Children, Youth and Environments.
Vol 16, No.2 (2006)
ISSN 1546-2250

Pushing the Boundaries:
Critical International Perspectives on Child and Youth Participation
Series Introduction

Caitlin Cahill
University of Utah

Roger A. Hart
Children's Environments Research Group, Environmental Psychology Program
Graduate School of the City University of New York

Citation: Cahill, Caitlin and Roger A. Hart (2006). “Pushing the Boundaries: Critical International Perspectives on Child and Youth Participation—Series Introduction.” Children, Youth and Environments 16(2): i-iii. Retrieved [date] from

Participatory research and practice offers a promising new framework for researchers, youth workers and child rights advocates of all kinds who are committed to social justice and change around the world. In this international volume of Children, Youth and Environments we offer an opportunity to read about work on child and youth participation from nine regions of the world, each of which will be represented in its own installment published throughout this year: Africa (Dipak Naker and Rakesh Rajani, editors); Australia and New Zealand/Aotearoa (Anita Harris, editor); Europe (Barry Percy-Smith and Alison Clark, editors); Japan (Isami Kinoshita, editor); Latin and South America and the Caribbean (Yolanda Corona and Maru Linares, editors); Middle East and North Africa (Maha Damaj, editor); North America (Caitlin Cahill and Roger Hart, editors); Southeast Asia, East Asia and the Pacific (Joachim Theis, editor); and South and Central Asia (Claire O’Kane and Ravi Karkara, editors).

Participatory approaches to community research, development and governance with children and youth have demonstrated that engaging the perspectives of young people challenges their social exclusion, and builds their capacity to analyze and transform their own lives and to partner in the building of more sound, democratic communities. However, not enough attention has been given to systematically evaluating and critiquing these participatory practices. This special issue of CYE offers an international forum to review and advance the field, developing its potential through cross-cultural dialogue, self-reflexive critique, and critical synthesis.

Forefronting contextualized knowledge and personal experiences, participatory research and practice has necessarily placed an emphasis upon the local, often failing to theorize connections to broader social processes. By contrast, this issue will offer a global perspective on participatory work with young people that is grounded in local practice. While the papers are divided into world regions, we hope this issue will stimulate a truly global cross-cultural dialogue. To this end, we invite you to revisit this special issue at the end of the year where an epilogue, authored by all of the regional editors, will offer a critical lens across global participatory practice with young people.

Both theoretical and practical insights are offered in the papers of this wide-ranging issue, addressing key critical questions including:

  • What are the different guiding theories of participatory practice that are in use?
  • How has the practice of young people's participation been developing in innovative ways in different cultures as a result of particular cultural views of the appropriate roles and activities for young people?
  • What different domains of research and action are young people involved in or excluded from?
  • At what ages do young people take an active role in development in different parts of the world?
  • How have gender-related considerations been incorporated in participatory approaches?
  • Is young peoples' research taken seriously by formal government and official agencies? What are the different strategies by which this has been achieved in different parts of the world?
  • For what types of issues has the research of young people been able to contribute to social change?
  • What is being done to help young people make deeper connections between their local research and action and broader global conditions?
  • What critical roles do adults play in supporting and facilitating youth participation?
  • What do we know about the significance of different institutional, governmental and legislative contexts at the local and national levels in supporting young people's participation?
  • What are the distinctive issues in young people's participation in planning and design?
  • What are the relevant historical antecedents in the evolution of participatory approaches involving children and youth?

We invite you to read the dozens of papers in this issue, written by scholars and practitioners, as well as young people themselves, from over 37 countries around the world. Together, they offer a wonderfully rich account of how children and youth can be involved in pushing the boundaries of research and practice to improve their lives, their communities and the environment.

Caitlin Cahill is an assistant professor of Community Studies at the University of Utah. Trained in environmental psychology at the City University of New York, Caitlin also has years of experience working in the art and design education fields. Her work focuses upon young people's well-being, collaborative and participatory action research approaches, racial equity, global urban restructuring, critical race and feminist theory, social justice and change. Check out for an example of a participatory research project Caitlin developed with six young women who grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City. This fall Caitlin is starting a new participatory project entitled Growing Up in Salt Lake City.

Roger Hart Roger Hart is Professor of Environmental Psychology and Geography and co-directs the Children's Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Dr. Hart’s research has focused on understanding the everyday lives of children and youth, and he has been particularly concerned with practical applications of theory and research to the creation of policy, to the planning and design of children’s environments and to environmental education. In recent years, Dr. Hart has been more broadly concerned with developing research and programs that foster young people’s participation in their communities. To this end, he has collaborated in a number of countries with UNICEF and the Save the Children Alliance on research and programs related to children’s rights.