Child Participation Case Study

The Ark Children’s Council had a voice in marketing decisions for a festival

How The Ark Children’s Council had a voice in marketing decisions for a festival which took place as part of Dublin City Council’s Cruinniú na nÓg 2022.

Background Information

The Ark is a dedicated cultural centre for children. We create opportunities for children, along with their families and friends or with their school, to discover and love art. Through our work with leading Irish and international artists, children can enjoy performances in our unique child-sized theatre, view engaging exhibitions or participate in creative workshops.

The Ark Children’s Council is a unique opportunity for a group of children of 4th, 5th and 6th class (aged 10 – 13 years) to gain special access to events at The Ark for a full year. The Council are mentored and guided by Ark Artist in Residence Shaun Dunne, a playwright and expert drama artist facilitator. They work together collaboratively over the course of the year, engaging with and responding to The Ark’s busy program.

The council members have at least one key event each month with our Artist in Residence, attendance on these days is required. As well as these bespoke drama workshops, the council have exciting opportunities to look behind the scenes, work with The Ark staff, see and respond to work in development and meet and work with visiting Artists. During their year they can also avail of their ‘Access All Ark’ pass which means they can attend any program or event at The Ark for free.

The Children’s Council is free, but it does require commitment and consistent attendance to the program. Spaces are limited and a new council will be formed every 12-24 months.

In September, following an extensive recruitment process, The Ark welcomed the largest Children’s Council to date. The 2021-2023 Children’s Council is comprised of 38 children from schools in and near Dublin.

Children attending DEIS Schools account for over 50% of our current Children’s Council. We have been able to provide access for children living in emergency accommodation through a partnership with Focus Ireland and to children living in direct provision.

Shaun Dunne, The Ark’s Engagement and Participation Artist in Residence facilitates the sessions with The Ark Children’s Council. The Ark’s Engagement and Participation Coordinator is present at all sessions and takes note of all views expressed and feedback from the Council. Following each session, they write up a report on the session which includes all feedback given by the children. They send this report to The Ark Director and any other relevant members of staff. They also discuss the Council’s feedback as part of their one-to-one with The Ark Director every week.

The Ark Director includes a report on the Children’s Council as part of her bi-monthly meetings with The Ark Board. She explains to The Ark’s Engagement and Participation Coordinator how The Ark Children’s Council’s views are being taken into account by The Director and/or the Board.

The Ark Engagement and Participation Coordinator fed back to The Ark Children’s Council explaining how their views have been taken into account and the reasons for decisions taken.

The project on which we involved children in decision-making

This consultation process with The Ark Children’s Council was for their views on marketing decisions around Still Loading…, a work-in-progress festival which took place as part of Dublin City Council’s Cruinniú na nÓg 2022. The logo and the copy (the description of the festival or event). There were other elements of Still Loading… that smaller sections of the Council were directly involved in, including giving direct feedback to the artists as they developed the piece they were going to share, and designing the feedback area for the event in order to gather feedback from the audiences after the shows. However, for this case study, we are focussing on the marketing and promotional decisions as one aspect that the whole Council participated in.

The decision-makers that facilitated and listening and acting on their views

The Ark’s Engagement & Participation Coordinator and Marketing Coordinator actively listened to their views and The Ark Director signed off on the process and ensured that the views of the children were acted on.

How we gave space, voice, audience and influence to young people’s views


How we ensured a safe and inclusive space to hear the views of young people

Things we considered What we did
The space or setting where we got their views (this may include online settings)
  • As part of The Ark Children’s Council’s core session in April 2022, The Ark sought the Council’s feedback on how it should market Still Loading…, a mini-festival of work-in-progress for children.
  • The Council’s opinions were sought one month before a planned launch date for the event. This session took place in person in The Ark’s workshop space.
How you identified the children and young people to be involved
  • As Still Loading… was an event aimed at children aged 8+, with no specific demographic within this age group, the Children’s Council were well placed to represent this audience.
  • The selection process for the Council is laid out in the introduction
How you involved those who were directly affected by the topic
How early in the process they were involved in decision-making
  • From the beginning, nothing was announced or put on sale until after this process was carried out.
How the process was inclusive and accessible


