Enabling child participation throughout the development and execution of the report and including active contributions by children and young people was of paramount importance to this report.
While inviting adult contributors, we invited six 9-16-year-olds to create their own contribution on the topic, help us with the design and impact of the report, and have some fun along the way.
Our first session was to get to know each other and to find out what we all knew about inventing new products, and to help with this, we brought along LEGO designers Phillip McCormick and Erik Legernes. The young panel had a lot of questions for them...
“How do you come up with new ideas and new ways of inventing and designing different LEGO sets?”
“Do you guys like to ask for lots of opinions before you make the toys? I know, like everyone in your workspace, had an opinion on what to do. But like, did you guys fill out a survey for, for example, younger kids to say what they’re most interested in? So that’s like what your new toy could be.”
“How would you decide which ideas to use and not to use, because if there is a case where there are too many good ideas, like how do you pick which ones are the best ones?”
“Have you ever had an idea but chose something different and regretted it?”
“Are LEGO going to make all their bricks sustainable?”
We encouraged everyone to consider what it takes to be a designer before being tasked with the challenge of creating their own new products. The panel reflected on their experience of creating new products.
WHAT WAS THE BEST BIT OF THE EXPERIENCE?
“When we were designing our different things and kind of brainstorming about how to make them better and when we were thinking about how adults and children don’t really work together very often. When we were designing our stuff, it was kind of like a time to let your imagination go free and create what you wanted to. And then when we were thinking about children and adults not working together very often, it was kind of like, it got you really working and thinking of when you haven’t worked with an adult very well, or if you have, how badly it’s gone.”
“Definitely hearing other opinions and hearing more about LEGO and the design process in that company.”
“Thinking about our own kind of creation because it was quite fun, and it kind of got my mind working and thinking about what I could do, and I didn’t realise that I was that creative.”
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF THE EXPERIENCE?
“The hardest bit was the design process of our items, because it just required us to think, to be asking people. Also learning about the process of children working with adults, I found that quite challenging as well because it required lots of thinking and to imagine working together and how it would go.”
“Coming up with the initial idea for the project.”
“Designing the thing we wanted to build because there were so many different negatives with it as well like how much it would cost, how big it was.”
“I think it’s the actual process of thinking about what you could create because there’s a lot of variables that can be decided on, like how it would actually work and how it wouldn’t work.”
WHAT IS MEANINGFUL CHILD PARTICIPATION
The sessions that followed reflected on the fact that children are able to contribute actively to product development in a way that adults can’t, placing particular interest on the challenges they face, who they would want to work with, and their feelings towards working with adults. The panel believed it was important to share the benefit of their participation for business and for themselves.
“The inclusion of children. Not just children, if it was children and adults, or mainly adults, but children were involved as well, then I think that would be child participation.”
“The collaboration of adults and children working together to make products that children and adults have both agreed work for children to play with or use.”
“The opportunity to have your thoughts and views heard and to bring out the creativeness inside of you.”
“Introducing children to being part of a team and making meaningful decisions and letting them be involved in those meaningful decisions.”
“Having a lot of ideas and teamwork.”
“Letting children have an input and their say, whether that be on marketing products or like just having them involved in the process and taking on their ideas and not un-including them, making sure their opinions are listened to.”
WHY IS IT MEANINGFUL?
“You're basically listening to who the future are, and the people who are going to be the head of things, so it’s good to have different perspectives and age groups.”
“Working with the big brands and stuff makes it meaningful, like it’s a lot different.”
“Some children don’t really get their voices heard, so I guess it would be quite a nice opportunity for people to get listened to and have their ideas taken in and considered by top brands.”
“I think it’s meaningful because it’s important to do, because it just is, it’s helpful. It could make things more efficient. It can make things work better. It can make a product sell better, and it will make everyone feel more included and get to know each other better.”
HOW IT BENEFITS BUSINESSES
“To have different perspectives, young people can bring different things that old people can’t always think of.”
“Children can make it relevant to that time period. Adults can make it old-fashioned. We have different experiences and different childhoods to what adults have had.” “If you have children to help, the design process can be quicker and help a business thrive and succeed, because it’s impossible for an adult to come up with ideas that are suitable and helpful for every child.”
“Children and adults have different levels of creativity.”
“Experts could benefit from having new ideas and validation that their ideas are good.”
“Because children know what could be suitable for other children, because they are children, and they would have friends and they could ask their friends what’s suitable for them. So it would help a lot, whereas an adult might not know any children that they would be able to speak to on a regular basis.”
“Children have less limitations than adults, they go beyond the boundaries than adults would. They don’t see the dangers of their thoughts.”
