5.2 | Adapting tools to the context and participants

The choice of tools for co-design varies depending on the children’s age group, gender, social class, cultural and educational background, abilities, and geographical location among other factors. Children’s cultures, experiences and environments shape their capabilities, and so it is important to use tools and materials that they are familiar with. Regardless of age, some children may not be literate or familiar with certain technologies. Child development does not necessarily follow a linear path and may not unfold in the same ways across diverse cultures or in different parts of the world. Some research methods may also be more appropriate for children of certain ages than for others.

It is important to adapt the tools in order to engage equally all children, including children with disabilities. For example, working with children with visual impairments often means radically adapting existing tools so that visual skills are not part of the activities (e.g. instead utilising verbal communication, sounds, music, touch).

Most tools proposed in this handbook, unless specifically stated, are recommended to be used with children aged four years and above, but they can be adapted to incorporate younger children and children with diverse capabilities. The activities must be based on play and be fun and enjoyable for the children. The facilitators should also enjoy the sessions and make it clear that there are no right or wrong answers, but that all opinions are respected.

One factor to consider when planning participatory activities with displaced children is that some may be particularly distressed about the loss of the roles they used to have in their home countries. Such roles may have once allowed them to meaningfully contribute to their community’s social and economic life. These roles may have allowed children to learn and develop important life skills, and were fundamental for their social integration and self-esteem. Having lost these opportunities following displacement, children may consequently not value the importance of play and education in their development and wellbeing. Integrating similar roles and skills into participatory design activities may prove useful and be welcomed. Some international organisations (such as War Child Holland) have developed methods for community engagement that are adapted to the local context by each country’s office. This is important as the context of a particular place greatly impacts the way the processes should be carried out on the ground.

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