Management and Governance Accountability to Children: Participation and Representation in Organisational Decision Making


  • Claire O'Kane Independent Consultant
  • Annabel Trapp Independent consultant
  • Paul Stephenson World Vision International
  • Julia Smith-Brake World Vision International



child participation, accountability to children, inclusive governance, child participatory research


Children’s participation and accountability to children are increasingly common aspirations of child-focused organisations; development agencies and research institutions frequently use young people’s advisory councils as one path to participation. A key challenge is to not only find meaningful ways to institutionalise children’s views as part of organisational decision making, but also to identify and address barriers to participation. This article presents the findings of a commissioned landscape assessment to identify good practices and lessons learned from child-focused agencies, in order to inform the operationalisation of children’s requests on programme improvements and accountability to children. The study was exploratory and qualitative. It included primary and secondary data collection, including a desk review, key informant interviews with adults and young people, and focus group discussions with young people. The findings showed common elements of organisational models of child participation and insights from children and young people on the types of decisions they want to influence, reasons why they should be heard, and how-to approaches to support their meaningful participation. Other findings focused on key challenges of children’s participation in governance, including adult mindsets, low capacity, and structural restrictions, and lessons learned on enabling factors, such as organisation-wide buy-in, and space and inclusion for children and young people. Further inquiry could inform the purpose, scope, and appropriateness of child participation in governance structures within child-focused organisations.

Author Biographies

Paul Stephenson, World Vision International

Technical Director, Child Protection & Participation

Technical Services Organisation, World Vision International

Julia Smith-Brake, World Vision International

Senior Adolescent Programming Specialist

Child Protection & Participation Sector Team, World Vision International


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