How can designers offer youth a chance to participate in community change? In what ways can youth contribute, and what is the potential impact?
Julie Pedtke, summer 2012 Design Engagement Intern at Architecture for Humanity, explores these questions in a research report (now available for download here). Youth Participation in Community Change: A Case for Inclusion seeks to demonstrate the value of youth participation in affecting meaningful change in community. Framing a process of change-making that focuses on the built environment, the report looks at four case studies of current initiatives that provide space for youth to participate in local design advocacy. It outlines each initiative's area of expertise, and identifies the unique opportunities for youth to learn and contribute within each. All stem from a common narrative of youth-driven community change, grounded in the assets that youth represent: a deep stake in the future (and therefore a committed idealism); a wealth of place-based knowledge; and a bank of time committed to education that has an innate flexibility. While these assets make the case for partnership between professionals, educators, youth, and communities, the report suggests that another potential level of partnership exists.
Julie argues that collaboration between initiatives based in different areas of expertise along the process of community change creates the opportunity to strengthen each initiative and expand their reach. She sees a critical need for a paradigm shift and a reimagining of the relationships between youth, educators, professionals, and communities. New organizational structures will also be needed to provide logistical support. The report concludes with an appeal for further conversation about the role of youth in design and community change this topic.
Julie Pedtke will be starting her third year at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, fall 2012. She studies architecture with a focus on public interest design, and plans to continue her research on youth participation in the coming semesters.