Caring is sharing - How neighbourhood processes among parents can strengthen an educative civil society in the public domain

Caring is sharing - How neighbourhood processes among parents can strengthen an educative civil society in the public domain



This dissertation describes a study into The Peaceable Neighbourhood 2.0; a community− based program that aims to empower parents and increase a safe and peaceable environment in the neighbourhood by creating or strengthen an educative civil society1, which can be considered as an ongoing process where adults within a community share the responsibility for the upbringing of children (De Winter 2008; Kesselring 2016). Unlike previous research into the educative civil society (Kesselring, 2016), current research focuses on shared responsibility in the public domain.

In this first chapter the background and motivation of The Peaceable Neighbourhood 2.0 program is described, followed by a theoretical framework for current research, the research aims and an outline of this dissertation.



The Peaceable Neighbourhood 2.0 program knows a history of developments since 1999, and finds its roots in a program designed for primary education, known as The Peaceable School. After an initial translation from a school−based program to a community−focused context, the program was evaluated from 2009−2014 by Horjus, van Dijken and de Winter (Horjus et al., 2012; Horjus, 2021; Van Dijken et al., 2013) whereby recommendations in 2012 (Horjus et al., 2012) led to further development into The Peaceable Neighbourhood 2.0.


From The Peaceable School to The Peaceable Neighbourhood

Since 1999, an increasing number of primary education institutions have adopted The Peaceable School methodology to substantiate citizenship education and foster the socio− emotional development of children. At the core of this program lies the objective of granting children a platform for expression and enabling the practical enactment of societal participation. A central component of the program, through which children engage in participatory experiences, is achieved via conflict management and peer mediation strategies (Pauw, 2013).

Because of the success of The Peaceable School (Verhoeven, 2012; Pauw, 2013), interest in this method arose in several organizations nearby the schools located in a neighbourhood within Utrecht. Professionals, such as social workers in recreational areas and local community centers, recognized the affirmative impact of the school−based approach on children within their community. Notably, they observed the development of constructive conflict resolution abilities and heightened levels of involvement. Concurrently, these professionals also noted instances where children struggled when confronted with disparities between the acquired social norms and their learned behaviors, or when other children did not possess comparable skills. Thus, a demand arose among social workers to integrate the Peaceable methodology, thereby bridging the different domains in which children grow up. In 2008 the opportunity was created to develop a community−based variant of this method, culminating in what is now referred to as The Peaceable Neighbourhood approach.


The Peaceable Neighbourhood

The Peaceable Neighbourhood program represents a constructive community−based initiative with the objective of fostering a nurturing network of parents and co−educators around all children and adolescents within a given neighbourhood. The aim is to strengthen the citizenship education of children in diverse educational contexts (Pauw, 2016). Hereby the school is supported in its citizenship mission, while children are afforded the opportunity to apply and reinforce their acquired citizenship skills beyond the school's confines. This is achieved through the training of professionals and volunteers operating within other educational contexts within the neighbourhood, such as playgrounds, sports clubs, and day care centers. This interconnection of varied educational contexts fosters a congruent 'Peaceable' ethos and skillset among children throughout the neighbourhood. For instance, neighbourhood professionals or volunteers can prompt children to employ constructive conflict resolution techniques outside the school environment.

Additionally, children themselves receive supplementary training to engage in public domain mediation (neighbourhood mediation).

The Peaceable Neighbourhood is characterized by its dynamic and evolving nature; it is not a fixed, predefined program but one that continuously evolves. Implementation strategies vary according to context, as each situation and neighbourhood is distinct. However, in most instances, a substantial proportion of professionals and volunteers in the neighbourhood undergo training in the methodology. In the training, skills are taught around the core principles of the Peaceable methodology, encompassing conflict management, fostering children's assumption of responsibilities, collaboration with others, cultivation of a positive social norm (group dynamics), and the exemplification of positive social conduct (e.g., openness to diversity).

An integral aspect of the implementation strategy involves fostering ownership. Children's ownership is facilitated through the establishment of a Peaceable Children's Council, where representatives from all schools collaborate to formulate a 'neighbourhood manifesto.' This document delineates plans and initiatives aimed at enhancing the neighbourhood's 'peaceability.' Within professional organizations, this entails the establishment of a steering committee and the coaching and training of key figures in the neighbourhood to become trainers themselves (train−the−trainer model). Subsequently, these trainers can impart knowledge to parents, volunteers, or professional educators within their respective organizations or domains.


The Peaceable Neighbourhood 2.0

Since 2008, the Peaceable Neighbourhood program has been implemented across an expanding array of neighbourhoods within the Netherlands. Research into the implementation of the method in Utrecht and Amsterdam showed that children in a ’Peaceable’ neighbourhood do indeed demonstrate heightened utilization of their constructive conflict resolution skills beyond the school context. Furthermore, social workers made use of the educational competencies acquired through training and reported observable transformations: children were more constructive in conflict resolution and their level of participation was higher (Horjus, 2021). However, the manifestation of ‘Peaceable’ attitudes and behaviors is not automatic within public spaces and The Peaceable Neighbourhood among parents and local residents was still relatively unknown. Effectively reaching and engaging them in the program proved to be insufficient (Horjus, 2021). For that reason, initiatives were undertaken to experiment with program components geared toward enhancing parental ownership within the program, and increasing shared parenting responsibility. Between 2013 and 2017 program developers experimented with the role of parents in their neighbourhood, with the main aim of contributing to the body of knowledge on shared parenting responsibilities in the neighbourhood.

