Voices That Build was a deliberative process that took proposals from children and adolescents and provided web-based and face-to-face deliberation to produce 80 initiatives geared toward better uses of time for adolescents and children.
Problems and Purpose
The purpose of the project was to promote participation of children and adolescents while also making their participation visible. The participation was aimed at encouraging and fostering adolescent’s recognition of their rights in their cities and municipalities and to provide a space for them to express their ideas and solutions to their perceived issues. The project sought to emphasize children’s citizenship and recognize the ability of children to overcome violations of their rights and find creative ways to address the issues and improve their interactions in their territories. Proposals on child-relevant initiatives were sources through workshops and an online platform to give children a direct say in the decisions that affect them.
Background History and Context
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was held in 1989. The convention set a precedent that children are not just objects under the guardianship of their parents, but they are subjects who are interacting in the greater social context. The convention determined that children were capable of participating in the greater social context. Colombia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and they emphasized the rights of the child to express their ideas in 1991 with their constitution. The participation of children in their citizenship was not emphasized until the early 2000’s. Voices That Build recognized the rights of children to be a part of the larger social context and to work to provide solutions to the problems in their communities. The project recognized that children faced certain social risks in their municipalities in Colombia, and the project sought to seek a solution with the children’s interests being an integral part of the conversation. The project began and ended in 2014 and it has not been replicated since.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Somos Mas Corporation is the originating entity along with the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The organization recruited 40,000 participants through a web platform who voted and commented on proposals made by children. They also had 2,000 children and adults who participated in face-to-face workshops in following 18 territories: Riohacha, Barranquilla, Valledupar, Monteria, Achi, Cucuta, Bahia Solano, Bucaramanga, Tunja, Buenaventura, Cali, Villavicencia, Mitu, Popayan, Tumaco, Pasto, Puerto Asis, and San Jose del Guaviare.
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The workshops were conducted with both children and adults. The workshops were carried out in a playful manner in order to include both child participants and adult participants. The workshops had a progression of dialogue in mind starting with a time for discussions about experiences, discussions about reflections, and discussions about building concepts and deliverables. The workshops were structured to have 6 aims: 1) awareness, 2) recognition of the territory, 3) construction of the concept of participation, 4) construction of the concept of reconciliation, 5) construction of a strategy to promote participation, and 6) evaluations. There was some difficulty because the workshops lasted 8 hours, and the children were tired by the end of the process. Because of this, the children were not as present in the work by the time of the discussions for building concepts.
Utilizing the information revealed and discussed during the workshops, the Somos Mas Corporation created a web platform in which users could vote on the initiatives proposed by children. 40,000 participants voted on and commented on the proposals which led to 80 initiatives being selected to be areas of focus in Colombia. Most of the initiatives that were selected were geared toward better uses of free time for adolescents. Somas Mas corporation mapped out actors such as political and community resources that would be beneficial in the implementation of the proposals.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The organization was able to come up with 80 different initiatives aimed at better uses of time for adolescents and children through the deliberation process. The organization was then able to map out and articulate different resources and social actors from the private and public sphere who would be willing to donate their time and resources. The resources collected were placed on a web-based platform.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
It is crucial to create initiatives and programs with the people who will be most effected by them. It is important to work under the assumption that people are the experts of their own problems. In this case, utilizing children to solve their own issues was crucial to creating useful programs.
 "ParticipAcción, Voces que Construyen," Somos Mas, Accessed June 3, 2019, https://somosmas.org/project/participaccion-voces-que-construyen/
Voting Platform [ARCHIVED]: https://web.archive.org/web/20160112192207/http://www.vocesqueconstruyen.co/
The original submission of this case entry was written by Savanna George, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views expressed in the current version are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.