“For a product, to make them actually sell well, you’ll need to know what children like. If you try to think, try to assume what they think they like, then they probably won’t actually like it. Plus, since children are actually some of the main buyers of some products, children are the big parts, the big consumers. And even some adults get things because children will recommend it to them.”
HOW IT BENEFITS US
(CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE)
“It’s fun and cool to get to help create something.”
“Decisions made about kids’ lives should be based on kids’ perspectives.”
“For children to feel included in the decision making, they can feel their importance to the business.”
“It’s important for children to work alongside adults. It shows them a working environment and what you have to do. It teaches you to be responsible and understanding, to represent your place of work, to work as a team and be respectful.”
“It’s good for children to be doing things like this because they have different views for products and items. To design a product for children, you need to know what children like.”
“It’s just such a great opportunity, and it’s exciting and inspiring to work with big brands.”
“Working with people with different skills would help me develop what I can do to work together with different people.”
“People can feel just left out, really. If a child gets to work with a big company to create a product, then they’ll feel included, they’ll feel happy, and they’ll feel part of the process of the design. But if they don’t get a say in anything, then they’ll just think that they’re not a part of it and they don’t really matter.”
“It’s good for the child to see their ideas brought to life and being sold in the market. It also gives them future experience for team working.”
HOW TO DO IT
1 – Be adaptable, honest, and open-minded.
Josianne Galea Baron and Fabio Friscio touch upon the importance of being transparent with children as to what decisions they are able to influence. Sandra Cortesi discusses the need to be open and honest with participating youth, articulating the purpose for their engagement, how it can be a valuable experience for them, and its value for the business.
2 – Work equally, as a team, listening to everyone's ideas, and giving everyone the chance to be heard. Everyone deserves a chance.
3 – Be accepting of our ideas and opinions. Sometimes children don’t get taken seriously and they’re not listened to and that’s not fair.
During their workshops, Microsoft set the tone that the employees present were not the ‘experts’, acknowledging that young people are experts in their own lives. Hans Martens details how industry and policy makers have a responsibility to ensure children and young people can actively participate in decision-making processes that might impact their rights in a digital world, as enshrined in the Article 12 right to participation or right to be heard of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Honda Research Institute Japan describes how they utilised ideas that emerged during child participation and implemented them into Haru’s platform, enabling children to create and share their own stories and give them direct control of Haru’s interactivity.
4 – Remember children are not all the same - speak to lots of different children of different ages and with different likes, hobbies, and interests.
Dr Ronah Harris describes the importance of including individuals with neurological variations, affirming the needs of people with variations rather than treating them as having conditions that need to be cured. Wouter Sluis-Thiescheffer details core game design principles, including the right to non-discrimination and right to participate. Vicky Charisi discussed an ethnographic-inspired approach and practices that give space, respect, and value to local habits, needs, and culture.
5 – Keep the experience fun and entertaining.
6 – Use various methods for us to communicate with you and express ourselves. Think discussions, quizzes, creative tasks, and games.
In their contribution, Super Awesome details the numerous methods they use to involve children and young people on an ad hoc and continuous basis.
7 – Not everyone should be spoken to the same; some people won’t be able to understand the way things are phrased. Grown-ups have to remember that a child might not always know what you mean or you're talking about. So you should always check that they know what you mean, and if they don't, you need to try to explain it in a better way.
Wouter Sluis-Thiescheffer defines children’s right to information using communication they can understand. Sesame Workshop describes their work with preschoolers, whose developing language skills often prevent them from articulating what does or does not work about a game, what they do or do not like, or what and how they are learning. Instead, their teams interpret children's behaviour during playtesting into digital experiences designed to fit the audience's needs.
8 – It shouldn't be children doing all the work. The adults should be supervising because some things they might want to make or design won't be realistic, and if they try to do that, then it's quite dangerous. They might hurt themselves. I think adults should be there to supervise as well.
Telia Company runs co-creative workshops that are carried out by trained volunteers with safeguarding routines in place.
9 – Adults and children should be working together. One shouldn't be controlling what they're doing or what they're trying to make. It’s a joint piece of work. Not one adult or child is doing more than the other.
LEGO elaborates on the need to break down adult-child power dynamics, which is key to avoiding children saying what they think the adults in the room want to hear rather than expressing their genuine feelings and reactions, and to provide valuable solutions to overcome this challenge. KidsKnowBest reflects on how and why to make an experience that is memorable for children and young people and the importance of recognising that children are the experts in their own lives.
10 – Take our ideas seriously and keep us in the conversation – children know children best!
Hans Martens identifies this as a key challenge and stresses the importance of finding ways to increase the transparency of and accountability for important decisions made and the reasons why. Toca Boca explains how they transformed input from children into creative, relevant, and innovative game experiences that resonate with them, the children first way.