23
Jul

How to Encourage Young Placemakers

Australian cities continue to rate as some of the most liveable in the world, but they are becoming increasingly unequal places for young people. Young people are typically left out of decision-making when it comes to urban development, resulting in two-thirds feeling excluded from their city (Youthful Cities, 2016). This week CoDesign presented at the 2018 Liveable Cities conference promoting the value of young placemakers and how to give them space to explore their neighbourhood’s potential.

When a group of young placemakers from Strathmore applied for The Neighbourhood Project we discovered how valuable our prototyping methodology is for exploring community-led placemaking from a young person’s perspective.

Hundreds of students passed through Strathmore Station daily– navigating dangerous roads without a safe passage or a place to stop that didn’t require you to get your wallet out. When former high school students heard about The Neighbourhood Project they reflected on their experience trying to find a place to eat their fish and chips and hang out in the unforgiving environment. They came to us with ‘Let’s Make A Park!’ and what ensued was a journey of self-discovery and skill development that produced one of our most successful neighbourhood projects to date.

While we have been busy promoting The Neighbourhood Project as a way of empowering people to take action in their neighbourhoods and test local solutions to local problems – we never quite understood what it meant to young people to hand over $10,000 and a licence to explore through prototyping.

“But I don’t know what I’m doing! Everyone keeps looking at me like I do, but I don’t!” one of the young leaders cried down the phone during the peak of planning the park. In a few short months they had managed to gather an impressive network of local university and high school students, some as young as twelve. All showed up with an array of practical skills and talents excited to have a chance to use them.  The two project leaders had created an army and were granted more authority than they had anticipated. “That’s ok, that’s kind of the point! This is a pilot, you are testing ideas and coming up with solutions, you aren’t supposed to know the answer…none of us do!”.

With that declaration – that no one was an expert and we were all in this together trying to figure out the best way forward – the young placemakers felt safe. They let their group take the project in whatever direction their team felt confident in exploring.  They had permission to fail and in return, they excelled.

As placemaking facilitators, it is our responsibility to create an environment that encourages innovation and exploration for young people.  One where we are responsive instead of dismissive, finding a way to say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no, too risky’. An environment where we provide access to resources and good information, so we say to the community “we trust you to make the decision and take the lead”. When we give the community a safe environment that lets them prototype and iterate their own ideas it builds the confidence to expand and scale in the future.

By Emily Taylor