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Myönteinen Tunnistaminen logoPositive Recognition – a theoretically informed practical approach to encountering and working with children and young people

Developed in long-standing research of Space and Political Agency Research Group (SPARG), in interdisciplinary and multi-professional collaboration. Ongoing development in various projects, currently with Save the Children Finland, SOS Children’s Village, Children of the Station, Juvenia Youth Research and Develoment Centre. (For details, see Publications)

Our research on child and youth policy, children’s rights, and with children and youths proposes that preventing undesirable and harmful developments during childhood and youth requires support for mundane engagements with children and young people, including importantly with professionals. Children and young people’s everyday encounters with significant others are not distinct from inclusion or exclusion at broader scales, but entail tactics through which inclusion is established from their own starting points. Positive experiences in everyday environments involving affectionate relationships may hence contribute to broader resilience against difficult circumstances and increase engagement in the society.

Hence, to complement early intervention policies aimed specifically at groups readily identified as marginalised, we have developed Positive Recognition as an approach that aims at a broader acknowledgement and empowerment of children and youth in their everyday lives. Importantly, this work has involved ‘co-creation’ with professionals from different fields and institutional contexts.

Leaning on theories of recognition and based on our empirical findings, Positive Recognition offers scientifically justified practical tools for developing strategies and practices in professional work with children and young people, for example in the nursery, school and youth work. The basic aim is to bring children and adults into dialogical relations with each other and strengthen their experiences of being encountered respectfully – as persons worthy of being heard as themselves. The practice-oriented framework builds through three interlinked facets.

  1. The first facet of positive recognition is getting to know children and young people as persons in their lived realities. Many professional participants in our research have confirmed how it is not self-evident that children and young people are encountered for ‘who they really are’. Instead, relying to (the often labelling) categorisations, emerging from institutional accounts and presumptions, remain common.
  2. The second facet of positive recognition builds upon the idea that by getting to know young persons, it is possible to provide due acknowledgement, related to matters that children and young people themselves consider significant in their current lives. This aspect is essential in distinguishing positive recognition from early intervention, and from giving general (positive) feedback.
  3. The third facet of positive recognition, emphasising it as a mode of operation, focuses on supportive measures. Our idea of support builds strongly on familiarisation and acknowledgment that, together, help professionals to build trust with and reach out to children and young people from their own starting points. Positive recognition cultivates mutual understanding of what kind of support is appropriate and fitting in each context.