Bijan Kimiagar, Environmental Psychology
My research looks at how even young children have the capacities to organize themselves into groups and cooperate toward shared goals. Article 15 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child supports this capacity by ensuring children’s right to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly. The ways children exercise this right takes multiple forms, whether organizing pick-up games and recreational sports, to political protests and young people’s engagement in civil society organizations. Prior to and in the wake of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, many types of children’s organizations formed to meet children’s various needs, as well as the intentions of adults looking to protect, provide for, and even control children in groups. From the Boy and Girl Scout troops around the world, to the working children’s unions and child rights clubs in Latin America and South Asia, children come together in a variety of settings to organize activities for themselves and in partnership with adults. What is surprising is how little research there is to understand and support how children participate in the governance of their own organizations, that is how they elect leadership, define membership, and decide group goals and agendas.
The goal of my dissertation research is to document and analyze the organizational structures and decision-making processes of a diverse sample of children’s membership groups from around the world. The purpose of this goal is to identify different types and qualities of children’s membership groups and how each affords different opportunities for children to develop and exercise their citizenship and capacities for self-governance in groups. This analysis will focus on how contemporary children’s membership groups reflect and constitute new perspectives of childhood citizenship, which have emerged in recent decades since the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The data included in this analysis come from the Article 15 Project, a collaboration among researchers at the Children’s Environments Research Group and international child-centered community development agencies aimed at creating a set of highly visual and child-friendly methods that allow children’s groups to gather and analyze data on how they organize themselves.