When the implementation plan of the program was undergoing further development, parents from four primary schools in Utrecht and Groningen were explicitly invited as co−owners to participate in the development. To foster ownership within the community and to increase the likelihood that The Peaceable Neighbourhood can achieve positive outcomes in the public domain, parents were asked to join parent steering groups. In each school a parent steering group of four to eight parents was installed. The description of the assignment to the parent steering group was deliberately somewhat vague: "do you as parents want to think about the educational climate in and around the school, based on the Peaceable program, and if possible, play a role in and to the parent community of this school?" There was no set agenda for the parent steering groups: the aim was to see what would happen if parents were allowed to decide for themselves, what their role would be in school and/or neighbourhood, and which activities would fit in with it (Verhoeff et al., 2017).

During the research period, the program developed slightly differently in each school, but roughly the following implementation emerged. Firstly, at their own request, parents received information about the program from a professional ‘Peaceable trainer’ during the first meetings. After some meetings − varying from four meetings to eight meetings −, the steering group organized activities for a larger group of parents in each school to increase parent involvement in the school and to inform the parent community about the Peaceable method. In one of the schools, after being informed about the role of child mediators within the Peaceable School program, the need arose among members from the parent steering group to also receive training in the field of mediation. Program developers therefore subsequently offered a parent mediation training at each of the participating schools. In this dissertation, the emerging intervention received extra attention, because it appeared to be the most concrete interpretation of the objectives of the Peaceable method. The aim of the intervention was to shape parental involvement in the public domain, and to provide parents with tools to take an active role.



[Samenvatting Nederlands]



Dit proefschrift beschrijft een onderzoek naar De Vreedzame Wijk 2.0; een sociale wijkaanpak die tot doel heeft ouders te empoweren en de pedagogische civil society te versterken. Het versterken van de pedagogische civil society wordt in dit proefschrift gezien als een doorlopend proces van informele sociale controle en informele sociale steun onder volwassenen in buurten die opvoedverantwoordelijkheid delen in hun eigen sociale netwerken én in de openbare ruimte. Op deze manier bevorderen zij een veilige en vreedzame omgeving in de buurt, zodat kinderen kunnen opgroeien tot zorgzame democratische burgers.

Dit proefschrift bestaat uit vier deelstudies die tot doel hebben bij te dragen aan de huidige kennisbasis over de pedagogische civil society. In tegenstelling tot eerdere onderzoeken naar de pedagogische civil society (Kesselring, 2016), richt dit proefschrift zich op gedeelde opvoedingsverantwoordelijkheid in de openbare ruimte en specifiek op ‘Vreedzame’ wijken. De hoofdvraag luidt; Wat zijn de noodzakelijke voorwaarden voor succesvolle gedeelde publieke opvoedingsverantwoordelijkheid in de buurt? Deze vraag wordt beantwoord middels een literatuurstudie en vanuit het perspectief van kinderen, professionals en ouders. Van maart 2013 tot en met mei 2016 vond een kwalitatieve en kwantitatieve dataverzameling plaats in en rondom vier scholen in Kanaleneiland te Utrecht en Selwerd/Paddepoel te Groningen, bestaande uit participatieve observaties, diepte− interviews, duo−interviews, focusgroepen en het afnemen van vragenlijsten.

In de inleiding van dit proefschrift wordt de ontstaansgeschiedenis en de inhoud van het programma De Vreedzame Wijk 2.0 beschreven. De Vreedzame Wijk 2.0 werd in 2013 een ontwikkel−onderzoeksproject genoemd. Er was samenhang tussen het ontwikkeltraject onder leiding van de projectontwikkelaars van Stichting Vreedzaam en het onderzoekstraject onder leiding van de Universiteit Utrecht. Het doel van deze gezamenlijke inspanning was dat de ontwikkelings− en onderzoekstrajecten elkaar zouden versterken. Kort gezegd werd in het ontwikkeltraject geëxperimenteerd met een andere implementatiestrategie van het programma dan voorheen, namelijk met een grotere rol voor ouders als mede−eigenaar van het programma, wat een procesdoel is. In het onderzoek lag de focus op de programmadoelen, het vergroten van gedeelde opvoedingsverantwoordelijkheid in de wijk en het versterken van de pedagogische civi society. De praktische implicaties van dit proefschrift dragen bij aan de verbetering van het implementatieproces van De Vreedzame Wijk. In het discussiehoofdstuk van dit proefschrift gebruik ik inzichten die zijn opgedaan tijdens het implementatieproces om de resultaten van het onderzoek mee te verrijken en verder te duiden.