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The First Meeting of the Key Institutions 1994 Ranten, Norway

Together with the Norwegian Centre for Child Research (NOSEB) Childwatch International invited leading institutions within the field of child research to discuss modalities for closer cooperation under the Childwatch umbrella. Directors and other representatives from 15 institutions world-wide participated in the meeting which took place 1-4 September 1994 at Ranten Hotel, Nesbyen, Norway. This report gives the background and objectives of the meeting, and presents the conclusions concerning follow up activities.  

1. Background and Objectives of the Meeting
2. Participating Institutions
3. Priorities for further Cooperation
4. Information exchange
5. Data bases
6. Mapping of existing capacities
7. Capacity building
8. Funding
9. Outreach
10. Identifying priority projects
11. Immediate follow-up and relevant Childwatch Activities
12. Regular up-dates and other channels of communication
13. Overview of institutions and on-going research
14. Capacity building
15. Conclusions

1. Background and Objectives of the Meeting

In order to expand the group of institutions actively involved in the network, the Childwatch Executive Board decided to establish a core group of institutions – key institutions. The Board specifically wanted to identify institutions or organisations involved with child research to participate in such a process. The institutional approach, the Board hoped, would ensure more long term commitments than what individual researchers normally can make. Childwatch' first year of operation has verified the need for an international network for child research to convey information and knowledge based on facts and reliable analysis on children's situation to those who develop policies and programmes for children. By establishing a closer cooperation between some key partners, and combining their experience and capacity, the process of identifying and initiating new research projects could become more effective. Also, the needs of governments, UN agencies and NGOs could be served more effectively. Childwatch is set up to play an active role in this process together with leading institutions and could function as a facilitator in this process by: - Coordinating dissemination of information; - Coordinating feasibility studies and need assessments; - Setting up an active database on ongoing research activities; - Operating an electronic conference for the key partners; - Identifying funding sources for joint projects Towards the backdrop of experience that Childwatch already has gained through the activities mentioned above, as well as the experience of the participating institutions, the Childwatch Executive Board envisioned a discussion of ways and means to establish and formalise international cooperation within the framework of Childwatch, such as: - Identifying projects for cooperation; - Finding appropriate ways of implementing the commitment towards capacity building; - Identifying dissemination projects and channels for exchange of information; - Setting up a resource pool of professionals for missions, seminars, consultancies etc. In doing this, a process of more permanent cooperation could be established, through which the participating institutions could strengthen their own individual programmes and consolidate a strong international body of knowledge on the situation of children.

2. Participating Institutions

CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF THE CHILD & SOCIETY, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW was established in 1992 with a donation £ 250.000 from the Dioceses of Scotland, and is located in the social science faculty of the University of Glasgow. The objectives of the Centre are to improve the quality of children's lives by providing a child centred base base for research, training and practice on children's issues. The approach is inter-disciplinary and cross-professional. Currently the Centre gives priority to three thematic areas which determine the main activities, and thes are Child Care, Children's Rights and Children, Crime and Justice. Though a new Centre, by October 15th 1994, there were ten members of staff working across all of the thematic areas. The Centre has an international remit and is involved in a number of European activities involving collaboration with colleagues in France, Romania, Lithuania and elsewhere.

CENTRE INTERNATIONAL DE L'ENFANCE, PARIS was established in 1949 and has an international executive board. The Centre receives its core funding from among others the French Government, UNESCO and UNICEF. Main focus of the centre's activities is on health and development of children in developing countries and in France. The Centre is particularly known for its long-term action for capacity building through a) stimulation of research; b) training courses; c) technical support; and d) dissemination of documentation. A multi-disciplinary scientific team works with an approach that combines research and training. During the last years, the Centre has widened its scope of to include issues relating to the rights of the child, psychosocial, legal and ecological issues, such as the environment of children, socio-economic effects of diseases, and has invested in a large documentation centre with i.a. a CD-Rom subscription service giving easy access to its bibliographical data base.
CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS DEL MENOR (CEM), MADRID is a subdepartment of the State Office for the Legal Protection of Juveniles which in turn is part of the Ministry of Social Affairs. It was established in 1988 with the aim to offer support in the form of information, training or material, to professionals, scholars, volunteers and the general public, as well as to public and private institutions and their representatives who attend to children and their families, solving their problems and promoting their general welfare. In accordance with these aims the CEM, amongst other things, promotes, participates and coordinates with other organisations within the framework of specific programmes which provide information, training and research for the general public or for specific groups of people. CEM is divided into working sectors, such as training service, documentation sector, research sector and family service.

CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTRE OF CHINA (CDCC) was established in 1983 as part of the programme of
cooperation between the Government of China and UNICEF. The research of the Centre is based on a multi-disciplinary and applied approach to child development. Four aspects of child development are currently in the focus of research and training activities: a) scientific child rearing; b) situation of only child families; c) situation of the girl child; and d) child personality development. CDCC has a large outreach in terms of dissemination of information and training particularly aimed at populations in remote and/or poor areas of China.

THE CHILDHOOD PROGRAMME, EUROPEAN CENTRE, VIENNA was established in 1986, and has particularly focussed on developing a comprehensive understanding of modern childhood in European countries. Its activities have included a series of expert meetings, on themes such as Trends in Child Welfare: Experiences with and Alternatives to Compulsory Custodial Care', Children at Risk - future Developments in Child Welfare and Family Policy, and Politics of Childhood' and Children at Risk: Provision - Protection - Participation'. Further, the Childhood Programme has published a series of reports on the situation of children in various European countries based on the research of a group of sociologists studying current trends and concerns in industrialised countries, such as a) the demographic transformation that has lead to a decreasing share of children and an increasing share of adult and elderly persons in the total population; b) the relative impoverishment of children; c) alarming symptoms of special stress on groups of children, e.g. physical, sexual and emotional child abuse, child labour, international trade with children, children in areas of war and violence, street children; and d) the process of implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in a manner that corresponds with Œthe best interests of the child'.

THE CONSORTIUM ON CHILDREN, FAMILIES & THE LAW was created in 1987 to facilitate collaborative
research, education and consultation on critical issues in child and family policy. The Consortium includes eight member centres and four affiliated organisations in USA. All of the member centres of the Consortium are university-based, inter-disciplinary and actively involved in research, policy analysis, graduate, professional and community education, consultation to policy makers, and technical assistance to programme administrators. All are committed to research and scholarship to inform policy makers about empowering families and enhancing child development. The Consortium conducts periodic study groups to synthesise knowledge and concepts to public policy. The Consortium plans to expand the information base available to child and family policy makers.

THE CONSULTATIVE GROUP ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, CARE AND DEVELOPMENT (CG) is an international, inter-agency group dedicated to improving the conditions of young children at risk. The CG grounds its work in a cross-disciplinary view of child care and development. The CG a) works to increase the knowledge base on children's development drawing from field experiences, traditional wisdom and scientific research; b) works to increase awareness of issues affecting children, developing materials and strategies to help move communities, organisations and governments from rhetoric to practice, from policy to programming; c) fosters networking among those with common concerns and interests within the field of early childhood development and care; and d) engages in a dialogue with funders and decision-makers about developments in the field, providing the base for policy formulation, planning, programming and implementation. Participation in CG is possible at three levels, as donors, affiliates or network participants. The CG is facilitated by a secretariat, housed in the UNICEF Headquarters in New York. Administrative backstopping has been provided by the High/Scope Foundation. Financial support for the Secretariat comes from participating organisations.

TOKYO is established with the purpose of clarifying genetic and environmental factors (including social factors) for diseases and development of children by genetic, epidemiological and behavioral research. Projects are mainly focussed on the following topics: Child living and development, child rearing (including child abuse and support systems for parents needing help with child rearing), quality of life for chronically ill children, national wide survey of diseases in Japan. Funding comes for the National Children's Medical Research Center, the Ministry of Health and Welfare as well as various foundations.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, KENYATTA UNIVERSITY, NAIROBI has been actively involved in research on children in since the early 1970s, i.a. in collaboration with the Child Development Research Unit founded by the Harvard University School of Education and funded by the Carnegie corporation of New York. The activities of the department include research projects such as: 'Intelligence and Development Tests for East Africa', 'African Children Intelligence Tests', 'Child Survival and Development' and training projects such as 'Early Childhood Project', 'Child-to-Child Project', 'Kenya-Danish Health Project' and 'Strengthening Primary Education'. The department wants to initiate an international collaborative research project on the social and psychological problems encountered by children in difficult circumstances, including an evaluation of programmes aimed at such groups of children.

