Child-led research in a non-government  organisation

Burnside conducted a project to give children the opportunity to lead and generate their own knowledge about the world. They aimed to build children’s skills and capacity to research and present their ideas in ways that were meaningful to them.

To do this, they provided training to nine children on how to conduct their own research based on an established training model. They met weekly over a period of six months. The training model was 18 weeks in total.

All the children were supported and resourced to carry out their own research project on a topic of their choice and then supported to disseminate their work. The project was externally evaluated and the evaluation included obtaining the children’s views.

Resources included:

  • a venue conducive to children and young people’s learning
  • facilitators with expertise in both children’s research and working with vulnerable children
  • IT (computers, audio recorders, projector), stationery and other material resources for use as teaching aids
  • program budget for transport, catering and additional recreation sessions
  • consent forms that supported the principles of informed, ongoing consent
  • supporting documentation – newsletters, monthly reports, case notes, session reviews
  • a Supportive Project Advisory group with the capacity to make decisions at the required levels within the organisation.

The external evaluation found that children enjoyed and valued being part of the program. They were satisfied with the way it was delivered. There were positive benefits for the children and young people in terms of developing skills and improved well being. The facilitators and the organisation also benefited.

In the words of some of the children who participated:

burnside-case-study-photo“They knew how to explain the stuff to different people … some of us knew stuff on a different level, so some of us are smarter and some of us aren’t so smart.”

“I’m more confident now – I was really quiet … I noticed it when I started making jokes and doing more stuff and talking a lot more and laughing … because I used to not know a lot and once you learn a lot more it just makes you confident to put it out there.”


Of the three facilitators, only one had research experience. If the program were run again, it would be ideal to increase the number of facilitators with research expertise to more easily address children’s individual needs during the program.