How We Care | Child participation as a core philosophy | Butterflies (India)

Rita Panicker Butterflies • 13 September 2021


Child participation has been a core value for us at Butterflies since our inception in 1989. We use a cooperative model across all of our programmes. Our programmes are inclusive and democratically run; participation is voluntary; and children share ownership and responsibility for the design and development of the programmes’ values, goals and rules.

Children also play a key role in our decision-making at Butterflies. A Children’s Council meets every month to resolve issues relating to programmes and the wider community. Children also monitor and evaluate our work.

Our programmes include:

  • a children’s bank, 
  • a children’s newspaper and radio programme, and 
  • the Delhi Child Rights Club. 

Children not only take the lead in our programmes, but they also learn to understand democratic values and respect differences, with staff playing an important facilitative role.

Learning cooperative values is empowering and transformative for children.

We've found that it can be very challenging for staff to go through the process of unlearning required for the cooperative model to work effectively. But at Butterflies we support staff to reflect and question their own values. You can read more about this approach, including the 7 cooperative principles we align with, in the documents attached, or listen to our recent Conversations on Care podcast episode.

Do you have any comments or learnings you can share with the community relating to this theme or our initiative? Share your own knowledge, or post any follow-up questions for us below - we'd love to hear from you.


The attached resources are part of the How We Care series, an innovative space for those working with children and families to share practice. By practitioners, for practitioners. You can also download the full package of learning, including resources from 2 other Family members, here.