Committee (CYAC) to reflect upon the work of the Partnership, and their own work within it. In this blog, we hear from members: Mayara Costa; Judy; Cleyton Lima; Reah (Hyun Ju) Shin; along with project researcher Tara M. Collins.
How are children and young people involved in ICCRP?
Tara: Once we obtained research funding and all necessary institutional ethical approvals in 2017, young people could join the international Child and Youth Advisory Committee (CYAC) and become part of the ICCRP team. With the help of local partners, young people between the ages of 10 to 24 years of age and from the countries where we planned to conduct field work (i.e., Brazil, Canada (New Brunswick and Ontario), China, and South Africa) were invited to become members.
CYAC members have participated in virtual meetings via Zoom with the Project Director and the Child and Youth Participation Coordinator with the occasional involvement of other ICCRP Steering Committee members. These meetings usually take place every other month to build relationships, discuss research processes and questions, and work on various initiatives. Together, we have completed participatory research internationally and in the above four countries and we continue to work on analyzing and sharing results.
To date, our work has involved three phases. Each phase focused on one of our three objectives:
- To identify current conceptualizations of monitoring children’s right to participation in international child protection (Phase 1, began in 2017);
- To understand the realities, challenges, and successes of monitoring children’s right to participation in child protection in specific contexts and to develop recommendations for effective measurement (Phase 2, began in early 2018); and
- To analyze the connections between children’s participation and child protection outcomes (Phase 3, began in late 2018).
Our CYAC members have been essential throughout all three phases of this research process. They have informed the research design, supported data collection/analysis, continue to provide feedback, facilitate meetings, present to conferences and workshops, and work on papers.
What does the International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership (ICCRP) and the Child and Youth Advisory Committee (CYAC) mean to you?
Cleyton: The ICCRP to me is a way to learn about children’s rights and to reflect on our rights in a humane way.
Mayara: Diversity is the greatest asset of ICCRP. When you reflect about things in a diverse group, you gain new perspectives. We re-think our own understanding of certain subjects. This really happens a lot here in ICCRP. We re-visit a lot of the things that we thought we knew, or things that are “set in stone”. Children and youth are such a diverse group of people, and we cannot generalize and assume that everyone is the same. In ICCRP, we avoid this assumption by having discussions as a diverse group. This diversity is not only about the differences in age, but in race, culture, background and countries. This makes us a really special group with a great perspective of child and youth rights and protection—how it is not a single element, but how they are adjusted to contexts and needs. For example, we learned how a Brazilian Child and Youth Advisory member (CYAC) viewed and understood children’s rights and protection differently than the CYAC members in China, South Africa, or Canada.
Judy: CYAC means that we can learn together about children’s rights and research, as well as how to protect ourselves and to protect other children. The CYAC is great because it allows for young people to be heard.
Mayara: When some of us began to be part of the CYAC meetings, we did not know that we had valuable ideas to add to the ICCRP. Being part of the CYAC made us more aware that everybody had something to add, and that anybody can learn from anybody. ICCRP makes us comfortable in what we say and think. ICCRP values what each one of us says, because it is very important. Of course, we talk about the research related topics, but we also have ice-breaker games facilitated by CYAC members to get to know one another. The way that this group is conducted is very important to the results that we get from being part of the CYAC. Being heard is very special to us, and it gives us a great opportunity and the ability to express ourselves. When we are young, we often avoid expressing our thoughts because we think we are not going to be heard. In ICCRP, not only are we being heard but we are also learning about how to express ourselves.
Mayara & Cleyton (mostly Cleyton): The ICCRP and the CYAC are a great opportunity to understand different realities and perspectives on child and youth protection. CYAC offers a safe and open space for young people to speak how they feel, independently of their age and level of development. We are recognized and respected by others, and are valued for our diversity. At the same time, our meetings are organized to allow both researchers and young people to feel comfortable to speak. CYAC members offer their opinions and participation during discussions through a mixture of relaxing activities (such as ice-breakers and games as discussed above), as well as formal moments such as writing academic papers and presenting at conferences. When discussing academic or technical terms which are normally inaccessible to young people or to those for whom English is an additional language, the ICCRP team works together to ensure that such terminologies are made as clear as possible for young people to understand and to share their opinions, recognizing the diversities of backgrounds and realities.
Why is the work of CYAC important?