THE FAMILY LIFE DEVELOPMENT CENTER, CORNELL UNIVERSITY was established by New York State in 1974. It s mission is to improve professional and public efforts to understand and deal with risk factors in the lives of children, youth, families and communities that lead to family violence and neglect. It focuses on strategies and programmes to help vulnerable children and youth by strengthening families and communities. As an inter-disciplinary unit of the College of Human Ecology, the Center accomplishes its mission through research, training, outreach and education. It carries out its mandate through programme development, implementation and evaluation projects serving New York State, the nation and the international community. The Center receives core funding from New York State and currently operates over $ 4 million in programs funded through competitive grants and contracts at the state and federal levels. The Center occupies offices on the Cornell campus at Ithaca, and in New York City.

FUNDACIÓN PANIAMOR, COSTA RICA is a non-governmental organisation that was established in 1987 to improve the quality of life of Costa Rica's children, youth and families, particularly through training in the prevention of child abuse and efforts to reduce interpersonal violence. Paniamor also has a child abuse prevention programme and incorporates the basic tenets of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in all its efforts and works to promote the recognition of children and youth as human beings with inalienable rights. The organisation tries to serve as a link between various groups in civil society to ensure the implementation of children's rights. In terms of research, it particularly encourages research needed to provide appropriate information of the situation and welfare of children, and promotes the view that research could be used to prove the effect of programmes for children.

INSTITUT DE L'ENFANCE ET DE LA FAMILLE (IDEF), PARIS was created in 1984 and receives its funding from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. It has a national Executive Board, with representatives from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Education, the National Union of Family Associations, the French Committee for UNICEF, national public agencies involved in family policies and renowned researchers within this field. The institute is dedicated to deepen, expand and to disseminate general or specific knowledge about childhood and families in France as well as in other European countries. The purpose is to stimulate inter-disciplinary research and publications, to analyse significant trends of the professional practices, and to promote appropriate public policies within relevant areas. IDEF has a multi-disciplinary team, and a public documentation centre connected with other centres. Since its creation IDEF has been known as a key institution for the promotion and the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in France (especially in the fields of social, educational and cultural rights of protection and expression). IDEF is also devoted to such issues as assessment of child abuse and neglect, international adoption, new parental responsibilities created by the formal recognition of the rights of the child, changes in the role and status of fathers, new trends in the field of childhood health promotion and social welfare, children families and medical drugs, childhood, family and death. IDEF has a formalised cooperation with the Centre International de L'enfance in Paris on issues of common interest.

THE NORWEGIAN CENTRE FOR CHILD RESEARCH (NOSEB) is a national, inter-disciplinary centre supporting both basic and applied child research. Its purpose is to enlarge the knowledge of how children's development is affected by social, historical, cultural and psychological processes. With its inter-disciplinary profile, clear research goals and nationally-mandated responsibility for child research, NOSEB is also uniquely suited to play a constructive role in the wider European and international context. Research activities of the centre have particularly focussed on childhood in a cultural perspective, socialisation in a historical context, children's social development and surroundings for growing up, children and the environment. NOSEB was established in 1982 and was declared a permanent national research institution in 1988. The Centre is connected to the University of Trondheim through the general scientific research foundation ALLFORSK, and receives its
core funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

UNIT FOR CHILD AND YOUTH RESEARCH, TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, BOMBAY was set up with the initial support from UNICEF. From l974, it is an integral part of the Institute The Institute is deemed University and supported by the University Grants Commission, New Delhi. The Unit reflects the philosophy of the Tata Institute according to which it is the responsibility of academics towards society to ensure that research could be applied. The principal objectives of the Unit are: (i) to conduct inter-disciplinary research in relation to the needs and services for child and youth development, (ii) to develop teaching material and to conduct workshops, training programmes and conferences/seminars for programme personnel, policy planners, and trainers in the field of child and youth development, (iii) to document, disseminate and exchange information on issues concerned with children and youth, (iv) to undertake demonstrative social action research projects, and (v) to provide technical assistance to government and non-governmental agencies for appropriate interventions to support the actions for children towards a better life.

Currently the Unit's faculty works on issues related to rights of children, psycho-social development of children, adolescents and their environment, early childhood care, day care, the girl child, growing up at work and on and off the streets, (child labour, street children), substance use/abuse, youth culture and social change. The Unit's faculty is multidisciplinary and undertakes collaborative research with national, UN and other international institutions.