How we gave young people a voice in decisions

Things we considered What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views
  • To begin the session, Shaun Dunne led a recap conversation about Still Loading… which had been discussed in previous sessions. This ensured that everyone was reminded of what the event was and the Council’s role in shaping the event.
  • The Ark’s Marketing Coordinator joined the session to discuss marketing the event with the children. She explained her role at The Ark and the Council was invited to ask her questions about marketing.
How we made sure they knew their views would be taken seriously
  • The Ark’s Engagement and Participation Coordinator was present throughout the session, visibly taking notes. This helped demonstrate to the Council that their views were being taken seriously.
  • The Marketing Coordinator explained that the views of the children would be incorporated into the 2022 version of the marketing materials.
How we informed them about level of influence they could have on decision-making
  • The Marketing Coordinator showed the Council the 2018 and 2019 Still Loading copies, asking for their feedback on it and what changes they would make for their version for the 2022 event.
  • It was made clear that previous Council members had created the logo, and The Ark wanted to honour their participation and in recognition that this was a new iteration of a previous event. Accordingly, the children were not asked to create a completely new logo or description, but to update and refresh it.
  • This gave them a clear understanding of the parameters of what was being asked of them.
The methods we used to get their views
  • The Marketing Coordinator led an exercise where she asked the children to come up with words that they would use to describe Still Loading.
  • She explained that the new event copy would include their descriptions. This exercise included different options for giving feedback (writing on a sheet of paper, chatting in smaller groups, presenting to the full group), and allowing children different ways to express their views.
  • The Marketing Coordinator and Shaun showed the Council the Still Loading logo used in the latest version of the event.
  • They explained that this logo had been developed by a previous Council. They told the group that a similar logo would be used again to honour that previous Council’s design, but that this Council could input into this year’s colour scheme.
  • In this way, the Marketing Coordinator and Shaun were clear about limitations on decision-making around the logo design.
How we made sure they could identify topics they wanted to discuss

The methodologies used enabled children to raise any suggestions that were relevant to the description and logo for the event.

Please describe the topics and issues they raised
  • The Children’s Council were very engaged in the process of updating the logo and identity of Still Loading. After an initial look at the previous copy and logos for Still Loading, they had a good idea of what they liked and disliked about certain aspects of the design.
  • The discussion around updating the identity was prefaced with an explanation to the Council that the existing logo had been created by previous council members, so it was important to have that in mind when giving constructive feedback and ideas.
  • Overall, the Council liked the existing describing it as creative, enjoyable, wacky, short and sweet!
  • But they had some great ideas on how it could be tweaked. The most prevalent change that the Council wanted to make was a change to the colour scheme.
  • They also felt the wording in the copy examples was a little clunky in places and felt that it was directed more to an adult than a child audience. They had a lively brainstorming session where they came up with lists of words and phrases that they would associate with the event and would be eye-catching to them.
  • The Council liked the nod to the well-known loading symbol within the existing design but felt that the positioning of the circles could be tweaked in order to make the loading symbol clearer.
  • The Council also had some great ideas about making a more animated version of the logo. Adding the effect of a glitch on top was mentioned, as well as having words that describe the performances layered on top of the logo in a video format.

We had an interesting discussion about the colours used for the circles of the loading symbols. Some members suggested keeping the circles all one colour whilst others favoured a rainbow of colours being used. This led to a discussion about the possible overuse of rainbows when it comes to children’s marketing. Some of the members felt that it can be overdone and that just because an event is child cantered, doesn’t mean it has to be covered in rainbow colours. Other children mentioned that although they agree with this, everyone has a favourite colour and it is nice when rainbows are used because it allows people to spot their favourite colour.


How we made sure that there was an audience (decision-makers) for young people’s views

Things we considered What we did
How we developed a report or record of the young people’s view
  • The Ark’s Engagement and Participation Coordinator was present throughout the session, visibly taking notes.
  • As with all Children’s Council sessions, the Engagement and Participation Coordinator wrote up a report following the session which included all feedback given by the children during the session.
  • She sent this report to The Ark Director and all other relevant members of staff.
How we checked back with them that their views were accurately represented
  • The Engagement and Participation Coordinator read her notes back to the children to ensure that their views were accurately recorded.
How we involved the decision-makers who are responsible for influencing change (other than yourself)
  • The Engagement and Participation Coordinator met with The Ark’s Director in person to discuss the views of the children that were raised at the consultation session.
At what point we involved decision makers other than yourself in the process
  • All decision-makers (Ark staff) were involved from the start of the process.
How we and other decision-makers showed our commitment to listening to, and acting on young people’s views
  • The Ark’s Engagement and Participation Coordinator was present throughout the session, visibly taking notes.
  • This helped demonstrate to the Council that their views were being taken seriously.
  • The commitment was reinforced through the process where the children continued to be consulted, giving them a final vote on logo options and sign-off of the description that they wanted to use.
How we supported young people to play a role in communicating their own views to decision-makers
  • The session was set up so that the children were talking directly to the people responsible for the creation of the material being discussed.
  • The final sign-off on the description and the logo was made by The Ark’s Director and the Engagement and Participation Coordinator ensured that the children knew that all of their feedback and decisions would be shared in detail with the Director to help her understand the final versions and to sign them off.