Mayara: The work of CYAC is important because it gives us an opportunity to share our thoughts about things. It could be about re-shaping the methodology, through reflecting and contributing to this ERIC blog, seeking different ways of making sure that everybody can participate, and finding ways that help make people comfortable to talk and give their honest thoughts about the issues. Nobody on our CYAC team is being forced to do anything. We are here because we like being part of the ICCRP, and we feel good while we are doing it. It is important because it shows a different and new way to participate, and how to apply child and youth participation in research projects.
Why is it important to include young people’s perspectives in research?
Mayara: It is important to include the perspectives of young people in research, because young people have a fresh set of eyes to bring to the projects. It is a way of checking expectations of things and to see whether they are related to what is being experienced by young people. Maybe you asked someone a question, expecting that they give a particular answer, and they answer something completely different! Sometimes, expectations are very distant from the reality. I think that involving young people in research truly is a way of re-connecting theory and practice. Including young people gives an opportunity for research projects to re-visit ideas. It provides a chance to see if explanations and justifications of things apply in real-life settings. When adults and researchers re-explain different aspects of research to young people, it is an opportunity to see if it really makes sense. We understand that for researchers it may be hard to explain some things to someone who may not know about it. However, it is very important because it is a chance to learn about what is important to our generation. Although we are from a different generation than adults, and, amongst our group of young people, we are born in different years, we are still all living at the same time when we are interacting! Therefore, it is an opportunity to exercise listening and understanding for all of us.
What advice would you give to researchers who want to engage with young people in research?
Be open and prepared for things that you were not expecting. When things do not turn how you hoped and planned, it is easy to think that it may not be working. Prepare to have your expectations not met. Be open and ready to listen, because it is an opportunity to challenge your thoughts!
Listen to young people. Be open to hearing young people’s ideas. However, listening alone is not enough. Young people’s ideas and perspectives should actually be incorporated.
Preparatory work is important. It is very important for researchers to be prepared when involving young people in research. This preparatory work should happen before, after and between meetings. Ensuring clear communication, such as sending important documents before meetings, setting meeting times in advance and sending meeting notes afterwards, all really help for us to understand and stay engaged.
Make communication accessible. Often researchers use methodologies and concepts that are not always understood by or accessible to young people. Consider using concepts that are easy to understand (or make sure that your explanations are clear to all youth involved) and try youth-friendly methodologies, like using drawings, pictures or paintings.
What is next for the CYAP members of the ICCRP?
Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, our work together in the ICCRP continues. We are still sharing our results by presenting at virtual conferences, co-publishing academic and non-academic contributions (including this blog), having virtual meetings, working on creative dissemination projects such as creating posters and videos. We are also planning future work with an expanded partnership with organizations and individuals from diverse backgrounds. It goes without saying that all this work is created in partnership of researchers and CYAC members!
You will find more details about our Child and Youth Advisory Committees at the international and local levels in the following academic publication: Collins, T.M., Jamieson, L., Wright, L.H.V., Rizzini, I., Mayhew, A., Narang, J., Tisdall, E.K.M., Ruiz-Casares, M. (2020). Involving child and youth advisors in academic research about child participation: The Child and Youth Advisory Committees of the International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership, Children and Youth Services Review, 109, Article 104569, 1-9, DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.104569.
For further information on the International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership (ICCRP), CYAC projects, publications and more, please visit: www.ryerson.ca/ICCRP.
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada supported the project.
Cleyton Lima is an undergraduate student in International Relations at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), and a CYAC/ICCRP member who focuses their work on the impact of technologies on vulnerable people. In his free time, Cleyton likes to listen to music and watch movies.
Mayara Costa is an undergraduate student in International Relations at PUC-Rio (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro) and my areas of interest are migration/mobility, gender and racial issues, Latin-American studies and children’s rights. Currently I’m located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I really love swimming, my mother says that I swam before I could walk. It’s the thing that brings me joy, whenever I’m in the water I’m in my happy place.
Reah (Hyun Ju) Shin (they/them), M.A. & B.A. CYC is the Child and Youth Participant Coordinator at the International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership (ICCRP). Reah is also a Child and Youth Counsellor for the Halton District School Board, Program Evaluator at Embrave: Agency to End Violence, and CYC Senior Research Assistant at Ryerson University. They are passionate about child rights, education and AOAR practices.
Tara M. Collins is Associate Professor, School of Child & Youth Care, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, and Honorary Associate Professor, Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Children’s rights have inspired NGO, government, and academic work in Canada and internationally since 1996.