THE CENTER FOR RESEARCH ON CHILDHOOD, UNIVERSIDADE SANTA URSULA, RIO DE JANEIRO has as its primary objective the exchange of information, stimulation of knowledge, and promotion of research on, and social action for, impoverished and marginalised children. The Centre was founded in 1984 and has carried out and published research, promoted debate, and oriented students and professionals interested in delving more deeply into this field. The Centre's main commitment to the children's issue in Brazil is founded on active involvement in social change, aimed at improving living conditions for a vast number of children and adolescents now condemned to subhuman conditions in their struggle for survival. Priority lines of action include: developing a documentation centre on childhood and adolescence among low-income-sectors in Brazil, promoting a public debate on children's conditions for growing up, training future professionals, promoting joint research projects with other institutions, and facilitating communication among different social actors involved in child welfare in Brazil (educators, researchers, social planners and decision makers).

3. Priorities for further cooperation

Although very different in structure, funding and mandate, the participating institutions defined themselves as having many common objectives and concerns. Most typically, they stressed the advantage of a multi-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary approach in child research, the need to take an applied or action-oriented approach, and the need to seek partnerships with, or outreach to, those who work with children on a daily basis as well as those who define policies for children at various levels in society. Capacity building was another issue of common concern, ranging from training of child welfare professionals to assisting the academic community in developing countries. In terms of their own research activities, they stressed the need for a better overview of what is going on globally within the field of child research and what is being published. Outreach to colleagues in other countries was seen as both a means to improve quality of own research, and as a means to improve quality and usefulness of child research globally. Childwatch was seen as a tool that could be used effectively in facilitating such a synergetic process and coordinating joint projects.

On the last day of the meeting these common concerns or interests were analysed in order to identify future joint efforts to address these concerns through international cooperation, and how Childwatch could serve as a facilitator. The meeting decided to cluster the various issues in groups to be followed up by task forces. Representatives from institutions especially interested in – or are already involved in – relevant activities could work together to develop a strategy and workplan and to come up with specific project proposals. The following clusters were tentatively established:

4. Information exchange

Participants felt that there is a lack of information about other institutions and what they are focussing on. A number of actions were suggested to improve the flow of information among institutions involved in child research, and to increase each individual institution_s knowledge of what is going on in the others:

a) develop a standardised format of information on institutions

b) circulate semi-annual updates through Childwatch

c) send other kinds of relevant information to Childwatch for dissemination, such as published materials, description of projects, information on existing data, conferences, meetings, who subscribes on which journals/periodicals, library inventories

d) exchange mailing lists

e) exchange support to translate material into other languages than own working language to increase the effect of information dissemination

5. Data bases

Data bases seemed to be a concern to all participating institutions, either the need for, the lack of, or problems connected with establishing or maintaining such. There were also concerns about costs, problems of overlap and compatibility between existing and planned data bases. The following actions could be taken to address the issue:

a) identify what the individual institutions currently are doing in terms of establishing and running data bases, a mapping of who is doing what_

b) establish a database of databases

c) define what is meant by a data base, explore the technical and conceptual modalities for data bases, find common approaches to use of language and software

d) develop guidelines for relevant data bases within child research

e) define the purpose of data bases within child research and who their users would be, as well as the relevant sorts of data to be included

6. Mapping of existing capacities

In the extension of the discussion of data bases, the need to create a good overview of what are the capacities of existing child research institutions was identified as another common concern. This could be addressed e.g. through the following actions:

a) identify at least one focal point for child research within each country

b) develop an institutional database

c) map potential capacity (Ph.D.s and graduates)

d) create overview of which languages are used where, i.e. where to find relevant material within each of the major languages

e) map national networks

7. Capacity building

Capacity building in countries with weak infrastructures and capacity for child research is considered important for several reasons: Firstly because research is most needed in the least developed countries to increase knowledge about the situation of children and how to improve their living conditions. Researchers in these countries should have the same opportunities to conduct research and participate in a dialogue on research outcomes as their colleagues in developed countries, as well as access to and take advantage of latest developments in research and dissemination methodologies. Secondly, there is a strong realisation that researchers in developed countries could profit substantially from learning about research that is going on in developing countries. The participants in the meeting were also concerned about the need to assist research communities in countries in transition, such as the republics of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The following action lines were suggested:
a) define the various needs for capacity building or strengthening in developing countries

b) establish a data base on resource people

c) define various means and mechanisms for capacity building

d) address the question of ethics in child research, both in developed and developing countries

