"No child should grow up alone. StreetInvest exists to invest in those that do"
No child should grow up alone. StreetInvest exists to invest in those that do
  • Introductory Leaflet

    A short overview of Growing up on the Streets

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This longitudinal research project started with the question from Fr. Patrick Shanahan ‘what proportion of street children remain on the street as adults?’ The question arises from a view that neither the prevailing language used to describe street children nor the policy priorities of service delivery agencies fully correspond with the lived experiences of children and youth in African cities. In the experience of the researchers and StreetInvest, a significant proportion of children never leave the street because the street is their home, their society, source of income and identity. The prevailing view that children on the street are ‘out of place’ and should be ‘returned’ to family or other environments of adult supervision is in many cases inconsistent with the realities and ambitions of children and young people. The research aims to challenge a binary view that children are at risk ‘on’ the street but safe ‘off’ the street to reveal the complexity of life and choices available to young people in a way able to shape both practical interventions and public policy targeted at children in African cities.


The research is being delivered using a participatory approach where young people are both informants and the investigators in the cities of Accra, Bukavu and Harare. Six young people in each city have been trained in basic ethnographic methods and meet weekly with the project researchers to provide a commentary on  their lives growing up on the street and also offer observations on the experiences of other young people within their social network. These weekly meetings are  supplemented by quarterly focus groups that provide an opportunity for more indepth
discussions on capability themes. This research offers a unique perspective because it is embedded in their normal lives of young people living and working on the street. A framework of capability indicators has been developed to structure observation and reporting based around the key aspects of life that young people consider most important. These are:
I frequently receive the support of friends.
I am able to realize my plans for the future.
I am resilient in the face of problems that affect me.
I usually have enough to eat.
I am able to behave in ways that protect my health and wellbeing.
I am able to earn enough money to meet my basic needs.
I have enough time to play.
I have access to shelter.
I am able to move freely and be safe in my local area.
Through my work I can build assets for my future.
The research is being carried out in partnership with the University of Dundee who have responsibility for the management and ongoing analysis of the data. The Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester is also a supporting partner to the project. We intend to produce thematic briefings throughout the life of the research and liaise with governments and donor agencies to inform the development of policy and services targeted at street children and young people.

Knowledge Exchange Programme  

Growing up on the Streets has successfully received funding through the University of Dundee from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to deliver a programme of activities aimed at advocating children and young people’s participation in research and the development of programme designed to support them.
Street children are perhaps one of the most visible signs of poverty and marginalisation in urban environments, yet their rights are often not realised. Furthermore, street children lack formal representation placing them outside the arena of policy development. Not only do they experience multi-faceted problems, but as a group they are difficult to define, both in terms of their relationship to the street and their status as both victims and perpetrators of crime; their complexity is key to their elusiveness. In addition, their independent status positions them outside the realms of child protection and the care of adults, often resulting in limited or no access to services without adult representation. As a group in society their voices are therefore silenced or totally absent by their marginalisation and exclusion.
Listening to street children and young people’s voices is however essential, not only in order to realise their rights, but also to help ensure the success of policy and programmes. When children actively take part in discussions regarding the issues that affect them, and their ideas are listened to and developed, those initiatives and interventions are much more likely to address problems at hand and result in successful outcomes. Children’s real participation will only be possible however if information is made available, barriers dismantled, and there is a real commitment to adapting ways of working to ensure accessibility. Participatory research offers one of the best ways in which to do this. It acknowledges children as experts in their own lives and creates space for their thoughts, ideas and opinions to guide the development of programmes and policy that affect them.
Our Knowledge Exchange programme will build upon the collaborative research of Growing up on the Streets. The participatory model used in the research will be adapted for use by other agencies and promoted through a series of workshops and events.
Participants from Growing Up on the Streets will also play a key part in analysing and interpreting their own findings for presentation to Governments, international and national agencies and decision makers. The aim will be to promote and advocate for the adoption of this innovative approach in research and programmes aimed at supporting street connected children. It is also to ensure their voices play a key part in policy making by NGOs, Governments and UN Agencies, bridging the current gap between legislation and political attitudes and street children's realities.

