"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

Growing up on the Streets is an award winning, international research project working with 198 children and young people (aged 14 - 20) in three African cities: Accra in Ghana, Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Harare, in Zimbabwe.

This longitudinal participatory research project was developed to examine and better understand the lives and conditions affecting children and youth living on the street and in informal settlements. The research is supported by StreetInvest, and our late Co-Founder, Fr Patrick Shanahan, was one of the Research Directors. University of Dundee is the lead academic partner and the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester is a supporting partner.

Project Origins

The project started with a 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.

A Unique Methodology
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 in depth 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. The ten capability statements are:

  1. "I frequently receive the support of friends."
  2. "I am able to realize my plans for the future."
  3. "I am resilient in the face of problems that affect me."
  4. "I usually have enough to eat."
  5. "I am able to behave in ways that protect my health and wellbeing."
  6. "I am able to earn enough money to meet my basic needs."
  7. "I have enough time to play."
  8. "I have access to shelter."
  9. "I am able to move freely and be safe in my local area."
  10. "Through my work I can build assets for my future."

Personnel and partners:

Academic Team:

Patrick Shanahan - Co-Founder of StreetInvest (D), Former Research Director
Wayne Shand - Manchester University, Research Director
Prof. Lorraine Van Blerk - University of Dundee, Research Director
Janine Hunter 
– University of Dundee, Researcher, Data Coding and Analysis


Country Project Managers:

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

Shaibu Chitsiku
Street Empowerment Trust

Participating NGO
Zimbabwe Harare

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

Special thanks to Backstage Trust for their investment in Growing up on the Streets: