WHAT CONSTITUTES CHILD-CENTERED DESIGN?
Child-centered design combines service design, children’s rights and a child-centered approach. One of the contributing factors to child-centered design is the perspective of positive recognition. The process and design tools are based on service design. Allowing children’s rights to steer our activities ensures the ethically sound basis of the development process and the service being developed. In this context, child orientation is an attitude and operating method: we see the child as a valuable actor in the development process.
This combination can be used to develop ethically sustainable services that meet cuctomer needs while simultaneously ensuring that the development is pleasant and meaningful for all parties involved.
SERVICE DESIGN PROCESS
The service design process consists of three nodes that steer the work and two that take turns expanding and specifying the work phases. The work does not begin in a vacuum as the need to develop something new or change old ways is usually sparked by customer feedback, professional insight or other information.
Initially, it is important to define the design challenge: What do we want to change? The specification is followed by more detailed scrutiny of the challenge and its background. Customer understanding is expanded until there is sufficient information, after which a transition is made to the analysis phase. At this stage, the question is specified further: Which target group’s needs do we need to meet to achieve the desired change? Once the design challenge has been specified and delineated, it is time to come up with ideas for solutions. The brainstorming phase can be somewhat meandering. The solution proposals created in the idea phase are tested before decision which proposal will be implemented and how.
The work process is never quite this straightforward and, at times, it is necessary to go back to rethink and redo things. This is why the nodes are so important. They ensure project success but also provide the opportunity to stop and make sure that the correct focus has been maintained. These intermittent stops are necessary to drive the process forward. The duration of the service design process varies and depends on whether or not development is conducted as a component of the work process or through project arrangements.
In child-centered design, the child-centric approach is the common thread that keeps the objective and target group in sharp focus. The parties involved must commit to child orientation, but otherwise the service design process or work methods cannot be pre-planned from start to finish – they must be permitted to evolve along the way. Changes in course are never failures and instead provide opportunities for learning and gaining experience. The right path can only be found by trying different things.
Child-centered design is guided by the general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which are set out in four articles. These articles form the foundation on which all other rights secured by the UNCRC are built and through which they are interpreted. The numbers refer to the number of the UNCRC article in question.
- 6.Every child has the right to life, survival and development. Development refers to physical, psychological, spiritual, moral and social development.
- 12.Every child has the right to freely express their views in all matters affecting them. These views must be taken into account according to the age and development level of the children expressing them.
- 2.The rights of the child apply to all children. Children may not be discriminated against based on their own appearance, origin, opinions or other characteristic or that of their parents.
- 3.The best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions, actions and plans that affect children.
In child-centered design, children participate in the process by producing information, developing ideas for solutions and providing feedback. Adults must consider children’s rights in all phases of the process. The adults must also ensure that children are not discriminated against and that they receive sufficient information to understand the context.
In assessing the interests of children, their own views must always be considered. The working methods selected must enable children to express themselves in ways that they feel comfortable with and to affect the flow of the process. Participation in the development process must never be harmful to the child. It is the duty of the adults involved to ensure that the children feel safe throughout the work efforts and that their privacy is protected.
The design process can offer children with fun and interesting things to do. Through participation, they can ideally gain experiences of success and making a difference.
POSITIVE RECOGNITION AND CHILD-ORIENTATION
One of the underlying factors affecting child-centered design is the perspective of positive recognition, which focuses on engaging with children here and now as active, influencing and developing actors in their day-to-day communities. Conscious attention is paid to the children’s various strengths and successes. The perspective is always steered from the scrutiny of personal challenges towards supporting communal well-being and agency. Positive recognition reinforces the children’s experience of being important and appreciated exactly as they are. This helps them find their place among peers, be understood in matters important to them, and influence things in a meaningful way in peer communities and with adults.
Getting to know each child in question is at the core of positive recognition. Only through open and unprejudiced engagement can adults identify matters that are important to children and provide support in a way that takes their views into account.
Child-centered design sees the child as an equal and active actor. Child orientation means that children and their perspectives are considered in all phases of the process. The experiences of children and any insights gained from them are just as valuable as any views provided by adults or specialists. It is the adults’ responsibility to ensure that children are seen as individuals and that the process seeks to understand their thoughts and experiences. Adults can get to know children through empathy by stepping into the shoes of children and seeing the world through their eyes.
Participation in service design should always be voluntary for children.