The Knowledge Exchange Programme is divided into three phases:

Phase One: Our Research Assistants in each country will take part in a training programme to help them to develop the confidence and skills to present research findings to NGO managers, government representatives and policy makers. Participants will describe their own experience and speak on behalf of other street children, expressing their thoughts, opinions and priorities about the issues that affect them the most. The training programme developed will also be presented as a toolkit for other NGO organisations to use with their own groups of children and young people who are street connected.
Phase Two: The second part of Knowledge Exchange will see our Peer Network of street child charities discuss and debate the research findings in an online forum. In September 2015 Growing up on the Streets will then host a conference in Harare. Our Research Assistants will again present their experiences to representatives of NGOs and also work with them to agree ways in which their services and support programmes could be adapted and developed based on research findings.
Phase Three: For the final phase of Knowledge Exchange Growing up on the Streets will organise an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting in Parliament, supported by the Consortium for Street Children. The event will act as a platform to present key recommendations for policy change and advocate for the increased participation of children and young people in research and programme design. We also will be working with different schools in Scotland and England to run a number of interactive workshops to help raise awareness of the issues street connected children face. Our Knowledge Exchange activities will cumulate with a large scale conference in London in 2016.
If you are interested in finding out more about our Knowledge Exchange work, or if you would like to receive a copy of the participatory training toolkit, please contact


StreetInvest has won the MRS President’s Medal for our Growing up on the Streets project.The President's Medal is awarded annually to an organisation or individual that has made an extraordinary contribution to research.

This year SteertInvest was chosen as the winner by President of MRS Dame Dianne Thompson, Chair of MRS Richard Silman and CEO of MRS Jane Frost for our project Growing up on the Streets.

The project is run under the auspices of StreetInvest and is directly managed by the three Research Directors in collaboration with the University of Dundee:

Patrick Shanahan, Research Director of Growing Up On the Streets and co-Founder of StreetInvest
Dr Wayne Shand, Research Director of Growing Up On the Streets and Research Fellow at the University of   Manchester’s Institute for Development Policy and Management
Dr Lorraine van Blerk, Research Director of Growing Up on the Streets and Reader in Human Geography, University   of Dundee or more information on the MRS President's Medal please check  

Growing up on the Streets Presents Research at Chatham House

StreetInvest’s Growing up on the Streets research project, in partnership with the international children’s charity Plan UK, hosted a talk at the prestigious Chatham House on Friday 27th November. The event was organised as part of our Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded ‘Knowledge Exchange’ activities. Growing up on the Streets presented their research on the realities of life growing up on the streets in African cities, while Plan UK’s discussed their longitudinal study ‘Real Choices, Real Live’ being conducted with girls in 9 countries. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A discussion with members of Chatham House and a networking drinks reception afterwards.
For more information about Growing up on the Streets, please download our Briefing Papers; four page summaries of preliminary research findings.
For further information on the Growing up on the Streets research project please read our 4-page Briefing Papers, in English and French, drawn from 180 focus groups in three African cities using the words of street children and youth themselves:
  • Document d’information 1

    Principles de la recherche et cadre conceptual

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  • Document d’information 3

    N°3 L'abri el les jeunes vivants dans les rues

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  • Document d’ information 4

    L'accès à l'alimentation dans la rue

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  • Document d’ information 5

    Le travail et les gains des enfants des rues

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  • Document d’information 6

    Les voix des enfants et jeunes des rues

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  • Document d’information 7

    Se déplacer sans risque dans la ville

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  • Document d’information 8

    Santé et bien-être des enfants et jeunes des rue

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  • Briefing Paper 9 - Spirituality on the Streets

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APPG 24th June 2014


On 24th June 2014, StreetInvest led the APPG for Street Children in Committee Room 10 of the House of Commons, which was chaired by Russell Brown MP. This APPG served as the first public discussion of the Growing up on the Streets project. The longitudinal research is coming to its half-way point and the APPG was used to present the objectives and methodology used in the research and a case study, using early findings, on the issue of shelter.
Objectives for this APPG:

  • Raise awareness of the participatory methodology of the research
  • Promote the significance of street children conducting research to feed into policy and service delivery
  • Discuss with attendees how the findings can be used to shape services and policies to meet the needs of street children
  • Encourage a broader discussion across the academic, NGO, business and government sectors to influence how we engage with street children to develop policies and services

WHO? Key personnel in the Research Project

Research Directors


       Wayne Shand                                   Patrick Shanahan                     Prof. Lorraine Van Blerk
                                                       Lister to Patrick presenting the 
                                                                research project here

Janine Hunter
Data Coding and Analysis

Thomas D'Aquin
Participating NGO
Democratic Republic of Congo, Bukavu

Shaibu Chitsiku
Aids Councelling Trust

Participating NGO
Zimbabwe Harare

Selassy Gbeglo
Catholic Action for Street Children and Street Girls Aid
Participating NGO
Ghana, Accra

Research Partners