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Children, Communities and Social Capital

in Australia


Building strong communities, fostering social inclusion and strengthening social capital are key elements of social policy agendas in many countries.  Policies often assume children will benefit from community strengthening and social inclusion initiatives, or assume that children can act as a catalyst for bringing adults together. But what do children themselves say about community?  How do children define community?  What do they value about community and what would they change if given the option?

The Children, Communities and Social Capital in Australia project was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant and carried out in partnership with The Benevolent Society and NAPCAN.

I was lead researcher on this project, and worked with Professor Jan Mason from the University of Western Sydney, and a fantastic team of researchers: Tahira Jabeen, Yu Wei Neo and Hannah McInnes.

We undertook research with 108 children in six communities across three states in Australia, using participatory, rights-based methods, to better understand what strong and supportive communities look like from a child standpoint. 

A key outcome of the research is the Community Jigsaw - a child-centred tool for assessing the pieces of a community that must be in place if it is to be a supportive of children. The Community Jigsaw is a powerful example of the co-production of knowledge between children and researchers. It has been updated as a result of additional research with children to ensure its ongoing relevance.

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