How young people were given updates at key points in the development of the plan

Things we considered What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views
  • Following the consultation session, the Marketing Coordinator created a new version of copy for the 2022 event incorporating the Council’s feedback and descriptions. The Marketing Coordinator emailed all parents/ guardians with this draft copy to ask for children’s feedback.
  • The Marketing Coordinator sent four versions of a new Still Loading… logo which took the children’s design ideas into account. She emailed a link to an online form where children could vote for their favourite design/colour scheme.
How their views were acted on by the appropriate decision-makers (what happened to their views)
  • The event was launched in May 2022. The final copy had been approved by the Council.
  • The Council’s favourite logo design was used as the event image and was used throughout the event.
Whether we continually checked back with children and young people about the ways you used their views with decision-makers (if possible or appropriate)
  • As noted above, the Marketing Coordinator was in contact with the children throughout the development of the final logo design.
How they were given full and age-appropriate feedback explaining how their views were used (or not) and the reasons for decisions taken
  • The children were given full and child-friendly feedback throughout the process through communications from The Ark staff who shared drafts based on the feedback session, with explanations of what feedback was included in the drafts and the process of creating that draft.
  • They also had the opportunity to pick between several options for the final logo and to sign off on the edited description draft. This voting process and sign-off process were done through a simple online form which was shared with the children through their parent/guardian’s email.
How we enabled them to evaluate the process throughout
  • Every time the Council meets, there is a feedback session at the end of each meeting that gives them the opportunity to feedback on their participation in the activities at the meeting.
  • Through their continued involvement in choosing the final design and description, the children were able to see and respond to the ongoing process.
  • Following Still Loading… there was a detailed evaluation session on the events which included the logo and description.
  • This was a general feedback session though and the discussion ended up focussing on the performances and their views on those.
  • This meant that The Ark received no specific feedback on the process behind the marketing and promotional decisions.
What young people said in the evaluation


What changes were made because of children/young people giving their views?

The event was launched in May 2022. The final copy had been approved by the Council. The Council’s favourite logo design was used as the event image and was used throughout the event.

The final copy was approved by the Council which included their thoughts on ensuring child-focused communication and eye-catching buzz words such as ‘jam-packed, exciting, fun-filled. The most prevalent change that the Council wanted to make was a change to the colour scheme of the logo. Pastel colours were a favourite among many of the members. The majority felt that the teal used in the previous logo was a little dark and could be made more eye-catching by having a pastel background and layer the brighter colours of the circles on top. The Council also wanted to change the colour of the font from white to black so that it would stand out in the pastel colour.

Considering the Council’s feedback, we presented them with a few versions of the logo to vote on, each version incorporating their feedback in different ways. The Council chose a pastel version with black font and the positioning of the circles was tweaked to make the loading symbol clearer.

In response to the discussion surrounding the overuse of rainbow colours, the Council voted on a logo which compromised and kept the rainbow colours but had a faded effect on some of the circles, so it was less of a nod to a rainbow and more of a nod to a colourful loading sign.

The Council’s favourite logo design was used as the event image and was used throughout the event along with the copy. Still Loading 2022

The learning for our organisation

  1. The key learning for our organisation from the process and outcome (end result) of involving children in this project
  1. Looking back, how did the final outcome compare with our initial assumptions and those of other decision-makers involved in the process?

This was the third iteration of Still Loading… which from the first version, was created as an event that the Children’s Council would be key decision-makers and influencers in shaping. With positive experiences on the first two versions, The Ark Staff were clear on how to carry out this consultation process and were confident in their assumptions of the success of the process. These assumptions were not proved wrong, with this process being just as positive and valuable as the previous two, with the material being shaped effectively by the children and in the way that they wanted

  1. What worked well?

Having an online vote on versions of the logo to determine the final version was a new development in this process following positive digital experiences during online Council sessions during the pandemic.

  1. If we were doing it again, is there anything we would do differently?

It would have been great to ensure that the children were able to deliver their feedback directly to The Ark’s Director in person rather than indirectly. This can be considered in the scheduling of future processes.

Looking at a specific evaluation for this task would be helpful and might give further insights into the experience

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