Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Young people are patronized. In circumstances where young people are at the whim of the state—whether as residents in institutions or juvenile delinquent centers, hospital patients, under state stewardship with welfare or as students—there is little to no opportunity for young people’s voice to be heard. Programmes working with young people are almost entirely adult-led, and traditional participatory methodologies have been tried over and over, but have little focus on actually getting adults to listen, and lack follow-up. Common in the youth arena, activists demand change and confrontational approach provides few solutions and makes institutions recoil.
Norway, among all countries, has an extremely strong arm of the state, and as such can have a paternalistic attitude to citizens and “service users.” Norway also has a strong national identity tied to the idea of being a “perfect society,” so addressing problems head on can be difficult. Young people, or any recipients of care, are those most insightful about their needs and the changes that would best suit them, yet their voices are not only not incorporated, they are not solicited at all. The Norwegian government uses an outdated study from the United States as a basis for much of its child policy. A recent report from UNDP sent a clear message that Norway lags behind on the Convention for the Rights of the Child, yet little action was taken. Young people have little outlet to articulate their needs in a positive way, monitor progress, and participate in an ongoing manner.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Marit Sanner has realized that the people who know the most about problematic systems are the victims of them, and the systems changing solutions are within the people within those systems. Marit has crafted a methodology to get young people to identify these systems-changing ideas, build youth consensus on what they are, and open direct communication between service users and implementing agencies in power to create real change. She is getting adults in power to listen to children, placing young people as the experts in the policies that concern them, and gathering and inserting their voice, experience, and advice into policy. With Forandsringfabrikken (Change Factory), she gathers insight from children under state care—from foster children and the chronically ill to those in the juvenile justice system or on welfare--and packages it. She has designed a methodology that approaches kids as professionals, using participatory styles of visuals, projects, and engaging tools to get kids to voice their opinions. From their perspectives, they choose the "change keys"--the most efficient and common critiques and ideas, and the young people present them in small magazines to policy makers in dialogues as a collective answer. Following the methodology, compiling, and presenting, she creates a corps of "lobbyists" to help push for the shifts they suggest, with success. She is working broadly in Norway and getting a lot of interest internationally. The Ministry of Children and Youth in Norway has asked kids to design changes on several levels as a result of Marit’s work, and the Justice Minister has worked with participating kids to design alternatives to jail. Her goal is to teach nations a proven way to genuinely listen to children in a respectful, real way.