e) arrange training courses

f) establish exchange programmes

g) set up workshop/manual on publications

h) develop plan on how to create centres

i) identify strengths of already existing institutions in developing countries

8. Funding

All institutions are constantly searching funding, both for their general budgets and for specific projects. In order to facilitate and support fundraising, the following actions could be further explored:

a) establish database on funding agencies (formal/informal info)

b) develop programmes to educate_ donors, i.e. give them more specific information on research needs and the usefulness of various types of research

c) develop strategies for more systematic approach to contractors

d) develop new approaches to co-funding (filtering process)

e) clarify role that Childwatch could play in fundraising and identification of potential funding sources

f) explore ways to maximise potential of money

g) promote long-term commitments of donors

9. Outreach

There is a need for strategies concerning outreach to target groups outside of the circles of child research. This goes both for dissemination of information from child research and for partnerships with groups outside of the research community. Activities could include:

a) develop strategies for dissemination of results of research, e.g. through Childwatch-TV and other media

b) develop strategies for working with children, peers, public, policy makers

c) develop strategies for making impact on decisions concerning children

d)take advantage of existing journals, publications, such as Childhood for dissemination of results of research

10.  Identifying priority projects

In the discussion a number of substantive issues were also mentioned as areas that need research. A joint approach to this issue could e.g. contain the following:

a) develop strategies for identifying and prioritising among areas that need research;

b) develop strategies for division of labour and effective use of resources to avoid unnecessary overlap and replication.

The following substantive issues were mentioned in discussion as deserving special attention:

children in difficult circumstances
children and environment
resilience of children
child rearing
impact of politics on lives of children
children and violence (including domestic violence against children)
relationship between men/fathers and children

This list is by no means exhaustive, but serves as an indication of some themes that are currently on the agendas of some of the participating institutions, or should be included in future research. Further efforts to identify priority areas of research eill need to consult with more thorough overviews of already ongoing research, cf. 6.2 and 6.3 above.

11. Immediate follow-up and Relevant Childwatch Activities

12. Regular up-dates and other channels of communication

As listed above, the participating institutions wanted an arrangement with regular exchange of updates among themselves. Childwatch has made arrangement for distribution through e-mail and fax to the group of regular 6-months updates on each institution, as well as other information concerning upcoming conferences and meetings, new publications etc. All information could be sent to Childwatch and it will be distributed immediately to all participants from the Secretariat. Depending on the wishes of the participating institutions, Childwatch can also set up electronic conferences on specific issues among those who are already on e-mail.

13. Overview of institutions and on-going research

Together with the UNICEF International Child Development Centre, Childwatch is undertaking a European survey of research on issues related to children's rights. The results of this survey will be published in a directory and also made available on diskette. With the cooperation of institutions in the Childwatch network, similar surveys could be carried out in other regions of the world, as well, to create a global overview.

14. Capacity building

Childwatch has established contacts with CODESRIA, an African network of social science research institutions, to explore possiblities for cooperation on training courses in child research. ANPPCAN (the African Network for Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect) has approached Childwatch with a proposal to establish a documentation centre, that would i.a. support the reseach initiatives of the organisation. Both projects will be followed up by Childwatch in terms of involving the relevant key institutions in further planning.

The editor of the journal 'Childhood' has indicated an interest in organising training for authors of articles, in order to conform with international rules for style and format of scientific articles.


The meeting decided that the clusters mentioned above need further discussion in terms of identifying the tasks and the relationships between clusters. However, their most important function for the time being would be as indications of issues that need further elaboration and issues that should be addressed from an inter-institutional approach. Participants in the meeting would consult with the management of their respective institutions for further identification of areas of priority, and where they would want to be involved in the process of follow-up. When three or more institutions have committed themselves to further engagement in an area, task force groups would be set up with Childwatch as facilitator.

The mandates of the various task force groups would be to develop a strategy for each of the clusters in terms of meeting the concerns with concrete action. In most cases there will also be a need for an assessment of the funding needed for the proposed actions, and how that funding could be secured, either through contributions from participating institutions, from external sources (e.g. research foundations) or through a combination.

The group agreed to meet again, and with additional institutions to be invited by the end of 1995. By that time the various task force groups would have had time to develop proposals for actions and workplans for follow-up, and Childwatch would have proceeded with the projects described above (e.g. electronic exchange of information, mapping of institutions).

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Published May 28, 2008 3:27 PM - Last modified Apr. 17, 2013 2:52 PM