Ladder of participation

Image in: Hart (1992, p. 8)

“One of the most surprising critiques of the model has been the desire of some to transform the top rung of the ladder to be ‘children in charge’ or children’s decision-making without adults. The top rung of the ladder as it was drawn in the original essay was called ‘child initiate, shared decision with adults’. My purpose in creating this scheme had not been to argue naively that we should think of children as repressed individuals who needed to be liberated through a series of steps whereby all adult engagement was removed. My concern was rather to argue that children’s potentials as citizens needs to be recognized to the fullest, and to that end, children ought to be able to participate at times at their highest possible level. This highest possible degree of citizenship in my view is when we, children or adults, not only feel that we can initiate some change ourselves but when we also recognize that it is sometimes appropriate to also invite others to join us because of their own rights and because it affects them too, as fellow-citizens.” (Hart, 2008, p. 24).


Hart, R. (1992). Children’s Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship. Florence, Italy: UNICEF. International Child Development

Hart, R. (2008). Stepping back from ‘The ladder’: Reflections on a model of participatory work with children. In Participation and learning (pp. 19-31). Springer, dordrecht.

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